Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Diving into a Digital Universe - Part 2

It's mostly during my commute to work that I people-watch. I'm always struck by the number of people who are engaging with their mobile phones in one way or another. Sometimes, while riding on the Metro train, I find myself bending sideways just to get a glimpse of what is keeping them glued to their phones. I know, I know, it's terrible to be so nosy, but I can't help it!

I recently read a UNESCO report that touches upon the socio-economic benefits of increased reading on mobile phones and it made me feel infinitely better about our new companions spreading like wildfire: “Although many parts of the world are book-poor, these same places are increasingly mobile-phone rich. Today, the United Nations estimates that 6 billion people have access to a working mobile phone and over 90 percent of the population is blanketed by a mobile network. Due to the ubiquity of mobile devices, UNESCO is investigating how they can be leveraged to advance literacy. The data connectivity fees required to read an open-access book on a mobile phone can be as little as 2 or 3 cents, while the cost of a comparable paper-and-ink book is often 10 USD. This means that mobile reading can be 300 to 500 times cheaper than reading books in a physical format. Mobile books are also typically easier to distribute, easier to update, and, in some instances, more convenient than paper-and-ink alternatives.”

Predictably, arguments centred around the Print versus Digital debate have been flying about in publishing circles. Last year, at the Digital Minds Conference, bestselling author Neil Gaiman said, “People ask me what my predictions are for publishing and how digital is changing things and I tell them my only real prediction is that is it's all changing. Amazon, Google and all of those things probably aren't the enemy. The enemy right now is simply refusing to understand that the world is changing." But then there are also others like Maurice Sendak (author and illustrator of popular classic 'Where the Wild Things Are' who passed away in 2012) who had intensely disliked the very idea of e-books.

All this made us at Pratham Books curious about how authors and illustrators closer home feel about the changing form of the book – from print to digital. So we asked a few of our favourite creative folk, and here's what they said:

Roopa Pai, Author
I wasn't so sure about the digital space until I was gifted (a hand-me-down) an older version of the Kindle about 8 months ago. For the first two months, I didn't even use it. But when I eventually came around to using it and downloaded my very first book, I loved it! Incidentally, I was also shifting houses around the time and ended up giving away a whole bunch of books to Blossoms. I'm not a hoarder, so this was a liberating experience! There are a lot of things I love about the Kindle. There are no distracting updates, there is no backlight - it's essentially just like a book. Also, books are much cheaper on it and so much more accessible. You can buy it instantly! I think e-books are a huge blessing for Indian children's authors because it's very rarely - and erratically - that our books get stocked in Indian bookstores. Digitizing books also makes it easier for the global reading audience to access these books. I don't think the format of the book really matters as long as children are comfortable reading it.

Archana Sreenivasan, Illustrator

Tablet and mobile devices open up whole new ways of presenting and consuming content, and personally, I’m very excited about the possibilities. I enjoy reading/experiencing content that is well designed for its medium, and that includes a good old-fashioned book. Having said that, I think that storytelling in the digital medium is still in a nascent stage of development, especially in India. These digital ‘books’ are not really books anymore. They’re new, hybrid creatures that could be a mixture of book, film and game. And the crux of creating the right experience is probably getting the balance right, because it's very easy to get lost in the possibilities, or on the other hand simply port the traditional book format onto a digital device as-is, just adding a few page swipes. I haven’t had the opportunity to fully engage in a project of this kind, but it could be a very interesting and challenging space to work in.

Click here to read Part 1 in the 'Diving into a Digital Universe' series. And find out about Pratham Books' journey into the digital universe.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Delhi's Most Knowledgeable Bookshop Attendants

Mayank Austen Soofi takes us to meet some of Delhi's most cherished bookshop attendants.

Via livemint

He has hardly any books in his house but he is known to many Delhiites who live in book-lined homes. Mithilesh Singh, a 39-year-old college dropout from Bihar, is the floor manager at Bahrisons Booksellers in New Delhi’s Khan Market. The landmark book store is patronized by the Capital’s famous people, and all of them turn to Singh on literary matters. “Mithilesh is a genius,” says author William Dalrymple. “I love the way he knows about any book I ask for and can generally find it in seconds even if it involves shinning up some rickety stepladder or rootling around in some attic. If not, he knows where he can get it within 24 hours. If all bookshopwallahs were like him, then Amazon and Flipkart would never have got a toe in the market.”

