Friday, June 27, 2008


Joss Stone on music.
“I think it’s brilliant and I’ll tell you why,” Stone said. “Music should be shared. [...] The only part about music that I dislike is the business that is attached to it. Now, if music is free, then there is no business, there is just music.
Does t same holds true of books. Books should be shared? Books should be free? Are publishers an anachronism of a previous era?

Picture uploaded by petecarr

Open Innovation

The McKinsey Quarterly has an excellent article up on "the creation of knowledge, products, and services by online communities of companies and consumers" and asks where it will lead to.
Companies do not have to reconceive their business systems to start experimenting with distributed cocreation. In many cases, the first step is to identify where it may already have spouted within the company. At LEGO, for example, the executive team recognized the possibilities in part because of the success of a product launched in 1998: Mindstorms, programmable bricks originally developed as an educational tool through a partnership with the MIT Media Lab. A remarkable community of Mindstorms enthusiasts—adults as well as children—embraced the product and began to share designs online. This success prompted LEGO’s executives to consider how the company could use its online LEGO Gallery to harness the creative efforts of customers to develop ideas or products in its main toy-brick business.

Even the most advanced businesses are just taking the first few steps on a long path toward distributed cocreation. Companies should experiment with this new approach to learn both how to use it successfully and more about its long-term significance. Pioneers may have ideas about opportunities to capture value from distributed cocreation, but fresh ones will appear. To benefit from them, companies should be flexible about all aspects of these experiments
Uploaded by skeletonkrewe

OLPC Update

Nicholas Negroponte talks about how One Laptop per Child is doing, two years in. Speaking at the EG conference while the first XO laptops roll off the production line, he recaps the controversies and recommits to the goals of this far-reaching project.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On Gender Differences in Creative Sharing

A Northwestern University study finds that men are more likely to share their creative work online than women despite the fact that women and men engage in creative activities at essentially equal rates.

“Because sharing information on the Internet today is a form of participating in public culture and contributing to public discourse, that tells us men’s voices are being disproportionately heard,” says Eszter Hargittai, assistant professor of communication studies at Northwestern University. Hargittai co-authored the study with Northwestern researcher Gina Walejko.

Picture uploaded by inju

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pratham Books is looking for an Assistant Brand Manager

Pratham Books is looking for an Assistant Brand Manager

Pratham Books is India’s largest children’s books publisher with a difference. We are a not for profit publisher that is revolutionizing the world of children’s publishing in India. We produce high quality, low cost books in 11 Indian languages and English our aim is to see “a book in every child’s hand”. We are looking for like-minded young passionate marketing professionals to join us in our mission.

Position: Assistant Brand Manager
Location: Bangalore
Roles and Responsibilities:Marketing: be part of the team that is building the Pratham Books brand with various stakeholders - authors, illustrators, publishers, children, parents, schools, government .
New media: To explore and effectively use new mediums like internet / blogging / e-marketing etc to achieve the brands’ goals.
CRM: Developing CRM programs and database management. Prior experience in this will be an added advantage
Distribution - Identify channels and pilot alternate optionsResearch - Keep a pulse on the market and inputs into the company’s product portfolio mix.
Media Relations: Developing and maintaining media relations
A degree in Business/Marketing
2 years experience in brand management and/or marketing and/or media relations,
Good communication, presentation and inter-personal skills
A self-starter, independent, team player who is motivated by the cause
Location; Bangalore: Knowledge of Kannada a plus
Visit us at Email resume to:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Change or Perish

Dave Balter on how the publishing industry needs to reinvent itself:
  • Authors self-package their book entirely on their own.
  • Authors distribute digital copies of their books for free to attract readers and to identify a market. They use self-distribution tools to sell as many books as they can.
  • Based on the response, the publisher determines which books to pick up, and pays a licensing and distribution right and uses their relationships to distribute a product that has developed an initial marketplace of buyers (note: great new potential business model for some plucky entrepreneur: track the ‘response’ of free book downloads as a data set for publishers to review opportunities).
  • Publishers take the completed product, make tweaks as author and publisher feel necessary, print more and distribute them through the strength of their partners.
Here, everyone wins. Authors have to prove their ability to deliver a good book and build an audience before a publisher fully invested. Publishers greatly reduce the up front production costs and the risk of betting on authors that can’t produce, and increase the odds that what they spend on will provide results.
It's radical but desperate times call for desperate measures. Evolution forces change upon us.
Picture uploaded by kevindooley


Pratham features in places you wouldn't expect.

