Thursday, May 29, 2008


Masnick has some thoughtful commentary up on where he sees record labels, and this ought to stand true for any sort of publisher, heading.
...thanks to the vast explosion of music available these days, bands don't need help getting "out there" any more -- they need help standing out from the clutter. Fans, on the other side, need a better filter to figure out what's worth listening to, and that's something that an affinity label could stand for. It plays the role of the filter, and allows the major label (like EMI) to leverage its connections with big name bands, to drive additional interest to lesser known bands by associating the names on the same affinity label. It's an idea that makes plenty of sense (in fact, there are a few small independent labels that already live via this concept -- within certain niches, you can find people who will buy nearly every album released on a specific label).
Picture uploaded by ToniVC

Producer-Audience Symbiosis

Via Kevin Kelly, an enlightening story on how comic, manga, publishers in Japan have embraced the concept of their audience re-mixing and re-using their work to create new comics and stories.
...a note-worthy innovation in copyright practice pioneered by manga fans and manga publishers in Japan. Unlike many major publishers in the West, manga publishers in Japan have been tolerating fanfic, or fan created fiction, based on their copyrighted characters. This could be an "existence proof" that symbiosis with prosuming fans might work for other publishers/producers of fiction.
Uploaded by Telstar Logistics

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The results of a very interesting study [PDF link] are a good insight into why people contribute to Open Source software projects and in some ways, it can be extended to other Open Source movements, Wikipedia et. al.
If you're a FOSS contributor, you're about 30 y.o. almost exclusively male (sic) from North America or Western Europe, with 12 years of programming experience and spending about 10h/week on 2 or 3 FLOSS projects. You feel strongly that the hacker community is the primary source of your identity.

You're either self-taught (40%) of have been formally IT trained (51%).
There are good chances (40%) that you're paid while contributing.Your primary motivation lies in your ability to express your creativity; You belong to one of the following 4 clusters (names are MTG's not that of the study), identified along your secondary motivations:

[ 25% ] The Professional: (86% are paid) You need FLOSS for work-related issues
[ 27% ] The Hobbyist: You need FLOSS for non-work related issues
[ 29% ] The Intellectual: You like to improve your skills and need/like intellectual stimulations
[ 19% ] The Altruist: You like to give to the community and believe code should be free/open

Contrary to the mainstream sociological belief, extrinsic rewards (money) does not decrease your intrinsic motivation (here your feeling of creativity).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Open Access: What it is and why it is required for scholarly community?

More Free Goodness

We had earlier written about Steven Poole and his experiment with free books.

Masnick writes to clarify his position on free and how it is a sustainable business model.

His central thesis is that books, as other content, don't *need* to be free but they will become free because they are or soon will be infinite goods and you gives away the infinite goods and tie scarce goods to their tail. And it's with the scarce resources that you make money. Free is a foot in the door, as such.
So, it's nice to see someone at least willing to explore the concept of free without shutting out the possibility. But free alone isn't a business model. And it's wrong to blame free for the lack of establishing a complete business model. Just because "give it away and pray" isn't a workable business model, that doesn't mean that there aren't business models that do work. Hopefully, Poole and Pogue will eventually recognize that they're dismissing the wrong thing. They shouldn't be complaining about free (or making misleading accusations about those who simply recognize the economic forces at work) -- they should be complaining about a failure to put in place a real business model to take advantage of what will be free.
Picture uploaded by piotr.amigo

Quick Books - On Demand Publishing - The Espresso Machine

A very interesting project called the Espresso Book Machine as just been publicly launched. Watch the video embedded above.

It's rather interesting; it makes every content creator an on-demand publisher, much like Lulu and of greater interest is what it can do for a library network. Assume one machine per library network and access to a digital repository of open sourced/access literature. Changes the game, doesn't it?

From their FAQ:

1.How Does The Espresso Book Machine Work?
  1. A black and white duplex laser printer prints the pages of the book. The text and images are correctly located so that all pages will be properly aligned and centered when the book is trimmed to its intended size. The printer uses standard letter or A4 sized paper stock.
  2. As the pages emerge from the laser printer, they are collected in an accumulator. This device helps ensure that all pages are properly aligned.
  3. While the pages of the book are being printed, a color laser printer produces a full color image on a single piece of large, heavy-weight paper stock that is used to form the book cover. This printed tabloid or A3 sheet is placed directly onto a binding table.
  4. Once the pages of the book are complete, they are positioned vertically by the accumulator and placed in a carriage. This carriage moves the book along the length of the machine as it is transformed from a collection of single pages into a fully bound book.
  5. Just behind the black and white laser printer, there is a jogger. Here the pages are placed on a vibrating platform that further ensures that all of the sheets of paper are properly aligned and square.
  6. Next, the carriage pulls the bottom edge of the pages, which will end up being the spine of the book, over a mill. This roughens the edge of the pages to help ensure that when glue is applied that it will adhere fully to each page.
  7. After being milled, the bottom edge of the book is moved over a glue pot, where a rotating wheel is used to apply a thin layer of heat activated glue over the entire spine of the book.
  8. The carriage then moves the book over the binding table where the cover is waiting. The binding table uses pneumatics and electrical clamps to press the cover into the book from three sides. This produces a traditional "perfect bound" book.
  9. The carriage then transfers the bound book to the shearing mechanism at the trimming station. In the shearing process, a single carbide blade trims the top edge, bottom edge and outside edge of the book. Trim sized are infinitely variable between roughly 8 1/2" x 11" and 4 1/2" x 4 1/2".
  10. The completed perfect bound book is released by the machine - still warm - ready to read. As we say "Hot off the press!"