The joy is deeper when the book store owner gives you a smile of recognition. But to have an affable bookshop attendant more informed than you on new titles and who helps you search for the desired authors is beyond expectation. That is exactly how Singh delights book lovers every day. The moment politician-lawyer Kapil Sibal, one of the store’s many VIP regulars, pushes open the glass door, he asks for “Mithilesh” to show him the latest stock. It’s the same with many others who are in a hurry and want to browse only those recent releases that suit their reading taste. The most commonly uttered name in the store is not “Rushdie” or “Rowling”, but “Mithilesh”.

The grave-looking owner of the eclectic Fact & Fiction book store in Basant Lok market in Vasant Vihar is rarely seen smiling but his assistant Ravi Vyshumpayan’s relaxed demeanour puts one at ease. Full Circle at Khan Market has the friendly Reji Varghese Joseph (he was trained in Bahrisons) as well as the elderly Jolly Sabharwal, who pleasantly surprised the regulars after returning to her job in July after a five-year break (she appears stern but is charming once you break the ice). 

The Book Shop in Jor Bagh suffered a tragedy in May with the death of its founder, K.D. Singh, who used to regale the faithful with stories of his college days in Delhi. The regulars continue to visit the shop not only to bask in the soothing company of Singh’s wife Nini, but also because of the obliging Sohan Singh, the quiet-natured doorman-cum-attendant. Early this year, on his store’s Facebook page, K.D. Singh left a sentimental note, saying, “Sohan Singh has been with The Bookshop for fifteen years. He knows where every. single. book. is shelved. And even though he can’t read in English if you are a regular customer he knows the kind of books you like and is happy to point you to books that you might enjoy. He is such an integral part of The Bookshop…”—just as Mithilesh Singh is to Bahrisons.

“As long as my father was active in the shop,” says Malhotra, referring to the store’s elderly founder who retired five years ago, “I used to do exactly what Mithilesh does today. He exercises the same freedom of decision-making.” Shooting a glance at his star staffer, Malhotra says, “Both of us have been loyal to each other and both of us respect each other’s position.”

Monday, September 29, 2014

Entering a Children's Picture Book

Publishing Perspectives writes about a children's book project that allows you to enter the world of the book - digitally and literally.

How can the digital age use the tried-and-true concept of a picture book to create something new and wonderful for children? How about art that is as large as a child? How about details that can be examined up close while interacting with a (FREE) app on an iPad?

This is the concept behind the KIWI (Kids Interactive Walk-In) Storybooks: 5 ft. x 7 ft. paneled screens magnificently illustrated by award-winning children’s author/illustrator Roxie Munro for kids from kindergarten through 5th grade. The lightweight, yet sturdy frames of the screens can be easily assembled and dismantled, and there are panels for eleven themes: Farm and Maze, Fire Station, Space Station and Castle, to name a few. The Velcro panels are easy to change and insert. The free apps for each KIWI StoryBook, which can be downloaded onto iPads, can initiate a scavenger hunt — searching for plants and animals in the desert or rainforest — or help a child discover sounds familiar to the Old West, or make a digital jigsaw puzzle of a photo of the art, or let a child record and edit an original movie. And that’s just the hi-tech part.

If you want to keep the experience in the analog/real world, how about using the panoramic screen as the backdrop for a play? Author and playwright Douglas Love has created scripts for each backdrop so kids can produce a four-person skit or a two-act play for seventeen characters or just improvise a scenario based on some suggestions. There is nothing quite like the collaborative work of theater to motivate and inspire children to learn and share what they’ve learned with others.

The Future Library

Imagine a library whose works will not be seen for a century.

Via The Guardian

Depending on perspective, it is an author's dream – or nightmare:Margaret Atwood will never know what readers think of the piece of fiction she is currently working on, because the unpublished, unread manuscript from the Man Booker prize-winning novelist will be locked away for the next 100 years.

Atwood has just been named as the first contributor to an astonishing new public artwork. The Future Library project, conceived by the award-winning young Scottish artist Katie Paterson, began, quietly, this summer, with the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees in Nordmarka, just outside Oslo. It will slowly unfold over the next century. Every year until 2114, one writer will be invited to contribute a new text to the collection, and in 2114, the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the texts to be printed – and, finally, read.