Here's a donation feature on Perez Hilton. Yes. That Perez Hilton.

And yes, it's all for a good cause.

Thanks Perez!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our Story Cards

Here's a story on our story cards...


The story of the Storycards is an interesting one! They are a living example of making an effort to reach the last child... Pratham Books has always been committed to increase penetration so that ALL children have access to good reading material. As Pratham's programmes began to touch the lives of more and more children through the READ India Campaign, there was a need for low cost material that could be distributed to the children. This was how the idea of creating story cards out of Pratham Books' titles germinated. In economically disadvantaged states, even the cost of a Pratham Books title would make it a discretionary buy whereas a story card can strengthen and encourage reading at a fraction of the cost and can be an attractive and motivational takeaway for a child.The fact that Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan used our story cards for their programmes in many states is testimony to their value and how they are contributing to the universalisation of elementary education. Since we have been using existing material from our books, it is a product which is in colour and therefore attractive and it wears well as it is laminated and the text has already proved its worth in a book form, it is a truly value laden product for a child who has not had access to good books.


Let me put in where Manisha left off. We have printed more than a million cards (more like 2 million if we include cards that have been printed by SSA etc)

Our storycards have been distributed through UP, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu. Punjab govt has selected 18 cards as part of a package for the Parho Punjab program this year. In Bihar, UP, Rajasthan and West Bengal they were used in Pratham programs with the govt or otherwise. In Assam and Gujarat the SSA printed the cards and used them in their programs with govt schools across the states. In Tamil Nadu, Aid India printed and distributed the cards. UNICEF bought our cards last year for their program in Tonk district in Rajasthan. In the first phase we developed 24 cards in Hindi only for the 3-6 age group. However, now we have 40 cards in Hindi (40 in English) for 3-6 age group, 12 in Hindi (9 in English) for 7-10 and 20 for the 11-14 group. These cards can be made available in English, Marathi, Urdu, Kannada or any language that we publish in. We have sets of 24 cards in Hindi for 3-6 years in an attractive pack for Rs 50/- But we can offer discounts on large orders and we have stocks of cards at Bangalore and Delhi currently. These cards are useful to organisations for large programs where resource and material mobilisation has to be optimised. It would be really nice if we could sell these cards at Re. 1 each.

If you'd like to buy these cards, in bulk or otherwise, drop us a line. Our email address is listed at the top right of this blog.

And this is what our story cards look like:

Read this document on Scribd: tap tap tapak

Read this document on Scribd: sair sapata_03

Read this document on Scribd: aloo maloo kaloo

From Kolhapur to Beijing: Virdhawal goes Freestyle!

Virdhawal Khade is 16 years old, and is going to be the youngest swimmer to represent India in an Olympic Games. With single-minded determination, Virdhawal trained for several years, as a schoolboy in Kolhapur, before moving to Bangalore to get some world-class training from c Nihar Ameen.

Virdhawal has qualified for the 200m and 100m freestyle events at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in August. Sports experts think the 6 feet 3inches tall swimmer has a good chance of winning a medal in the 2012 London Olympics.

So inspiring is the story of this boy from Kolhapur that Pratham Books is publishing a book about him in eight languages.

Why is he called 'Veer'? Is a race just about being the fastest? What goes on in the mind of a champion-in-the-making? We hope you will get all these answers in the book to be launched soon. We hope Veer's story inspires millions of young people, in small towns and big towns, to play more even as they read more.

Virdhawal and his supporters look forward to your good wishes for him! Do send your comments through this post.