The power of now-and-here tales

"A well-written story has the power of affecting a child positively. This is what I try to achieve when I write a story," said author Ramendra Kumar at a gathering of people from Akshara Foundation and Pratham Books in Bangalore.

Author of over 16 books, Ramendra Kumar has won many awards for his stories for children. His books have been translated into Japanese, Sinhalese and Norwegian. But he feels happiest when children tell him that they remember his stories even several years after they have read them. He said children liked stories that told the truth and avoided sermonising. "I don't think authors should 'come down' to the level of children, they should 'rise up' to the level of children!" he said.

"I like writing now-and-here stories----stories set in the real world. Young readers can easily identify themselves with the characters in my stories. My characters do not have magic wands, they do not fight ten bullies single-handedly, or fly like superman. But they are my 'heroes' because of their virtues like bravery, common-sense, intelligence, kindness or humour," explained Ramendra. One such story is being published by Pratham Books soon.

Several librarians from Akshara Foundation shared their experiences with children's reading habits. They pointed out that smaller children picked up a book which had attractive illustrations and then continued to read the book if they liked the story too. The group discussed how stakeholders---authors, illustrators, publishers, schools, children and translators----could work together to bring out affordable books of high quality for children. Pratham Books is working towards this goal, and looks forward to engage this community in the process.
To know more about Ramen, visit

To learn about how librarians are spreading the joy or reading in hundreds of schools across Karnataka visit To learn more about our books please visit

Friday, May 23, 2008

प्रथम बुक्स की प्रथम पहल

प्रथम बुक्स के ब्लागस्पाट पर पहली बार कुछ लिखने में पहली बार पहाड़ चढ़ने में जो मज़ा आता है, कुछ वैसा ही महसूस हो रहा है!
कुछ रोमांच, कुछ उलझन और एक नया अनुभव आत्मसात करने का सुख।
प्रथम बुक्स भारतीय भाषाओं में अच्छा बाल साहित्य उचित दम पर प्रकाशित करने व उपलब्ध कराने की दिशा में एक बहुत ही सामयिक पहलऐ है। हर बच्च को अच्छी पुस्तकें पढने का हक है, ऐसा हमारा मानना है। आज के दौर में, प्राथमिक शिक्षा के क्षेत्र में भारत क्यों इतना पिच्चादअ है, बच्चों की शिक्षा में आनंद का सर्वथा आभाव क्यों है, क्यों बच्चे सरकारी तंत्र के स्कूलों में अच्छी शिक्षा से वंचित रह जाते हैं, यह सवाल हम सब के सामने हैं। सरकार, गैर सरकारी संस्थाएं, निति विशेषज्ञ, स्चूली तंत्र सभी आने वाली पीढ़ी के आगे जवाबदेह हैं की शिक्षा उनके जीवन को सवंरे, मानसिक, बौधिक, शारीरिक व मनोवैज्ञानिक विकास का मौका हर स्चूली बच्चे को बराबरी से मिले।
किताबों के एक बच्चे के जीवन में महत्व को सिद्ध करने के लिए में शोध, आंकडों या सरकारी फाइलों में बंदह पड़े तथ्त्यों को में दोहरा कर आपको उबऊंगी नहीं।
जिस भाषा के माध्याँ से बच्चा शिक्षा ग्रहण कर रहा है, उसी भाषा में उसे पत्थ्य पुस्तक के अलावा कल्पनाशील पठन सामग्री मिलनी ही चाहिए। इसी से बच्चे में जन्क्जारी , ज्ञान की स्वयम खोज करने का जज्बा पैदा होगा जो की स्वतः शिक्षा का उद्देश्य है . मन की पतंग की डोर खुलऐ आसमान में उडे , यही प्रथम बुक्स की किताबों की कोशिश है.
बल साहित्य प्रकाशन , पठन , लेखन , चित्रांकन , पुस्तकालय , शिक्षा , लेखन की त्रासदी और सुख ...किसी भी विषय पर आप इस ब्लॉग पर अपने विछार पोस्ट करें टू आपका स्वागत है !

