Unicode in India
During a recent visit to Bangalore, ITF had a meeting with Gautam John of Pratham Books.
Pratham Books is a not-for-profit trust dedicated to publishing high-quality children’s books in multiple Indian languages at a affordable cost. They produce over a million books a year in 11 languages, but some of their own content has already been rendered inaccessible due to its being stored using non-standard font encodings. We spoke with Gautam about literacy, languages, accessibility, and Unicode. While ITF has always advocated Unicode standards as the way forward for Indian typography, we were pleased to hear that a large organisation such as Pratham understands the importance of standardisation and is moving towards full adoption of Unicode.
Gautam followed up our conversation with an email where he formulated an internal case for adoption of Unicode at Pratham Books.
- —Given that Pratham Books publishes in Indian languages, using Unicode fonts is the only way to achieve cross-platform interoperability compatible with a global standard.
- —Given India’s push towards copyright reform for the visually impaired, it is imperative that Unicode fonts be used in the creation of Indic content (because otherwise there is a huge barrier to conversion to print-friendly formats).
- —Unicode, as an open global standard, guarantees content accessibility in the future and ensures no proprietary font and vendor lock-in.
- —There is a severe lack of high quality and varied typefaces that are both screen and print optimised OpenType Indic Unicode fonts.
- —Given the importance of linguistic diversity to India’s cultural heritage, it is imperative that greater attention is paid to the development of high-quality Indic fonts with flexible licensing.
- —Use of Unicode will significantly reduce bandwidth/storage, making operations more efficient on the longer run.
- —Unicode guarantees accessibility of content, e.g. search/sort functionality, text-to-voice and voice-to-text, machine translation, and search engine optimisation.
ITF shares this perspective and is prepared to work with publishers and content developers, advising them how to adjust their workflow to achieve greater efficiency and meet current and future needs.