Karnataka Learning Partnership

The KLP team is now blogging at

As a brief background:

KLP has implemented two major short-term learning programmes in government schools, focusing mainly on Bangalore but also reaching Mysore and areas of Central and North Karnataka.
  1. A reading programme designed to get children reading through colorful story cards and the opportunity to interact and practice reading aloud in a small group. Nearly 70,000 children in Bangalore participated in this programme. In the coming academic year, it will be scaled up to reach children in every school in 10 districts in Karnataka.
  2. A math programme designed to help children build a foundation of basic math competencies through hands-on learning materials, games, and activities. This programme has reached 36,000 children in South Bangalore to date, and will extend to North Bangalore in the coming academic year.
Go on over and subscribe either using their feed or via email. I

f you're interested in education and in particular, improving the quality of education in government run schools, this blog is a must on your reading list.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Literacy Bridge

Cliff has a great post up on his trip to Ghana and reports back on his experiences in selling their Talking Book project there.

The Talking Book Project:
... new and affordable digital audio technology to provide vital information and literacy training to people with limited access to either. The information will be in the form of locally recorded, spoken content on an interactive audio device. The technology will be used for two major purposes: training of reading skills and communication of information.

The majority of people living in extreme poverty are not able to use written information to improve their lives due to illiteracy. The Talking Book technology will provide both a short and long term solution:

  • Short Term: Provide crucial information in a form that they can consume and understand now.
  • Long Term: Provide literacy training so that they can eventually access information in text form.

The rest of their blog, Bridge Notes, is a good read too.

Are Blogs the Death of Books?

Robert McCrum, writing in the Guardian, is amazed that over 175000 blogs are launched, everyday! And ponders what that means for books.
Picture uploaded by emdot


Lookybook is the brainchild of Craig Frazier, an author and illustrator of picture books who became frustrated by the display cycle. Frazier wanted to give more picture books a better chance of finding readers and hit upon the idea of creating a Web site that could help them stay in print. “It occurred to me as I watched these books that the marketing and sales opportunities dwindled over time, through no fault of the publisher,” Frazier said. “There was no apparent place on the Internet where you could have the experience of looking at a picture book as in the bookstore.”

via Publishers Weekly

This does solve the problems of find-ability of books and tap into the long tail. But what if the books is out of print? Then? It would make sense to tie up with a Print On Demand company as well. Then it's a complete solution.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Are we Reading Less?

Jessica Palmer asks if "we falling out of love with books?"
I realized a little while ago - when yet another book arrived from Amazon and was thrown on the to-read pile - that I'm no longer the bibliophile I once was. I love the idea of reading books, but I'm not making time to do it. Recent fiction isn't appealing - I don't seem to have the patience or interest. (I feel like Jessica Crispin in that respect). And nonfiction, which I have been reading occasionally, seems too much like a part of my job.
Personally, I think I'm reading far more but far less in the printed, dead-tree versions. I blame the Google. Do you?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Artwork From France

An early sneak peek at some illustrations that Audrey Kumar, an illustrator based in France, has done for an upcoming book based on the timeless story, The Empror's New Clothes.

Click here to see a lot more of the pictures.

The Anthropology of YouTube

Michael Wesch To Discuss "The Anthropology of YouTube" at Library of Congress on June 23

More video material has been uploaded to YouTube in the past six months than has ever been aired on all major networks combined, according to cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch. About 88 percent is new and original content, most of which has been created by people formerly known as "the audience."

Wesch will discuss the three-year-old video-sharing Web site in a lecture titled "The Anthropology of YouTube" at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 23, in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the Library of Congress’ James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by the Library’s John W. Kluge Center, the event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. The lecture will be available at a later date as a webcast at

This is the third lecture in a series titled "Digital Natives," referring to the generation that has been raised with the computer as a natural part of their lives, especially the young people who are currently in schools and colleges today. The series seeks to understand the practices and culture of the digital natives, the cultural implications of their phenomenon and the implications for education to schools, universities and libraries.

According to Wesch, it took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after humans spoke their first words. It took thousands more before the printing press appeared and a few hundred again before the telegraph did. Today a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new web application. "A Flickr here, a Twitter there, and a new way of relating to others emerges," Wesch said. "New types of conversation, argumentation and collaborations are realized."

Enter YouTube, which is not just a technology. "It’s a social space built around video communication that is searchable, taggable and mashable," Wesch said. "It is a space where identities, values and ideas are produced, reproduced, challenged and negotiated in new ways."

