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 January 30, 2001      TIPS to search 1billion Web pages fast!

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C-Book: Tara Deshpande is writing India's first collaborative book E-Mail this report to a friend

Nidhi Taparia

She's the perfect character to play this role. A beautiful actress, an ex-model and ex-VJ who can write and understand the pulse of India's teenager. Meet Tara Deshpande who's penning India's first collaborative ebook -

Tara is visibly excited about her new venture. "The idea of writing an ebook appealed to me because it was to be an interactive experience. What makes it fascinating for me as a writer is that I get to begin the novel again every time someone sends me an entry. Adobe is trying to encourage reading fiction on the net with the added bonus of creating your own along with some of the best minds in fiction around the world. From what I gather, in the first six hours of uploading the first chapter we had over 500 hits so I think Adobe and First and Second are going to far exceed their own expectations."

Ask her how the deal happened and why Adobe thought of her, and Tara replies bluntly, "Maybe because I write well? I think that they were looking for a young writer who could appeal to the age group of 16-30 and yet be respectable to older, serious writers." Obviously, with her debut book 'Fifty and done' selling 20,000 copies along with her making a mark with character-based roles in films like Bombay Boys and the upcoming Danger, makes her appealing to the MP3 generation.

Is she looking forward to the experience? "Since the ebook is a collaborative effort, it is completely different from writing one for the print medium. Even the story has been penned keeping in mind the vast range of people who surf online. It's a whodunit that I believed would hold a participant writer's attention not to miss the element of curiosity that would interest readers too. The plot and characters are based upon the taste of an average Internet reader. Also, the technical requirements of a whodunit and the fact that its a collective novel necessitate a loose open ended story with enough scope for everyone to relate to it, be it a 60-year-old or a college student, a city dweller or someone from a small town, which was something I needed to take care of and think about." Apart from that, there have been no restrictions on her creative juices. "This is my story and plot. Besides, I can edit, change add, subtract, distract from chosen entries and write the following chapter as I please. I insisted on total creative control."

As for the other such efforts online, like, she says matter of factly, "Other collaborative novels on the Net are individually so. You write your own novel and it remains your own. Here we pool in with the best minds and write a novel collectively with yours truly as the narrator."

Reading an ebook is quite a different experience, says the twenty-something actress. "I have read a lot of books written by Stephen King. I think he is brilliant, and I especially liked reading Riding the Bullet and Plant."

But her take on ebooks is interesting. "The way I look at it, reading an ebook will become just one of the other ways of enjoying fiction, especially when it is a collaborative or an interactive ebook. There are people who enjoy readings and there are those who enjoy reading ebooks. And while there maybe an overlap, I think ebooks are more `this generation'. I think they are two different experiences for the reader… not as much for the writer. The number of people who are reading books is not likely to diminish but maybe over a long period of time, books will become a luxury item and the ebook might be the way to read ebooks."

A self-confessed Net addict, she has been online for the last five years. "Besides emailing, I download a lot of info, shop and even hoping to watch films online. I find the net and computers very practical and exciting. Though I must admit, I'm not very tech savvy." Is this another Stephen King in the making? Wait and watch.

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