"It is the kind of thing you either immediately say yes or no to. You don't think about it for very long," said Atwood, speaking from Copenhagen. "I think it goes right back to that phase of our childhood when we used to bury little things in the backyard, hoping that someone would dig them up, long in the future, and say, 'How interesting, this rusty old piece of tin, this little sack of marbles is. I wonder who put it there?'"

Each year, the Future Library trust, made up of literary experts – and Paterson, while she's alive – will name another "outstanding" writer who will be contributing to the artwork. The trust is also responsible for the maintenance of the forest, and for ensuring the books are printed in a century's time. A printing press will be placed in the library to make sure those in charge in 2114 have the capability of printing books on paper.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review : Rupaiya Paise Series

Priya Fonseca reviews the Rupaiya Paisa series - written by Mala Kumar and illlustrated by Deepa Balsavar.

There’s an Indian book series that is recommended by CBSE that we should certainly not pass off with the disdain often accorded to school text books. The Rupaiya Paisa books are a series of four books sold together by Pratham Books. Author Mala Kumar has done an excellent job of keeping the content relevant and focused especially when the topic of money can be so vast and daunting.

Most parents don’t know where to start when explaining monetary concepts with children. My husband and I too thought that we had covered all the basic aspects and were in for a rude shock when we realised our seven year old son’s concepts about money were quite muddled. It was cute for him at four years to think of a bank as a place from where he could get sweets, but now he needs to understand other things like what banks do, plastic money, concept of credit, saving, investing, earning, understanding the value of money and a lot more. Recently without checking with us he gifted our maid a larger monetary gift from his piggy bank than we presented her for her birthday. That was followed by an incident when he went to buy sweets with one note, asked for certain sweets, and came back not knowing how much money he had left behind. While it warms my heart that he has no problem sharing from his piggy bank, I know we need some assistance pronto with this subject.

The Rupaiya Paisa series is eye catching with very lovely illustrations by Deepa Balsavar so my son quite enjoys reading the books himself too. We prefer reading this series out loud to him so that he can ask questions if he doesn’t understand something. It’s best to go step by step with these books and maybe even complete one book; let the information sink in for some time and then go on to the next at a slightly later date. ‘Big’ words are explained as and when they come up in the text so if you skip a book, the child may come across a term that does not have a detailed explanation as it has been explained in a previous book of the series.

Ideally read through the books yourself before presenting them to your child or starting the reading sessions. If your child is young or you believe there may be sections that are too advanced for current comprehension just skip them for now and go back to them at a later date. The series is perfect for kids 7+ years. Buy the series from the online store. My buying experience was smooth and the books arrived in two days. The store has a whole host of interesting books so you may want to browse while you are there. They also have almost all books in different languages.

Bookworm takes 'Chhuk-Chhuk-Chhak' to St. Thomas Boys Primary School

Stumbled across this story by Flavia from the Bookworm Goa team.

It was the first library session after the week-long school holidays for Chathurti. The boys were all set to hear a new story. We asked them what they had done over the holidays – many had gone to their ancestral homes or visited the homes of their relatives. Unfortunately, no one went by train. Our story for that day was Chhuk-Chhuk-Chhak by Vinita Krishna with great illustrations by Suvidha Mistry, published by Pratham Books.

We all stood in the aisles and made the noise of a train pulling out of the station, gaining speed for a while and then slowing down as it approached the next station. It was fun – tiring, but fun.

They heard the story of the little girl who started drawing a train on her slate, but ran out of space, so ….. one boy suggested that she continue on the wall of the house! Some others said she could continue on the floor. Which is what Nanhi did – she drew the rest of the coaches on the floor of her verandah.

We asked the boys to do the same on the floor of the classroom. There was hesitation at first – no one had ever drawn on the classroom floor on purpose, before! However, after the first couple of 6-year olds were persuaded to start, there was no stopping the others. Our train was really long.

Hop over to the Bookworm blog to read the entire article and to see how long the train was :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Paro Anand and Kids Have a Roaring Time!