In his presentation, Wesch will discuss the research of his Digital Ethnography research team at Kansas State University into the cultural aspects of YouTube. Wesch is a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State, exploring the impact of new media on human interaction. He has won several awards for his work, including a Wired Magazine Rave Award and the John Culkin Award for Outstanding Praxis in Media Ecology.

The moderators and coordinators for the "Digital Natives" series are Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for Library Services at the Library of Congress, and Derrick deKerckhove, holder of the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education at the Kluge Center. Marc Prensky, who is credited with creating the term "digital native" will act as respondent. The final program in the series will take place on Monday, June 30, when Douglas Rushkoff, author of "ScreenAgers: Lessons in Chaos from Digital Kids," gives a talk titled "Open Source Reality."

Free Book on NYT Bestseller List

Via Peter Suber:

OA book on best-seller list
Cory Doctorow's new novel, Little Brother, is in its fourth week on the NYTimes best-seller list. Like his earlier novels, it's available in both an OA and a TA edition. (Thanks to Creative Commons.)
Comment. It takes a second to see what's happening here. The book isn't just popular or in demand. It's a best-seller. The TA edition is selling and it's selling well. The OA edition didn't block those sales. By making the book more widely known, it very likely gave the sales a positive boost.

Collaborative Audiobooks

Via the excellent Wikinomics blog:

Public domain audiobooks from From their site:

LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and publish the audio files on the Internet. Our goal is to record all the books inthe public domain.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

क्या हम भी इसी दिशा में बढ़ रहे हैं?

नेपल्स इटली का एक बहुत ही सुंदर नगर माना जाता है, लेकिन पिछले कुछ समय से वहां सड़कों के किनारे तथा अन्य स्थानों पर कूड़े के इतने बड़े-बड़े ढेर लग गए हैं की सारे नगर में दुर्गन्ध फैल रही है। ऐसा इसलिए कि नेपल्स में अब कूड़ा फेंकने, जमा करने या उसे ज़मीन में गाड़ने के लिए कोई खाली स्थान नहीं बचा है। इस से निपटने के लिए वंहा का कूडा अब जर्मनी के हमबुर्ग नगर ले जाया जा रहा है ताकि उस का उचित निपटान हो सके। रेल द्वारा प्रति दिन टनों कूड़ा हमबुर्ग पंहुचेगा, जिसका अलग-अलग ढंग से निपटान किया जायेगा। जर्मनी ने स्पष्ट किया है की यह व्यवस्था थोड़े समय के लिए ही रहेगी। नेपल्स को समस्या का स्थाई समाधान स्वयं ढूंढ़ना पड़ेगा। इस समाचार को पढ़ कर मन में अजीब सी हलचल होने लगी। हमारे बड़े नगरों की भी हालत कोई अच्छी तो है नहीं और फिर हमारे यहाँ तो कूड़े के निपटारे की आधुनिक प्रणालियाँ भी नही हैं। दिल्ली में एक इन्सिनेराटर तो है पर वो कभी चलता नहीं है। ऐसे में हमारे यहाँ भी कूड़े की विषम समस्या मुंह फाड़े खड़ी है। क्या हम इसके लिए तैयार हैं?

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

So asks Nicholas Carr in The Atlantic.
“For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

The Future of Copyright

Rasmus Fleischer at the Cato Institute on the abuse of copyright law:
This change has taken place because previously distinct media are now simulated within the singular medium of the Internet, and copyright law simply seems unable to cope with it. Consider radio broadcasting and record shops, which once were inherently different. Their online counterparts are known respectively as "streaming" and "downloading," but the distinction is ultimately artificial, since the same data transfer takes place in each. The only essential difference lies in how the software is configured at the receiving end. If the software saves the music as a file for later use, it's called a "download." If the software immediately sends the music to the loudspeakers, it's called "streaming."

However, the receiver can always choose to transform a stream to a digital file. It's simple, legal, and not very different from home taping. What now fills the record industry with fear is the possibility that users could "automatically identify and separate individual tracks from digital transmissions and store them for future playback in any order." In other words, they fear that the distinction between streaming and downloading will be exposed as a big fake.

