Thursday, July 2, 2015

Say Hello on Instagram!

And we've jumped on to a new platform!

We are rather late to the Instagram party, but we've finally arrived! One of the things we were highly excited to see was the diverse work of the illustrators who work with us. We've already found some of our friends on Instagram, but where are you? We are @pratham.books on Instagram. Show some love and follow us please.

Illustration credit : Ruchi Shah (from the book 'Anaya's Thumb')

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sport a New Look with the July Calendar

Last month we started sharing our calendar pages online so that anyone could add a dash of whimsy to their screen. This year's calendar was illustrated by Priya Kuriyan and steps into an India of stories - where every child has a book in her hand. This month's page is set in a tea garden - so, don't forget to grab a cup of chai and curl up with a book (or books) this month.

How do I make this image my screensaver?
Right click on the image below and save it. Set as your screensaver (or maybe even your Facebook cover picture?). Done, done, done! 

P.S - If you change your desktop screen, we would love to see some pictures of this travelling across screens :). Mail us at web(at)prathambooks(dot)org OR share your pictures with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Digital Diaries : What We Say and What We Mean

Purvi Shah sends us news for this week's edition of Digital Diaries (with a little help from Yamini) ...

With StoryWeaver's launch just around the corner, our team's collective voice has gotten louder (it's the excitement, you see) and we often catch our colleagues look at us with a mixture of amusement and confusion. Catch a bit of what has been overheard in the Pratham Books office. 

What we say: “I could publish a child without the root!”
What we mean: For StoryWeaver, we have something in the back-end that allows Pratham Books to bulk upload (many files at once) its content. One windy afternoon, we heard one of the team members yell “I could publish a child without the root!” What this euphoric yell meant was that we could publish a translation of a story even while the original story was under editing! Too complex? Just wait for the StoryWeaver launch – just a few weeks away!

What we say: “What is the expected behaviour?”
What we mean: How the system should behave, as opposed to how the system is behaving. And how do we fix the delta. Too complex? Just wait for the StoryWeaver launch – we're nearly there!

What we say: “Let's just get this baby out!”
What we mean: We'll worry about the minor problems later but for now let's just aim at launching the platform. And one we just did. Haven't looked at our newest baby? Look. Smile. Cuddle. Okay no cuddles but surely you will feel your heart warmer once you engage here: –
The other baby - StoryWeaver – EDD (Estimated Delivery Date): 9th July 2015. Like all babies, we are not very sure she will be out on 9th July! Wish us luck.

What we say: Ramu – the pdf gulper!
What we mean: Ramu, our newest intern is officially the world's greatest pdf gulper. He has been helping us out with tons of different jobs, one of them being creating pdfs of all our 2000 books to help proofreading for StoryWeaver. And while we continue to ask him if he could make 300 pdfs (within a day), he remains unfazed. Within a few hours, we see that he's completed his task and ready to gulp 300 more!

All this and more action once StoryWeaver launches – just a few weeks away! Watch this space for more details.

Digital Diaries aims to document the ups and downs, the curves and bumps, the little mistakes and big learnings of Pratham Books' exciting journey into the world of digital books, publishing platforms and a lot more.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Journey of a Unique Crowdfunding Platform: Donate-a-Book

Less than 20 hours to go for the launch and I was still making banners and editing the emailers. Time was less and the to-do list wasn't getting any shorter. Will I finish on time? Will we get a good response? Will the website function well? Will we get those promises fulfilled? Have I done enough?

As much as the mind was clouded with these questions, inside there was this dizzy excitement of finally seeing a dream taking a physical shape and that kept me going (along with bottomless cups of Green Tea!).

I started working on Donate-a-Book platform since the day I joined Pratham Books. It was one of the two big digital projects Pratham Books had in the pipeline.The project was really close to the organisation's mission, that of building a Reading India by making books accessible to thousands of Indian children who love to read in their language.

In the long decade that Pratham Books has invested in creating exciting, engaging stories for children, in Indian languages, and building a system that creates access to them, we came to realise that nonprofits and schools working with children are always willing to start and expand reading programs and libraries but either don't have the funds, or need to utilise the existing funds for more pressing needs such as infrastructure or security. Similarly, we also realised that there are thousands of people who would love to help children read, but are unaware of how they can help. 

This led to the idea of a crowdfunding initiative, a common place where organisations/schools/individuals needing books can post their requirements and individuals/organisations who can help fulfill these requirement come together and contribute and thus Donate-a-Book was conceived - a platform where we connect those who need children's books across India, with those who can help get these books to them.

From Pune to J.P nagar to finally settling in at Whitefield in Bangalore, the platform passed a few hands. With our new technology partner on board around 6 months back, Donate-a-Book was on a fast track and finally ready to launch in June. For the first round of beneficiaries, we wrote to a few organisations and individuals who we thought will be interested in setting up campaigns and got them on board. Alongside were happening endless rounds of testing the website, logging bugs, suggesting feature enhancements. The idea was (and is) to make the website as easy and intuitive as possible for the user, whether you are setting up a campaign or donating to a campaign.

