Philippine e-books on the way | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

Philippine e-books on the way

We have seen tiny grade school pupils groaning under the weight of their backpacks, with their spinal columns in danger of getting deformed and their physical growth compromised. They have to carry so many books and school supplies on their backs every day of their early school lives.

Now imagine all these heavy books compressed into microscopic pixels and uploaded into very light electronic devices and then downloaded for reading page by page. Minus the paper and the heavy weight.


Two days ago I was invited to a presentation by Vibal Foundation hosted by Anvil Publishing on the hows, whats and whys of e-publishing and e-books. A number of writers were present. Vibal Foundation executive director Gaspar A. Vibal and program director Kristine E. Mandigma took us by the hand to show us how e-books can change the way we publish, buy and read books.

Vibe is the first electronic bookstore in the Philippines which will be launched at the annual book fair in September. Vibe has already done a lot of work and spent a lot of money to convert into e-books precious out-of-print books that now belong to the public domain (50 years after the author dies), as well as new publications of their own.


Why? All for the love of these books, Vibal would tell you. Outside of his family’s publishing business, Vibal has spent years working in the book business in the United States. He knows the ropes and, now, the e-technology.

Vibe is also the name of the reading app (application) that could be downloaded for free and installed on PCs, Macs, Android devices, iPhones and iPads.

Printed books will not go the way of the dinosaur and those with a fetish for caressing books and who get a high when smelling the pages will not suffer withdrawal syndromes and need rehab. But readers now have a choice.

Authors and publishers can now consider linking up with Vibe for e-publishing and e-marketing. Anvil’s Karina Bolasco told me that my out-of-print “Journalist in Her Country” and a children’s book that I wrote last year could soon be turned into e-books. At no cost to Anvil or me. Now I can’t help but think of the e-possibilities for the Classics Illustrated and the Junior Classics Illustrated (in comics) of my childhood that, though bound and preserved, could succumb to the elements.

A US e-book publisher I inquired from e-mailed to say that converting from hard copy (no digital copy) to e-book could cost around $300. Forget it.

I met Vibe only two days ago and if I sound excited about it, it is because the people behind it dared to innovate and spend millions in order to offer something new for Filipino readers. It deserves a push. For although e-books are now the rage abroad and can be ordered via the Internet, books published in the Philippines have yet to get into the mainstream e-bookstores.

Vibal announced that a school in Metro Manila will soon acquire 5,000 devices for their students to use and into which will be uploaded books and books and books. That’s a different ball game.


Philippine trade books (non-textbooks) are what Vibal is even more excited about. These e-books will definitely be cheaper than printed ones. Think of paying P10 for an e-book instead of P300 for a printed version. Of course, you have to invest in an electronic device.

Oh, for the techno illiterate. The “e” stands for electronic, as in e-mail. So many products and services are now prefixed with the letter e. There is e-padala, e-wallet, even e-libing and e-burol.

Vibe, Vibal said, was inspired by the National Book Development Board’s Booklatan sa Bayan program. Vibal Foundation is using this “cloud-computing” project to make available to readers the widest number of newly published, out-of-print or public domain book titles, as well as magazines and newspapers. This, Vibal added, would address the problems of high prices, fragmented distribution and marketing delays. Vibe could also be a venue for independent publishers and authors who wish to sell their works directly to the public. Copyright issues and royalties are to be discussed.

So, what makes Vibe different from e-bookstores like Amazon Kindle, iBooks, etc? Vibe is designed with the needs of Philippine readers and publishers in mind. Unlike foreign-based e-bookstores for which a buyer would have to use credit cards for payment, Vibe will also accept payment through Globe Gcash, Smart Money and other services such as pasa-load, e-wallet, etc. Philippine publications could also be marketed in major international bookstores via Vibal Foundation’s links with them.

According to Vibal, the foundation has already digitized over 1,000 public domain titles and helped dozens of Philippine publishers in mass digitization efforts. It has also five years of experience in helping government offices in their e-publications.

Vibe can help you convert your print titles into ePub books. You can also convert your own e-books and upload them into the e-store. Calibre, a free software, can convert your books into ePub files. All preliminary ePub files, whether supplied by you or the foundation, undergo a validation process to ensure correct formatting and syntax.

If I sound like a techie, it is because I try my best to understand the language and keep abreast. So what’s the difference between, PDF files (portable document format) and the ePub format? The former looks the same as the printed page no matter what device you are using. With the latter the text can adapt to the size and orientation of your device screen.

Uh, are you still with me? Be not afraid, e-books will remain in “the cloud” till the twelfth of never. How? That’s another story. For e-book inquiries, contact
[email protected]

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TAGS: Anvil Publishing, backpacks, e-books, e-bookstores Amazon Kindle, e-publishing, grade school pupils, iBooks, Vibal Foundation, Vibe
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