CHENNAI: Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to our future generations,’ says the UNESCO. While we sure share the sentiment, is access to all heritage-related documents easy? In a country like India, which is replete with cultural diversity and heritage, it’s disheartening to note that despite having a rich repository of documentations, access to information remains a cumbersome process. It can take multiple trips to libraries, scouting for digital archives and scrolling through information portals to get your hands on the desired resource material.
Here is where history buff and open source enthusiast Jothi Vel Moorthy steps in. Creating a common platform for all forms of resource materials, he has designed an exclusive website, Knight Shopper, for heritage- and culture-related books. Having designed e-commerce websites for many clients through his company Creative Consulting, Jothi’s desire to have his own website forced him to explore this area last year. Offering an overview of the website and its purpose, Jothi says, “Heritage books are for those who know the subject and want to widen the horizon in that domain.
While there’s a lot of effort that goes into the making of a heritage-related book, it’s often priced nominally to make it af fordable to all, mostly research scholars. The profit margins are low. So I’m doing this just for passion and not money. Secondly, most of the heritage books are self-published by its author so it’s more difficult for them to create a market and garner visibility. After publishing the book, the author distributes some copies to their near and dear and the rest will adorn their book shelves. I hope this platform caters to the niche readership of this genre.” With over 20 books on the website, Jothi is reaching out to collaborate with more publications and authors.
“It’s a slow process because while some publishing houses and authors are open to the idea, others are old-school and sceptical about how the whole online system works. We have a few on board through word-ofmouth,” he says. Among the authors who have found a space in this website is historian Padmapriya Baskaran. Appreciating Jothi’s efforts, she says, “I purchased eight books of author Kalaikovan which are not available anywhere. He’s been documenting so many inscriptions in Tiruchy temples.
So when it’s available on a website like this, then it’s a big value addition. Jothi’s happy to help publishers and authors with good discounts to promote their work.” Given that the readership for this genre funnels down to a limited count, what keeps writers motivated to pursue it as a full-time profession? Baskaran, author of The Gods of the Holy Koovam and Paadal Perum Paranthaman Aalayangal, gives us a reality check. “The heritage arena serves the purpose of reference rather than general reading. There’s plenty of time and in-depth research that goes in. If not for passion, why would someone take up this genre and sell it without a profit? I don’t know if the situation is the same as it used to be earlier when it comes to investing time and energy in writing.
Having said that, by preserving the works of veterans, we can inspire research scholars and young heritage lovers to take it up seriously,” she notes. With lots of avenues to share information, she suggests that aspiring writers try their hand at Kindle ebooks as that could bring down the capital cost of publishing and increase readership. Baskaran is also the founder of Aalayam Kanden Trust which was started with a primary objective of creating awareness and appreciation about ancient and lesser-known heritage sites.
For someone who dedicates most of her time in research, she’s disappointed with how a major chunk of existing resource materials in the form of publications, periodicals, brochures, information kits, manuals, maps and reports are all rotting in libraries and lofts owing to lack of maintenance. “If only these materials can be brought out as hardcopy, digitised and then put in the public domain for a nominal price, things would be easier. People would any day pay and buy these over poorly-scanned, plagiarised copies.
There’s so much room for improvement,” she asserts. Jothi and Padmapriya Baskaran are committed in their own ways to promote heritage. This website is only a small contribution in passing on the legacy to the next generation. Knight Shopper ships across the country. For details, visit: knightshopper.com