As a run up to the launch we did a couple of teasers on Facebook - stories which were inspired by the beneficiary partners we had on board. On the day of the launch, we went full throttle on social media and e-mailers and many kind souls joined us in spreading the word about the wonderful campaigns and the admirable work of the organisations. In office, along with a samosa-chai party to welcome the newest member in the Pratham Books family, we also had a little fun thing going with everyone predicting how many books we will raise by end of the day. We have two offices, one in Bangalore and the other in Delhi, but everyone's name appeared on that one white board with their predictions against it. The atmosphere in office was electrifying and our energies soared every time we updated our whiteboard with a new hourly figure (and a silly doodle against it, courtesy yours truly!)

Our hourly update board. Look closely and one can see all the predictions right at the bottom of the board.
Thanks to good Samaritans, many of whom chose to be anonymous, we had four campaigns who met 100% of their funding target in less than 50 hours of the launch! Kind words, feedback, suggestions kept pouring in and continue. As I write this blog, the books-pledged figure has crossed the 3500 mark and we couldn't be more thankful to our community for once again, showing us the power of coming together for a good cause.

But this is just the start, with your love and support, we will go miles together. Collectively, we will 'put a book in every child's hand'!

A big thank you to Alok Kuchlous from Mirafra Technologies, Vishal & Rashmi from ActivElement and Noufal Ibrahim for helping us make this dream come true and to Rajeshwari Jayaraman for helping us take the first baby steps into this big project.A special word for all the beneficiary organisations who placed their trust in us, even before the website was in a presentable shape and joined us in our mission. A round of applause for all the donors who are supporting the campaigns and helping build a nation of readers.

Visit to help India's children read.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Help India's Children Read with Donate-a-Book

We are finally happy to share a project we've been working on for more than a year. 

Presenting *drum roll please* ...

Donate-a-Book : A Crowdfunding Platform for Books

'Donate-a-Book' is a unique crowdfunding platform that enables non profits, schools and storytellers to raise funds for books to help India’s children read. 

The platform connects those who need books and those who want to help bridge the gap. From a school for children with special needs to a Reading Champion who wants to start a library in her hometown, Donate-a-Book will create awareness about these campaigns and help raise funds to supply books from Pratham Books in multiple Indian languages.

If you are an organization/individual who wants to get books to the children you work with, get started on the Donate-a-Book platform.

Join us, as we start a Donate-a-thon to get 50,000 books in the hands of thousands of children by 14th November 2015, Children's Day. Currently, there are 30 campaigns that you can donate* to - from schools, non-profits, learning centres and champions. Find a campaign that resonates with you and help them build a book bank!

A little help from you can help India’s children read

*Currently we are accepting donations only in Indian Rupee. The option to make a foreign currency donation is not open on Donate-a-Book as of now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

50 new books in 50 days!

Right, so we like cinematic headlines, but we only use them when the news we're reporting is worthy of the drama. And since we've really found 50 ways to get into children's worlds in fifty days, this headline is justified! In April this year, we heard from Pratham, that they were interested in getting 50 books in Hindi for their libraries by July when schools reopen. Fifty new books - developed, translated, printed and dispatched - within months? But, ever ready for a challenge, we said yes.

Pratham was looking at distributing books in Hindi for all the projects in the states where they work such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan. They wanted some storycards too but were looking at more books for this project. These books would be for ages 4-8. In May, Pratham confirmed the order for 50 books – a mix of storycards, wordless stories, and storybooks in May. We started work in earnest immediately. Over several quick meetings with them, and many long planning session in-house, we had a list of books that we needed to get ready.

The zero-to-fifty race began. First, we accelerated some titles that we were already working on. Next, we converted some work-in-progress manuscripts into storycards. Some recently published bi-linguals, we tweaked. The wordless books would generally have taken the longest time to develop, as the illustration process is one of the longest stages in the life-cycle of a book. Fortunately for us, our #6Frame Story Challenge had just concluded, giving us access to the work of 76 illustrators. We showed the entries to Pratham, and they made their selection. 

While 16 entries got made into wordless book, we wove stories around six entries, writing them almost simultaneously in English and Hindi. Thanks to the lovely work of these illustrators, writing stories around them was a pleasure. Our design team settled down to a feverish pace of doing the layouts. Soon, dummies were printed, colour corrections done, proofs read, and ...phew!

When school begins for thousands of children in July, they will have many colourful, lovingly-made books in their hands. The entire project is a testimony to what teamwork, focus and goodwill from the community around us can achieve. We do hope this will result in '50 ways to enter the joyful world of books'.

PS:  Thanks to all the authors and illustrators and translators of the books that have gone into this 50. And to the new entrants to our family who've come in through the #6FrameStoryChallenge, take a bow Delwyn Remedios, Isha S Valentine, Jithin Jacob, Kavita Singh Kale, Ninoshka Dias, Nishith Mehta, Paneendra Suresh, Sweta Roy Choudhury, Megha Vishwanath, Niloufer Wadia, Preeti Lata, Rajiv Eipe, Shikha Nambiar, Soumya Menon, Vedavathi Narasimha Murthy, Krishna Prakash K, Sangeeta Das.

