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Become a virtual bookworm

Updated on: 30 August,2020 07:54 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Nasrin Modak Siddiqi |

soon, get your online avatar to browse and access books from the winding library created by a Mumbai architect

Become a virtual bookworm

The 35 m-long meandering, BookWorm Pavilion, was first displayed at the CSMVS Museum lawns last year

In November last year, the sprawling gardens of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) Museum saw an unusual public art display. A 35 metre-long BookWorm Pavilion had children and adults leisurely sauntering under its shade and picking up books to read. An escape from the libraries, schools and museums, this book-scape was rather inviting. The modular structure built from around 3,600 wooden components to make ladders, housed both shelves, which could store 12,000 books, and seating areas for reading and storytelling sessions. This piece of art was meant to travel around the country—in rural and urban areas—to encourage reading. Except now, it rests dismantled in the workshop of its designer, architect Nuru Karim.


Nuru Karim says the AR/VR version of the pavilion, will double as a book-scape. He hopes to create a space, where you can bump into friends and acquaintances, and pick an actual book to read
Nuru Karim says the AR/VR version of the pavilion, will double as a book-scape. He hopes to create a space, where you can bump into friends and acquaintances, and pick an actual book to read


To beat the movement restrictions that the pandemic poses, he plans to build an Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) version of the pavilion calling it the Virtual BookWorm. "Imagine what it would be like to have your avatar walk around looking at public art that doubles as a book-scape. A place where you can bump into friends and acquaintances, and pick an actual book to read—one day at a park, another time at a beach. The idea is to access books in the virtual realm from anywhere in the world without physically accessing the pavilion. The books could be on various subjects and can be accessed via Kindle or a similar knowledge platform," he explains.


Karim is currently exploring potential collaborations with online resources such as Amazon Kindle, bookshops, and online libraries to allow equitable or affordable access to participants across the world, who want to experience the pavilion and browse and read books in the virtual domain. Age-appropriate content can be accessed online on various subjects and languages.

Nuru Karim
Nuru Karim

However, since the project is a real-time experience, it has its own set of challenges. "In the past, we've seen some stellar examples in public art being available on AR/VR, but this project is more interactive and requires support in the form of resources [books]. For free books, there is no hurdle, but for the paid ones, every online platform has individual contracts with authors, and ours is a not-for-profit project. Hopefully, we'll find a suitable solution. Our aim is to address the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal that all youths and a substantial proportion of adults achieve literacy by 2030," says Karim, adding that access to smartphone technologies in India is estimated to cross 442 million by 2022, so we hope that the virtual pavilion will be accessible to India's vast demography across the rich and diverse rural-urban landscape.

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