For example, Swedish company Chilirec provides a rapidly growing free online service assisting users in ripping digital audio streams. After choosing among hundreds of radio stations, you will soon have access to thousands of MP3 files in an online depository, neatly sorted and correctly tagged, available for download. The interface and functionality could be easily confused with a peer-to-peer application like Limewire. You connect, you get MP3s for free, and no one pays a penny to any rights holder. But it is fully legal, as all Chilirec does is automate a process that anyone could do manually.

Monday, June 9, 2008

More on Flexbooks

Kamla Bhatt has an audio interview with Neeru Khosla on her Flexbooks project.

We've previously talked about the Flexbooks, and other, open education platforms.

And an earlier article of hers on Knowledge Unlocked.
I wonder what Gutenberg would think of all this? He unlocked knowledge over 500 years ago with the introduction of the printing press. The open access movement is taking the job that Guttenberg started to the next level.

Free! Free! Free!

Trent Reznor on why he gives his music away for free.
“Aside from any kind of monetization of it, I’m glad to know that a million people have it on their iPods,” Mr. Reznor said. “If you paid for it, great, but I want everyone to hear it, you know? I want to blow people’s minds.”

Mr. Reznor lets his music travel freely at Internet speed, extending album concepts into parallel online universes. He’s familiar with file-sharing sites and music blogs, including those that irk him by taking potshots at Nine Inch Nails. Playing live, his laptop now replaces pedals and effects. Mr. Reznor even posts online all the raw digital tracks from Nine Inch Nails albums for anyone to remix. “I’m done with them,” he said. “Why not?

“It’s all out there,” he added. “I don’t agree that it should be free, but it is free, and you can either accept it or you can put your head in the sand.”

The last quote is the money shot. It's no longer about whether or not to make it available for free or whether it ought to be free. The point is that if it's not free substitutes are available, for free. And it's near impossible to compete against free.

Paul Krugman writing on how to pay for and value digital content in a networked world.
Indeed, if e-books become the norm, the publishing industry as we know it may wither away. Books may end up serving mainly as promotional material for authors’ other activities, such as live readings with paid admission. Well, if it was good enough for Charles Dickens, I guess it’s good enough for me.

Now, the strategy of giving intellectual property away so that people will buy your paraphernalia won’t work equally well for everything. To take the obvious, painful example: news organizations, very much including this one, have spent years trying to turn large online readership into an adequately paying proposition, with limited success.

But they’ll have to find a way. Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we’ll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.

It won’t all happen immediately. But in the long run, we are all the Grateful Dead.

The Economist on the doomsday scenario for publishers.
Publishing has only two indispensable participants: authors and readers. As with music, any technology that brings these two groups closer makes the whole industry more efficient—but hurts those who benefit from the distance between them.

This is something we've talked about in the past. A platform that can substitute for a publisher. Here's another data point, or nail in the coffin, an article on how Amazon, a book seller, is building a platform to bring the two ends of the industry closer together.
Amazon is poised to revolutionize the book printing business through vertical integration. Let’s look at the numbers. Assuming that Amazon already pockets 50% of the retail price of a book, it could directly engage with authors and cut out the middlemen: the agent and the publisher. That would free up 30% to 40% of the pie, which can easily be split between Amazon and the author.

Let’s say, in the new world, Amazon becomes the retailer, marketer, publisher and agent combined and takes 65% of the revenues, offering 35% to the author--we end up with a much better, fairer world.

Vertical integration is where Amazon is headed. Jeff Bezos is a shrewd business man. I would be very surprised if he hasn’t figured out the inefficiencies of the book publishing business and Amazon’s opportunity.

The company recently announced it would require all print-on-demand publishers to use its BookSurge print-on-demand service for their books sold on Amazon.

Over the next few years, Amazon likely will use its power to build direct relationships with authors and gradually phase out publishers and agents. It will first go after the independent print-on-demand self-publishers and get the best authors from that world. Amazon will then take on the large publishers.

For decades, the publishing industry has taken advantage of authors. Amazon: authors are counting on you to turn the table!

Scary times to be a publisher and yet opportunities abound.

Friday, June 6, 2008

ज़रा मेरी सहायता कीजिए!