Structures of Participation in Digital Culture

An interesting book (PDF Download) that:
...explores digital technologies that are engines of cultural innovation, from the virtualization of group networks and social identities to the digital convergence of textural and audio-visual media. User-centered content production, from Wikipedia to YouTube to Open Source, has become the emblem of this transformation, but the changes run deeper and wider than these novel organizational forms. Digital culture is also about the transformation of what it means to be a creator within a vast and growing reservoir of media, data, computational power, and communicative possibilities. We have few tools and models for understanding the power of databases, network representations, filtering techniques, digital rights management, and the other new architectures of agency and control. We have fewer accounts of how these new capacities transform our shared cultures, our understanding of them, and our capacities to act within them. Advancing that account is the goal of this volume.
(via BoingBoing)

A Symbiotic Relationship

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Price of Books

Tyler Cowen on possible causes for the high prices of books in Brazil.

1. Most Brazilians do not read. I don't mean they can't read, I mean they don't read for leisure so much. I was stuck at the Sao Paulo airport for seven hours and did not see a single person reading a book, not once.

Taking that as given, low demand means high prices. That's why Stephen King paperbacks are cheap and Edward Elgar (the name of an academic publisher) tomes go for $100 and up.

2. Brazilian retailing is not in every way efficient. Efficient retailing in the traditional sense is, by the way, bad for the quality of your food because it means it is easy to serve large numbers. And Brazil has some of the world's best food, and so inefficient retailing for its books.

3. No other supply source is right nearby and the Portuguese language does not produce an extremely thick market. Note that the Portuguese of Portugal is very different from the Portuguese of Brazil.

4. The Brazilian currency may be overvalued at the moment, at least in purchasing power parity terms, due to Brazil's commodity exports.

Lessons that might be applicable the worldover.
Picture uploaded by Andre Maceira

The End of the Internets?

A rather bleak and dystopian view of the future of the Internet.
But Zittrain thinks we're seeing the end of the freewheeling Internet and PC era. He calls the technologies of today "tethered" technologies. Tethered technologies are items like iPhones or many brands of DVR -- they're sterile to their owners, who aren't allowed to build software that runs on them. But they're generative to the companies that make them, in the sense that Comcast can update your DVR remotely, or Apple can brick your iPhone remotely if you try to do something naughty to it (like run your own software program on it)...

Zittrain's solution to the tethering problem is to encourage the existence of communities like the ones who participate in Maker Faire or who edit Wikipedia. These are people who work together to create open, untethered technologies and information repositories. They are the force that pushes back against companies that want to sterilize the Internet and turn it back into something that spits information at you, television-style. I think this is a good start, but there are a lot of problems with depending on communities of DIY enthusiasts to fix a system created by corporate juggernauts.
In my opinion, it's far too pessimistic.
Picture uploaded by Catskills Grrl

The Future of Publishing

The digital team at Pan Macmillan run a great blog called The Digitalist. In their sixth and final piece titled "A Book Publishers Manifesto" they riff about the future of publishing and conclude thus:
Whichever way it goes, in order for publishers to break their traditional boundaries and to develop into the publishing companies of tomorrow will require a step change in their form, culture and approach. Digital publishing strategies will need to move from defensive or protective to creative and liberal, with an emphasis on enabling readers to share and to change what they read. A move away from text-centricity and towards multimedia will no doubt be key and this has repercussions for the kinds of rights that publishers will need to negotiate as well as for the skills they will require of their staff. Publishers will need to view themselves as shapers and enablers rather than producers and distributors, to take a project rather than a product approach and to embrace their position as merely a component element in a reader, writer, publisher circularity. They will need to embrace new business models and they may even need to become media companies rather than publishing companies. They will need to understand and know and connect with their readers far, far better and they will need to develop brands that hold the highest kudos for authors and imply brand values to consumers that appeal to readers around identifiable niches. Ultimately they may need to ready themselves sooner rather than later for a fight to the death not only with their current partners in the distribution chain but also with non-traditional competitors who are rapidly devouring the space which has traditionally been reserved for them.
They seem to get it and they are an established publishing house. The winds of change seem near.

Read the whole series

Download the series as a PDF

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wikinomics @ Buinessweek

Businessweek have a special feature on Wikinomics with articles on:

Innovation in the Age of Mass Collaboration

The co-authors of the recent bestseller Wikinomics explain how businesses across the board can spur innovation by going Wiki

Peer Innovation and Production

The co-authors of Wikinomics explain how old-school companies like IBM can create value by embracing open-source models

And many many more.

Royalty or Not

Abhijit Bhaduri, an author, on the fallacies of getting rich on royalty payments.
Who on earth thought of this cruel term called royalty? There is nothing royal about it. It is bloody unfair to term the few coins we authors make (when someone buys our book) as royalty. It just creates false impressions. Just makes it hard to be an author.