A lion that speaks Punjabi, a bear that dreams of being the first bear on the moon, a rabbit that sings instead of becoming the mid-day meal for the lion -- all these animals came alive as author Paro Anand and about a hundred students of Chaitanya Vidyalaya had a, literally, roaring time. Paro, known for her work with children in conflict-zones, did the storytelling as part of the BLF-Pratham Books Outreach programme. Author of books like Bhabhloo Bear's Adventure, and No Guns at my Son's Funeral, Paro has a background in theatre, and also holds a world record for helping children make the World's Longest Newspaper!

"I want to be a writer!" said a Class 8 student,  a first-generation school-goer. "I like ghost stories, do you have a book about ghosts?" asked a young boy, the first person to be able to read English in his family. "I want to climb trees like Bhabhloo!" said another student, in all probability the first girl in her family to go to middle school.

For these bright students, Paro's session was a peep into the exciting world of literature. Outreach programmes light up the minds of young children for whom storybooks and reading are not part of the natural environment at home. The school,  tucked off the BIAL highway, in Palanahalli, is a well-lit place that is striving to do the best for its students, adding one class at a time as the oldest children graduate to the next one. 

The Outreach programme continues, even as the Bangalore Literature Festival 2014 is all set for an inauguration tomorrow. Paro Anand is a speaker on the panel discussing 'Children and Young Adult Fiction' at the Bangalore Literature Festival at Crowne Plaza on September 28th.

Meet Justice Leila Seth at the Banglore Literature Festival

C for ... Children and the Constitution - Learn with Justice Leila Seth

What is the Constitution? What are children's rights as per our law?

Join Justice Leila Seth as we revisit the Constitution of India through her book  'Hum Bharat ke Bacche  : Hamare Samvidhan ki Uddeshika'.

Justice Leila Seth was the first woman Chief Justice of a High Court in India, the first woman judge of the Delhi High Court and the first woman to top the Bar examination in London. 

The former chief justice will talk to young people and answer their questions about all things lawful and wise. If you or your little ones have a question for her, be sure to be at the Bangalore Literature Festival, on September 27, 2014, between 10.30 and 11.15 am. 

See you there!

Buy the book

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

TENTASTIC Storytelling Session by Cuddles and Reads

If you missed the International Literacy Day events happening earlier this month, Bangaloreans are in for a treat.

Cuddles and Read is conducting a storytelling session at Atta Galatta on 27th September, 2014.

Via Vani Balaraman (Cuddles and Reads):

Usher in the Dussehra festivities by celebrating with 'Takloo - the Little Salt Seller'.
International Literacy month Celebrations at ATTA GALATTA, Saturday, 27th September, 5 pm onwards. 
Listen to stories from Pratham books, get your hands dirty in paint, play games with Takloo and more! Send in wacky lines about salt and win a goody bag.

'Jo swaadisth kaane se kare pyaar, takloo is kaise kare Inkaar'

Lot of ATTA and Galatta guaranteed!

Vani will also be reading the story of a magical scooter that can transport you into space - perfect story to celebrate India's Mars mission Mangalyaan. Vani wrote this story as part of Pratham Books' annual Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest.

*This session is part of the TENTASTIC campaign where volunteers have committed to conduct ten storytelling session this year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pratham Books Wins Two Publishing Next Industry Awards

This weekend, we were making TOO MUCH NOISE!!! 


Because we won...not one... but TWO awards at the Publishing Next conference in Goa. 

We won awards for :
 Publishing Innovation of the year (for the Adi Kahani series in tribal languages)
Digital book of the year (Too Much Noise)

The Publishing Next Industry Awards reward the talent, initiative, entrepreneurial zeal and untiring efforts of publishers – big, small, independent – that create books. Established under the aegis of the neutral platform of the Publishing Next Conference, the awards seek to recognize innovation and leadership in the book trade.

The Adikahani series is a set of 10 story books and four story cards in Saura, Munda, Kui and Juanga languages. The Adikahani series is a very important step for us, as it marks the beginning of a journey where as a publisher, we not only publish in Indian languages but also the first books for children in tribal languages that have no body of printed literature and some don't even have a commonly accepted script. We are drawing a new set of first generation school goers into the ambit of reading for pleasure. It is a small but significant beginning to right the balance of power between the margins and the mainstream. With these books we are seeding a new set of readers and showing the way to other publishers to reach out to a nascent market.

