When it comes to a nation’s literature, we take it for granted that dictionaries of the country’s language(s) will be available. And in the twenty-first century it’s also a given those dictionaries will be available online.
Well, it is in some parts of the world. But Pakistan has only this past week got its first online dictionary in the country’s national language, Urdu.
An event of such importance that Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain personally launched the new site.
The new online dictionary involved the digitization of 22 volumes of the print version, each 1,000 pages long, at a cost of Rs 13.2 million ($120,000).
The retail price of the print set was Rs 54,400 ($500) so the free online version will be welcomed.
Next in line is an audio dictionary offering a guide to Urdu pronunciation and a tri-lingual Chinese-Urdu-English edition, as well as dictionaries of the Pakistani poets Iqbal and Ghalib.
As PakObserver notes,
The President launched the online edition of Urdu dictionary by clicking the computer key.
Although the digitised Urdu dictionary has been a long time coming Pakistan is no stranger to the internet.
But as reported here in November, despite having more than 46 million3G and 4G users, ebooks are virtually unknown in Pakistan.
Let’s hope that President Manmoon’s enthusiasm for literature and digitisation will extend to encouraging the digitisation of more books in Pakistan and see the emergence of new ebook players to fill the void left as the Big 5 western ebook retailers look the other way.