Round Up

Our once-in-a-while review of news that's of interest.

HMS Britannic Optimistic About Deck-Chair Re-Arrangement
Jacob Grier points out the launch of Britannica Webshare, a service that will allow bloggers to access the Encyclopedia Britannica for free, and even to provide links that will allow readers to read individual articles -- but not the whole encyclopedia -- for free. This is a fine step, as far as it goes. But it's a comically small step given the challenges Britannica is facing. The site apparently still won't be available to non-bloggers, and presumably that means it also won't be available on search engines. And that means they're throwing away a huge chunk of their potential audience. But the more fundamental problem is that Wikipedia is already a much better encyclopedia, and it continues to improve rapidly. Wikipedia is roughly as accurate and it's an order of magnitude timelier and more comprehensive. I wouldn't use Britannica much if it were freely available; I'm certainly not going to waste time applying to be a part of its "Webshare" program.

Money Can Get In The Way Sometimes But It Doesn't 'Ruin Everything'
Matthew Yglesias points to a paper by John Quiggin (of Crooked Timber fame) and Dan Hunter that looks at the growing importance of non-financial incentives for the production of information goods. They point out that efforts like Wikipedia, free software, and the blogosphere are organized in a way that's fundamentally different from traditional for-profit enterprises. Many contributors participate for reasons other than financial gain, and the overall project doesn't have a centralized decision-maker the way Microsoft and the Encyclopedia Britannica do. The authors advocate the reform of legal institutions, such as overly restrictive copyright laws, that implicitly assume that creative works are always produced for financial gain.

Microsoft: The Final Nail For The $100 Laptop?
…The lesson here is that however brilliant the innovation, it needs to be appropriate to the context and the culture. It needs to fit in and not be imposed. And it needs coalitions, teams, to support it. In fact, in the case of education, which is extremely politically sensitive in every country, OLPC should have developed both the design of the computer and the pedagogy with the Indian and Chinese teachers and administrators, not for them.

Copyright and the Intellectuals
While IP may not stimulate true innovation and creativity, Hayek suggests that copyright might stimulate something more pernicious: the intellectual class.

Ideas Are Easy... Execution Is Difficult

Old Media Industries At Different Stages Of The Grieving Process
Industries that have been facing competition the longest are making the most serious changes.

India's Online Millions

An interesting article in The Week on the rise of a new networked-generation in India. As interesting as this trend is, it also portends of a more involved generation and that has the capacity to upend industries. Think music. Think movies. And for us, Pratham Books, a whole new way to interact with readers and have them interact with our material.

Welcome to the life and times of the Virtual Generation, or Gen V. This is a generation that is defined more by its online presence than the physical; a generation that is not restricted by parameters like age, locale or social standing, but is unified instead by its footprints in the frontier country of cyberspace. It is a generation that is exploring the endless and surprising potentials of a world that, though created by humans a few decades ago, has taken over a life of its own. It is evolving rapidly, popping up unexpected opportunities at every turn, and lassoing more and more real people into its fold, many of whom then take on multiple virtual persona, crowding cyberspace even more. In this virtual world order, age-old norms and principles, to which real-world society conformed, are being edged out quite unceremoniously.
"The Future Is Here; It Is Just Not Widely Distributed Yet" — William Gibson

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Our Books. Remixed.

Click To View It Full Size

It's our logo made from a collage of cover pages of books we've published.

Admin Updates

You can subscribe to our feed at:

You can join us on Facebook at:

You can join our fledgling social network at:

We're hoping to have this network slowly morph into a de-facto meeting place for authors, illustrators, editors, translators and readers and are just getting started.

See you there!

Preview of Siyavula: an open education project for South Africa

Simon Dingle, Siyavula to bring free and open resources to education, iCommons, May 19, 2008. Excerpt:
Siyavula is an ambitious project that aims to transform education in South Africa by providing free, open and curriculum-aligned educational resources. Siyavula means ‘we are opening’ in Nguni and is an apt description of the initiative that will provide content via an online portal where educators can collaborate and create resources, leveraging Creative Commons licenses

The conventional publishing model for textbooks presents significant problems for education in the developing world. It has resulted in an environment in which textbooks are prohibitively expensive and where great effort is required in order to localise, refresh or translate content. The market is controlled by a handful of corporate players who utilise restrictive copyrights and are primarily focused on driving profits and less concerned with enhancing education.... 
Siyavula will combine technology with Creative Commons licenses to make open content resources available to educators and learners in South Africa. 
The project is being incubated by the Shuttleworth Foundation and is led by Mark Horner, who is also one of the co-founders of the foundation’s Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project.... 
Horner says...“The aim is to provide free textbooks both online and in print that cover the entire South African curriculum,” he adds. 
The South African government’s Department of Education has expressed its support for Siyavula and is in regular contact with the Shuttleworth Foundation, ensuring that the project is aligned with departmental initiatives....