A big thank you to:
Illustrators group: Sugrib Kumar Juanga, Sanatan Juanga, Kusha Kumar Barik, Ramani Ranjan Sarangi, Pradip Kumar Sahoo

Juanga Writers Group: Dambarudhar Juanga, Hitabandhu Juanga, Kodanda Juanga, Kshetrabasi Juanga, Maheswar Juanga

Kui Writers Group: Buna Kanhar, Philmon Pradhan, Pramod Kumar Digal

Munda Writers Group: Budhnath Munda, Prafulla Kumar Surin, Prafulla Tapno, Rabindra Kumar Singh, Santosh Kumar Singh,

Saura Writers Group: Abena Gamanga, Ajama Gamanga,Isak Karji, Pradina Gamanga, Srinibasha Gamanga

Subir Shukla, Smruti Ranjan Jena, Surendra Prasad Singh of Ignus ERG

Gopika Chowfla and Kalyani (from Gopika Chowfla Design)

Dharitri Patnaik at the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF) for funding the workshops and the books

To all the translators who also translated these stories into other languages.


‘Too Much Noise’ marked the beginning of our journey as a publisher into the “digital – first” world. We want to make hundreds of digital stories available for free, which can be accessed on many devices including mobile phones and helps us fulfill our mission of taking stories to every child in India. 'Too Much Noise' written by Noni (Rohini Nilekani) and illustrated by Angie and Upesh has been released under a Creative Commons license.

A big thank you to :

Rohini Nilekani for writing this story,

Angie and Upesh for illustrating the story,

Jagdish Repaswal and MangoReader for creating the interactive book,

Pallavi Rao and Radio Mirchi (Mirchi Cares) for facilitating the audio versions of the story,

Parthibhan Amudhan and BookBox for creating the animated version of the story.

Sanjay Shripad, Rajesh Khar, Mukund Taksale, Meera Tushar Punarvasu, S Jayaraman, Sugunasri for translating these stories into other languages.


Within a few months of launching both these projects, we've won accolades for them, Yayyyy!

You can also look at some pictures from the conference.

BLF-Pratham Books Outreach at Deccan School

Reaching out to children is fun. But reaching out to children just an hour before they break off for mid-term vacation? Fun and challenging and a strength-test for the vocal chords! About a hundred students of Class 3 of Deccan International School, Bangalore, gathered in the auditorium for the BLF-PB Outreach session.

The diminutive Sangeetha Kadur, illustrator of Wildlife in a City Pond, and I, co-author of the Rituchakra series, decided to engage the children together. After I moved from one season to the other through the books Everything Looks New; Lassi, Ice-cream or Falooda; and Peacocks and Pakodas, Sangeetha took over and talked about the fascinating little creatures who are seen at a pond during the monsoon.

We do hope the session made the children curious about seasonal changes in nature, and the myriads of life forms around us. Observing these could well be part of their holiday activities! Psst....many birds do come to the venue of this year's Bangalore Literature visitors can not only see authors and books but also many colourful birds and trees.

P.S: Justice Leila Seth, author of 'Hum, Bharat ke bacche' (we, the Children of India') will be interacting with children on September 27, 10-30 am -11.15 am. Get your copy, autographed by the author!


Penguin's Crowdsourcing Experiment

Great to see that Penguin is going to experiment with Stephen Fry's latest book.

Via Publishing Perspectives

Penguin UK launches one of its most ambitious projects ever this week in which it effectively aims to crowd source the future of the book. On Thursday it will release a chunk of free, cross media content from Stephen Fry’s new volume of memoirsMore Fool Me – as well as material from the earlier Fry Chronicles – and will actively invite creative disobedience, digital play, tech mash-ups and all kinds of online mayhem on a global scale. 

Far from being protective of the content – so often the norm in this walled garden world in which we live – Penguin is telling the world ‘do what you will. Take this metadata, this audio, this text. Mess with it. Go play. Invent. Create. Surprise yourselves. Surprise us.’

With so many conversations within the industry about the future of the book being inconclusive, Hull’s thinking was: “Let’s see what people out there come up with. Let’s open source the content and see where it takes us.”

Anything and everything is welcomed. The publisher hopes for an amazing, disruptive reading experience. Audio mash-ups on Spotify, experiments with conductive ink, games, NFC (near field communication) applications, 3-D printing, splicing, dicing, video…Penguin is hoping for a global cacophony of ideas and is open to anything.