April 7, 2010

North Koreans reading e-books?


North Korean stadium show

Marjorie Kehe of the Christian Science Monitor reports here that the e-book revolution is hitting North Korea, “It’s the miracle we all want to believe in –that our information age will allow us to put books, in digital or other format, into the hands of readers all over the globe. And now it seems that even North Koreans — living in one of the world’s most cloistered countries — are reaping the benefits of that promise.”

Kehe sites thisarticle in the Korea Times, saying, “South Korean activist Kim Seong-min has reported that Electronic Library Mirae (Future) 2.0, a North Korean e-book computer program, is allowing readers in North Korea to choose among a “wealth” of e-book titles.

Kim is a North Korean defector and founder of Free North Korea Radio. According to the Kehe, he says that North Koreans are “digging into e-books that range well beyond government propaganda. On the fiction side, Kim told the Korea Times that translations of Western classics such as Shakespeare’s plays, The Iliad, Don Quixote, Jane Eyre, Les Miserables, and Gone With The Wind are among available titles. Nonfiction offerings mentioned by Kim include ‘political theories and history’ and also ‘a variety of literature, song collections, and educational content such as dictionaries and books of facts.'”

Kim tsays he rise of e-books in North Korea has been rapid, with the government actively pushing the program, and the lack of copyright issues. (North Korea does not observe the International Copyright conventions.)

Also, according to Kim, there are books by North Korean authors that are being made available for circulation outside the country.

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.