OA journals published in India

Scholars Without Borders has created a list of peer-reviewed Open Access Journals published in India and the subcontinent. (Thanks to Greater Kashmir News Network.)


Monday, May 19, 2008

Two Articles on Read/Write Education

Education Version 1.0 was essentially read in nature.; Where the flow of information or knowledge was unidirectional - essentially to the student.

Version 2.0 changes that. Technology gives students the ability to interact with the material that they are taught from and this bidirectional flow, or read/write nature, has the ability to change educational models that are stuck in a read-only mode.

Two recent articles talk about this in greater detail.

The first, from the Economist, titled "From literacy to digiracy" asks whether
'reading and writing remain important?'
What little we know is that our sources of trusted wisdom are eroding fast. When academics pay to have their findings published, invent results or ignore conflicting data to keep a sponsor’s money flowing, it’s hard to view our learned institutions as sources of reliable information.

Nowadays, we seem to put greater faith in the wisdom of crowds. Hence our trust of Google, which ranks a web page by how many other pages are linked to it, and how many other searchers view the page in question. In doing so, we prize the confidence of our peers above that of experts.

In Mr Federman’s view, the quest for truth has given way to the quest for making sense of the world as experienced. For anyone under the age of 20, the world being experienced is one where the internet has always existed, and where everyone who matters is only a click, speed dial or text message away. “Tomorrow’s adults,” says Mr Federman, “live in a world of ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity.” Their direct experience of the world is wholly different from yours or mine.

So, no surprise that when we incarcerate teenagers of today in traditional classroom settings, they react with predictable disinterest and flunk their literacy tests. They are skilled in making sense not of a body of known content, but of contexts that are continually changing.

Teachers must recognise that our pedagogical tools are inconsistent with the skills needed to survive in a world where people are always connected to everyone and everything. In such a world, learning to think for oneself could well be more important than simply learning to read and write.
Hat tip: Kiran Jonnalagadda

The second, is an academic paper titled "A systemic and cognitive view on collaborative knowledge building with wikis".
Wikis provide new opportunities for learning and for collaborative knowledge building as well as for understanding these processes. This article presents a theoretical framework for describing how learning and collaborative knowledge building take place. In order to understand these processes, three aspects need to be considered: the social processes facilitated by a wiki, the cognitive processes of the users, and how both processes influence each other mutually. For this purpose, the model presented in this article borrows from the systemic approach of Luhmann as well as from Piaget’s theory of equilibration and combines these approaches. The model analyzes processes which take place in the social system of a wiki as well as in the cognitive systems of the users. The model also describes learning activities as processes of externalization and internalization. Individual learning happens through internal processes of assimilation and accommodation, whereas changes in a wiki are due to activities of external assimilation and accommodation which in turn lead to collaborative knowledge building. This article provides empirical examples for these equilibration activities by analyzing Wikipedia articles. Equilibration activities are described as being caused by subjectively perceived incongruities between an individuals’ knowledge and the information provided by a wiki. Incongruities of medium level cause cognitive conflicts which in turn activate the described processes of equilibration and facilitate individual learning and collaborative knowledge building.
The graph is from Ross Mayfield's excellent post on the Power Law of Participation.

Crowdsourcing Powers Disaster Relief

Sahana is a Free and Open Source Disaster Management system. It is a web based collaboration tool that addresses the common coordination problems during a disaster from finding missing people, managing aid, managing volunteers, tracking camps effectively between Government groups, the civil society (NGOs) and the victims themselves.

There was a pressing need to translate this application into Burmese post Cyclone Nargis to assist in humanitarian intervention efforts and this was done via a volunteer base and in record time too.

Devolution of power and control leads to evolutionary changes in the way things work. What holds true for software will hold true for publishing.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Open Access News

If you look at the right column of this blog and down a little, a little further down, yes, there, down below the Facebook badge, you'll see we've added news from Peter Suber's excellent weblog that tracks open access initiatives across the globe. While we could have linked to them we'd end up having to link to them all.

Peter is a key driver of the open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature on the internet. Making it available free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Removing the barriers to serious research.
Do read his Open Access Overview.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reading First

Via the Azim Premji Foundation, a news story stating "Reading First Doesn't Help Pupils 'Get it'
The long-awaited interim report from the Reading First Impact Study, released last week by the Institute of Education Sciences, says that students in schools receiving grants from the federal program have not fared any better than their counterparts in comparison schools in gaining meaning from print.

That central finding in the first national study of Reading First’s effect on student reading achievement, however, does not necessarily signal that the program, or the evidence-based instructional model it is based on, isn’t working, federal officials said.