Indie Booksellers in India

We are enjoying the posts that Duckbill Books is sharing for ‪#‎IndependentBooksellersWeek‬. Sayoni Basu mentions all their favourite stores in this article about indie booksellers in India who are bucking the trend of chain stores.


Atta Galatta, Bangalore

PBChamps session at Atta Galatta. Picture Courtesy: PixMyWall Studios
Atta Galatta in Koramangala is a bookstore and event space. (There is also fantastic coffee!) Subodh Shankar and Lakshmi Subodh started the shop in April 2012. Lakshmi, who was earlier a copywriter and insurance consultant, says one of their aims is to promote Indian writing in English and other languages such as Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi, a place where we think a mature, thinking audience would come for a cup of filter coffee and some good reading.

Atta Galatta offers the experience of books through plays, music, storytelling, workshops and movies, a place where artistes from various literary and creative backgrounds can come together to share their work, and bring together an audience of like minded people. “The fun part and the challenging part are one and the same. Since we hold a number of events and workshops, we get an opportunity to work with different people. New ideas, new ways of doing things and different styles are what makes it fun. But at the same time we have to cater to people according to very specific requirements, which makes it a challenge for us.”

Lightroom Bookhouse, Bangalore

In a quiet neighbourhood in Bangalore, among lots of trees and old houses, lurks the Lightroom Bookstore, which specialises in picture books. It just celebrated its second birthday.

Says Aashti Mudnani, who runs it, “Opening a bookstore for children was in the dreaming and thinking phase for over seven years before we started the store in 2013, when our oldest child was born and we were unable to find the kind of books we would have liked for our children. My husband and I have always enjoyed reading children’s books and used to go hunting for them at Strand book sales and through the stacks of used books at second-hand bookstores. Of course, finding the books we liked was always based on chance! Lightroom started on a shoestring budget – we took all the help offered by friends and family, monetary and otherwise!”

Everything about running a bookstore is fun, says Aashti, so it is hard for her to identify one particular element. Pressed for an answer, she says, “My super colleagues who are willing to do anything that is asked of them!”

“Earlier I used to naively think that our biggest hurdle was the difficulty in getting the kinds of books that we really wanted to get. Now, the realistic and massive challenge we are all facing are online booksellers. Even though people say they like bookstores, they do buy online! We have people call us to ask for a price of a particular book and are aware that they are comparing it with an online seller, but have no choice but to give it!”

Find the full list here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Digital Diaries: Parties Come in All Shapes and Forms

Last week, this really amazing thing happened at Pratham Books. We picked a day on which the entire PB team - sitting in different parts of the country - spent a few hours proofreading the stories that have been uploaded on to StoryWeaver. Is the author's name correct? Does the synopsis read correctly? Are the reading levels mentioned accurate? Does the story itself have any missing pieces? That sort of thing.

Now we understand that a Proofreading Party doesn't sound like the kind of party you'd want to go to. But it felt so wonderful, having the entire team come together to push StoryWeaver to a better place, all in just half a day. And what's even more awesome is that we have people in our team who speak a wide, wide variety of languages: Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Urdu... we have a LOT covered. Ah, the perks of retaining diversity!

On StoryWeaver, all the proofreading happens online and we were delighted to learn that people were able to spot and make edits really easily. Here are glimpses of the Proofreading Party. While everyone looks worryingly serious ("See how hardworking we are?") in these pictures, we can assure you that it wasn't as grim as it seems.

So come join our next Proofreading Party?

Digital Diaries aims to document the ups and downs, the curves and bumps, the little mistakes and big learnings of Pratham Books' exciting journey into the world of digital books, publishing platforms and a lot more.

Our Stories Fly into a Coursebook

Towards the end of December 2013, we received a mail from the ELT Schools team of Orient BlackSwan about 2 stories they wanted to use in a coursebook designed to teach language skills to kids. We were asked if we could waive the copyright fee or quote a low fee that would allow the cost of the book to remain affordable. Our prompt answer being on the lines of - "No problem, go ahead and use it. For free!". Why, you ask? Because a lot of our content is under Creative Commons licenses that allow them to be used as long as they are attributed. People can remix it and even sell it! And no, they don't have to give us any margins from the sales. We are just happy to see our books reach more kids in different forms

Last week the coursebook landed in our office and it was an example of a remix - our stories in a new format. The story had brand new illustrations. It also had several activities to go with it - describing a scene, questions about the story, teaching grammar, linking concepts mentioned in the book to other day-to-day situations, etc. The stories 'The Seventh Sun' and 'Ritu's Letter Gets Longer' are part of this coursebook.

The book in the background is the coursebook with new illustrations
We also got to see the happiness on our editor Mala's face when she saw that her story was not only featured in the book, but that her name appeared in the 'august company of Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson' (her words!) :)

Thanks ELT Schools team and Orient BlackSwan for the wonderful attribution in the book and for taking our stories to readers in a new format (and for bringing a big smile to Mala's face).