YEREVAN—Associate professors from Yerevan State University, Dr. Ruben Mirakyan and Dr. Marat Yavrumyan, were concerned when, working closely with youth on a daily basis, they observed directly the continual trend towards diminishing literacy and decreased interest towards reading. Concerned that Armenia, once one of the most literate countries in the world, has recently lost its position and that reading has become more an educational obligation rather than an intellectual pastime, the professors decided to seek a remedy. Looking for the reasons and issues behind the problem of decreased readership and seeing how technology comes to occupy the lives of the youth, the professors decided to combine the two. Thus, they established the Armenian iBook Initiative in November of 2012.
The initial goal of the project was to contribute to the dissemination of American classic literature in the Armenian language through the creation of electronic books – available for various devices and readers (running on iOS and Android platforms) in Armenia and abroad.
For the professors, electronic books offer a range of conveniences. Because the content of an e-book is delivered electronically to one’s device or computer, it provides the convenience of having multiple books available at any given time, without the trouble of transportation. Most of the advantages of electronic books, such as paper saving, will continue to offer benefits as the technology evolves. Electronic books, additionally, cost less to purchase, are easy to store and retrieve, and allow for the integration of multimedia materials such as videos, interactive 3D models, and Internet hyperlinks. The professors hope that these modern features, being attractive to the youth, will contribute to an increase in youth readership and the enrichment of their knowledge in Armenian literature and culture.
Since November of 2012, the initiative has managed to offer more than two dozen electronic books. The collection is being developed on a weekly basis. Through the Armenian iBooks Initiative, Armenian electronic books are now available in 50 countries around the world through the Apple App Store and Google Play, legible on smart phones, tablets, and various e-book readers.
Armenian literature here is presented in a new, entertaining and interactive way. A series of books that are designed specially for children and teenagers offers various volumes from Hovhannes Tumanyan’s fairy tales to Khnko Aper’s fables and from translations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to Robin Hood.
A series of the classics contains Hakop Paronean’s Honorable Beggars, Vahan Teryan’s Dreams of Twilight, Yeghishe Charents’s Land of Nairi and much more.
One of the primary goals of the initiative is to make the Armenian literary heritage available to readers in the diaspora. Language, the professors believe, is at the basis of national identity and is especially in need of preservation in foreign counties, where it is rarely used by children and youth.
Yet, another important component of the initiative is to present Armenian culture, literature, and history to any interested citizen of the world. The founders present different books on Armenian history, culture, cuisine, and lifestyle in English for all readers.
The Armenian iBooks Initiative is a group of people aiming for the digitization of Armenian literature: editors, proofreaders, illustrators, and curators in charge of finding the necessary literature in archives and, together with the team, preparing the necessary materials for the project.
The process of the digitization and the formation of the final product starts with the organization, selection, and digitization of materials through various scanning and text recognition methods. The digitized material is then edited, proofread, and tested on iOS and Android devices. Designs and illustrations are added to selected books after digitization.
Recently, in collaboration with the Armenian iBooks Initiative, contemporary children’s author and long-time Hamazkayin member, Aline Bezdikian, has released a collection of her books in electronic form, which are now legible on Apple devices.
Three of Bezdikian’s books can be downloaded for $3.99 each from the Apple iTunes Store. Namagner Dikran Metsin, Lorin yev Naregeh Hayasdani Metch, and Loriyin yev Naregin Amarnayin Jambareh are the titles recently added to Apple’s iBooks.
The Hamazkayin Educational and Cultural Association says it is proud of this milestone. It is worth mentioning that Bezdikian’s 8th book, Lori and Nareg’s Summer Camp, was partially sponsored by Hamazkayin’s Rita Demirjjian Fund.
Bezdikian’s books were published in cooperation with Ruben Mirakyan, associated professor of the Yerevan State University and founder of the Armenian iBooks Initiative.
More than 40 books in Armenian are available today for Apple devices.