“There are at least four possibilities for the results. One is that scientifically based reading instruction … doesn’t work,” said Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, the director of the institute, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. “Another possibility is that the instruction works, but it was not sufficient enough to have an impact on reading comprehension” even if it improved decoding skills, reading fluency, and vocabulary, he said.
Picture uploaded by
Luis Fabres

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Multi Lingual Test






This is a test. Please let us know if you can read the above.

Paulo Coelho *hearts* Piracy

Via Torrent Freak:
“I do think that when a reader has the possibility to read some chapters, he or she can always decide to buy the book later,” Coelho says, indicating that it is not a lost sale. On the other hand, the Internet makes it easier for new authors to publish content, and get people to read their work. “Nowadays, people are being encouraged to write, and start blogs, the book industry already found a few new talents on Internet,” Coelho says.
Read the full interview for some counter-intuitive thinking.

Picture uploaded by nrkbeta

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Open Access in Venezuela

Via Global Voices:
There is good news for those that are learning Spanish and for fans of literature in Spanish. Thanks to an initiative from the Venezuelan Ministry of Culture, literary works from the publishing house Ayacucho Library [es] is now available online for free. For some months now, bloggers and other literary enthusiasts have been able to access and download a wide array of Hispanic literary works available in .pdf format. Bloggers are pleased with the selection and the fact that it is available for readers.
Picture via by . ℓ u m i è r e ™ .

Social Media to Change the World

Wikipedia Gains Credibility

In an article, via AFP, one learns that Wikipedia is now a homework assignment for college students.
Wikipedia, the upstart Internet encyclopedia that most universities forbid students to use, has suddenly become a teaching tool for professors. Recently, university teachers have swapped student term papers for assignments to write entries for the free online encyclopedia.

Quite the turnaround given that it is considered, in academic circles, bad form to cite Wikipedia.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Open Education

A few new resources and commentary on open learning and education - a topic we've briefly touched upon in the past.

The first is a project called Siyavula that's run by the Shuttleworth Foundation in South Africa and looks to:
...make Open and Collaborative Resources (OCRs) a firm and sustainable reality in the South African education system and, in the process, make a massive contribution to improving the current crisis (just one short article but many exist). We will make contributions which cover the entire curriculum, from grades 1 through 12, for all learning areas in grades 1 through 9 and the majority of subjects in grades 10 through 12.
Mark, the program manager, explains that the project does not seek to put publishers out of business and explains thus:
...they form an integral part of the education ecosystem. These open projects leave the door open for publishers to build-on and adapt the material they develop. This will ultimately lead to higher-quality materials which can be constructed faster and more cost-effectively than is currently possible. We expect the formation of a symbiotic relationship between publishers and projects producing openly-licensed materials to the benefit of all.
Take a look at the Cape Town Open Education Declaration and the associated FAQ pages too.

I agree with Mark. Publishers will form an important link between an existing model and these new, open models and there is enough space for both to co-exist, symbiotically and thrive. Existing publishers serve markets that may not have access to these open educational repositories because of economic or technical barriers and they will play a vital role in distributing these knowledge repositories to such markets using a for-profit model.

And while on the subject of education, there's a book that holds much promise being released in October this year.

Given the abundance of open education initiatives that aim to make educational assets freely available online, the time seems ripe to explore the potential of open education to transform the economics and ecology of education. Despite the diversity of tools and resources already available--from well-packaged course materials to simple games, for students, self-learners, faculty, and educational institutions--we have yet to take full advantage of shared knowledge about how these are being used, what local innovations are emerging, and how to learn from and build on the experiences of others. Opening Up Education argues that we must develop not only the technical capability but also the intellectual capacity for transforming tacit pedagogical knowledge into commonly usable and visible knowledge: by providing incentives for faculty to use (and contribute to) open education goods, and by looking beyond institutional boundaries to connect a variety of settings and open source entrepreneurs.
Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge; Edited by Toru Iiyoshi and M. S. Vijay Kumar

Through the support of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, an electronic version of this book will be openly available under a Creative Commons license on The MIT Press website when released.

Lastly, an excellent article on Open Education:

Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 by John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler.
The world has become increasingly “flat,” as Tom Friedman has shown. Thanks to massive improvements in communications and transportation, virtually any place on earth can be connected to markets anywhere else on earth and can become globally competitive. But at the same time that the world has become flatter, it has also become “spikier”: the places that are globally competitive are those that have robust local ecosystems of resources supporting innovation and productiveness. A key part of any such ecosystem is a well-educated workforce with the requisite competitive skills. And in a rapidly changing world, these ecosystems must not only supply this workforce but also provide support for continuous learning and for the ongoing creation of new ideas and skills.

If access to higher education is a necessary element in expanding economic prosperity and improving the quality of life, then we need to address the problem of the growing global demand for education, as identified by Sir John Daniel. Compounding this challenge of demand from college-age students is the fact that the world is changing at an ever-faster pace. Few of us today will have a fixed, single career; instead, we are likely to follow a trajectory that encompasses multiple careers. As we move from career to career, much of what we will need to know will not be what we learned in school decades earlier. We are entering a world in which we all will have to acquire new knowledge and skills on an almost continuous basis.

It is unlikely that sufficient resources will be available to build enough new campuses to meet the growing global demand for higher education—at least not the sort of campuses that we have traditionally built for colleges and universities. Nor is it likely that the current methods of teaching and learning will suffice to prepare students for the lives that they will lead in the twenty-first century.
Read the article in it's entirety. It'll change the way you think.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sixteen Capacities of Community

Useful, especially in the context of building communities online.

(via How to Save the World.)

Round Up

The faculty of Harvard Law School has unanimously approved a motion for open access: articles will be made freely available in an online repository. With the success of this motion, Harvard Law becomes the first law school to make an institutional commitment to open access to its faculty's scholarly publications. (via BB)

It seems a debate is brewing in the "Wikipedia-sphere" surrounding the commercialization and the soon-to-be-made profit from the voluntarily written and edited online encyclopedia web site. For the first time, a major publisher has made plans to print out and sell popular articles from the site, leaving many wondering if the content's writers are being scammed out of royalties to which they are due. (via RRW)

Venkat developed an interesting visualization that shows how various pieces of “2.0” literature fit together to form a cohesive view of the world to come. Read his full explanation. (via Wikinomics)

Help PSFK create a collaborative image book.They’ll choose the photos on May 30 and the book should be ready for everyone to buy mid-June.

If PSFK uses your shot (and commentary), they will reference you and add a link to your site, if you provide it and if they sell more that 30 copies of At Play, they will send you a free copy of the book too.

And what is ‘At Play’? You show tell us.

More details on submissions here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

English Pilot - Solan, Himachal Pradesh

Some glimpses of the English pilot program that was run by Pratham in Solan, Himachal Pradesh and the delightful results.

Kerala and Copyleft

From SpicyIP, an interesting story on how Kerala is turning out to be the vanguard for Linux and Copyleft adoption in India. And yes, there is a Marxist angle.
“The hardline Left’s familiar anti-MNC, anti-proprietory planks apart, another major plus of abandoning Microsoft, claim state IT Mission officials, is plainly the cost factor. “Going for a massive Windows-based infrastructure costs a lot. Linux can bundle all applications with the operating system facilitating a single installation kit”.

The logistics for making Kerala the country’s Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) destination—one of Achuthanandan’s pet Red obsessions—may be daunting, but the state is coping with it. Since last September, some 15 lakh students have been busy training on or migrating to free software on 40,000 computers put up in 2,832 high schools watched over by over 60,000 IT trained school teachers (some 86 private training institutions train the teachers) besides 161 master trainers and 5,600 school IT coordinators. “We checked. It’s the world’s biggest mobilisation of its kind,” says K Anwar Sadath, executive director of the state government’s IT@Schools mission.”
Read the full piece for a lot more.

Picture by by Hari_Menon

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On Fair Use

JK Rowling has been getting a fair bit of flack over a lawsuit she's currently embroiled in. Techdirt's summary states:
Rowling's latest attempt is to try to prevent the publication of "The Harry Potter Lexicon," a fan-created reference book to all things having to do with the world found in the Harry Potter books... As long as the guidebook creators are not copying Rowling's words verbatim, but are merely creating a guide or a critique of Rowling's work, it's not a copyright issue. Rowling's real problem with the guidebook appears to be a different issue. She had no problem when the Lexicon was just a fan website. However, when they wanted to sell a book, she became upset. So the real problem appears to be that she doesn't want anyone else to make any money -- but that's not what copyright law is designed to do. Newspapers make money off of books all the time by publishing reviews, and we all know that's legal. There is no difference in creating a reference book. Rowling complains that this work will make it difficult for her to publish her own guidebook: "I cannot approve of 'companion books' or 'encyclopedias' that seek to preempt my definitive Potter reference book...." However... that's silly and has nothing to do with copyright law: "two products in the same market isn't called pre-emption—the word is competition." And, generally, competition is something that we should encourage, as it drives all competitors to provide better products. If Rowling really believes she cannot compete with a fan reference guide, that's hardly the fault of the other reference guide. Given the interest in Harry Potter, it's hard to believe that an "official" reference guide given Rowling's endorsement wouldn't outsell any fan-created version.
Neil Gaiman, a famous author in his own right adds:
My heart is on the side of the people doing the unauthorised books, probably because the first two books I did were unauthorised, and one of them, Ghastly Beyond Belief, would have been incredibly vulnerable had anyone wanted to sue Kim Newman and me on the grounds that what we did, in a book of quotations that people might not have wanted to find themselves in, went beyond Fair Use.
And Orson Scott Card has also weighed in:
It's true that we writers borrow words from each other but we're supposed to admit it and not pretend we're original when we're not. I took the word ansible from Ursula K. LeGuin, and have always said so. Rowling, however, denies everything.

Rowling's hypocrisy is so thick I can hardly breathe: Prior to the publication of each novel, there were books about them that were no more intrusive than Lexicon. I contributed to one of them, and there was no complaint about it from Rowling or her publishers because they knew perfectly well that these fan/scholar ancillary publications were great publicity and actually boosted sales.

But now the Harry Potter series is over, and Rowling claims that her "creative work" is being "decimated."

Of course, she doesn't claim that it's the Lexicon that is harming her "creative work" (who's she borrowing from this time?); it's the lawsuit itself! And since she chose to bring the suit, whose fault is it? If she had left Vander Ark alone to publish his little book and make his little bit of money, she wouldn't be distracted from her next novel.

But no, Rowling claims Vander Ark's book "constitutes wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work."

Seventeen years? What a crock. Apparently she includes in that total the timeframe in which she was reading ? and borrowing from ? the work of other writers.

It is true, we do stand on the shoulders of others.
Picture by sinosplice

Monday, May 5, 2008

On Free Music

Robert H. Frank's book, The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything is a fascinatingly interesting work and there are two vignettes that encompass some of the ideas we have been trying to explain and he does so in simple economic terms.

On page 97 he answers the question as to why a band would allow fans to name their own price for the digital download version of their new albums. Using the Radiohead example, where in October 2007 they allowed fans to download their album at whatever price they wished to pay, including free, he states that the band:
  1. Received a lot of favourable media attention and in the first week the album was downloaded 1.2 million times in contrast to their previous album whuch sold 300,000 copies in the first five weeks.
  2. The band got to keep 100% of the revenues so generated
  3. The band generated incredible amounts of goodwill among its fan base.
He sums it up by saying that it looks like a shrewd marketing move.

On page 68, he asks another interesting question; why established musicians oppose free music sharing programs and why talented ones favour the same. Essentially, for the talented independent musician it poses no threat to CD sales as they have no CD sales in the first place and that popularity, via free music sharing programs, is far more important to such artists because they can monetize such popularity later on, in the form of concerts and future CD releases.

And in other news, Nine Inch Nails have, again, released their latest album as a free download. And they *are* a popular band. To quote Masnick, "Trent Reznor has shown that he's actually really interested in the economics and business models that will work in the online world."

Upcoming Summits

Wikimania 2008 is being held between the 17th and 19th of July at Alexandria in Egypt.
The Wikimedia International Conference, commonly referred to as Wikimania, is a conference for users of the wiki projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. Topics of presentations and discussions include Wikimedia Foundation projects, other wikis, open source software, and free content.

The fourth global iSummit will be held in Sapporo, Japan from 29 July to 1 August, 2008. iCommons in association with Digital Garage, Creative Commons Japan and the City of Sapporo will bring together pioneers of the free Internet from over 60 countries around the world.
Advancements in information and communication technology have, for the first time in human history, enabled a host of opportunities that have seen societies leapfrogging out of underdevelopment, artists and creators regaining control over their expressions and people around the world working on distributed projects that benefit all humankind.

The iSummit offers a picture of that promise - bringing together activists, change agents and new world social entrepreneurs to chart and reflect on a positive path for a more fair, more just, more creative world in the Information Age.
We, at Pratham Books, are hoping to visit and present at the iSummit and if possible, at Wikimania too.

Tags: isummit08, wikimania


From a Usenet posting way back from 1984.

Since it now appears almost certain that optical Compact Disc (CD) drives are "on the way", it would seem to make sense to ask what impact this trend will have.

What will be put on these disks?

What sorts of databases will become available? Obviously dictionaries, encyclopaedias, etc - but what else? Super clip art volumes? All of the works an artist, in super resolution and color? "Chunks" of encoded music, ready to run a synthesizer? Catalogs of digitized sound effects, to add to your software or include in your letters home (Oink! said the postcard...)? Will all future textbooks be on CD as well as printed?

No matter what is going to happen, it sure looks like the CD is going to have a huge impact on the personal computer industry. I think we can expect a fair number of unimaginative uses, at first, (EG a huge collection of IBM PC software) followed by a fair sized flood of innovative products, and perhaps a "data revolution" that finally makes the "microcomputer revolution" a reality. So how about it - what's likely to come?
How will wikis and the architecture of the Internet change the publishing industry? Will it?

Picture by
by flag75*

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Global UR

Global UR facilitates important knowledge exchange through an on-line community, where people from around the world can meet to share their experiences and insights, and work together to solve global problems. Through the power of interactive technology, Global UR facilitates dialogue, discussion, and consensus building.

Sign up at Global UR.