कुछ दिन पहले जब मैं पटना गया था, वहां मैंने एक पोस्टर देखा किसी दीवार पर चिपका हुआ। बड़ी देर तक मैं उसे ध्यान से देखता रहा, उस पर बने चित्रों को देखा और उस पर लिखे वाक्यों को देखा, पर कुछ समझ नही आया। मैं सोचता ही रह गए कि जिन्होंने यह पोस्टर बनवाया होगा, उन्होंने क्या सोचा होगा? आख़िर क्या कहना चाहते हैं वो लोग? विचारों का संचार या प्रसार इतना कठिन हो सकता है क्या? या फिर शायद मैं ही नासमझ हूँ। आप ही निश्चित कीजिये।

Thursday, June 5, 2008

E-books on World Environment Day????

Ah, so some of you are patting yourselves for downloading an e-book instead of resisting the temptation to buy a dead-tree-paper hard copy!

Bravo! A green friend of mine downloaded a 100-page book, burnt it on a CD so he could read it at home, showed his wife a page, who said she wanted to read the book too. Since it wasn't comfortable to have her breathing down his neck while he read, GreenMan helpfully printed the book for wife.
Ten days later, GreenMan threw the CD out. To dust it went, and to dust it did not turn. Mrs.GreenMan passed the printed book to several friends, and when the 25th friend threw out the dog-earred sheets, it turned to dust eventually, and a tree lapped up the nutrients from it.

Moral of the story: Being Green is not about using technology INSTEAD of paper, its about thrift, and common sense, and using less of EVERYTHING......except the brain of course.

Age Restrictions

In news of the strange, a new campaign to do away with age restrictions that might possibly be levied on books.
The Golden Compass author Philip Pullman is leading a campaign to block publishers' plans to introduce age guidance limits on books - insisting the proposals would be "damaging" to young readers.

Pullman, who penned the His Dark Materials trilogy, from which the 2007 film was adapted, is at the forefront of a group of authors and illustrators who are all unhappy about the plans.

The new guidelines would see children's books stamped with age limits, in a similar way to the guidance ratings given to movies.

And Pullman has started an online petition to try and stop the new rules being introduced by publishers, insisting the proposals are "ill-conceived and damaging to the interests of young readers".
via IMDB.
Picture uploaded by hfabulous

Libraries in the New Age

Robert Darnton writing in the New York Review of Books on "The Library in the New Age":

But textual stability never existed in the pre-Internet eras. The most widely diffused edition of Diderot's Encyclopédie in eighteenth-century France contained hundreds of pages that did not exist in the original edition. Its editor was a clergyman who padded the text with excerpts from a sermon by his bishop in order to win the bishop's patronage. Voltaire considered the Encyclopédie so imperfect that he designed his last great work, Questions sur l'Encyclopédie, as a nine-volume sequel to it. In order to spice up his text and to increase its diffusion, he collaborated with pirates behind the back of his own publisher, adding passages to the pirated editions.

In fact, Voltaire toyed with his texts so much that booksellers complained. As soon as they sold one edition of a work, another would appear, featuring additions and corrections by the author. Their customers protested. Some even said that they would not buy an edition of Voltaire's complete works —and there were many, each different from the others—until he died, an event eagerly anticipated by retailers throughout the book trade.

Piracy was so pervasive in early modern Europe that best-sellers could not be blockbusters as they are today. Instead of being produced in huge numbers by one publisher, they were printed simultaneously in many small editions by many publishers, each racing to make the most of a market unconstrained by copyright. Few pirates attempted to produce accurate counterfeits of the original editions. They abridged, expanded, and reworked texts as they pleased, without worrying about the authors' intentions. They behaved as deconstructionists avant la lettre.

But read the piece in it's entirety - he discusses the non-static nature of information through the ages and also the role of libraries in the digital age.

Picture uploaded by Sifter

A Short History of the Internet

Vanity Fair has a great retrospective on the history of the Internet.
Fifty years ago, in response to the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik, the U.S. military set up the Advanced Research Projects Agency. It would become the cradle of connectivity, spawning the era of Google and YouTube, of Amazon and Facebook, of the Drudge Report and the Obama campaign. Each breakthrough—network protocols, hypertext, the World Wide Web, the browser—inspired another as narrow-tied engineers, long-haired hackers, and other visionaries built the foundations for a world-changing technology. Keenan Mayo and Peter Newcomb let the people who made it happen tell the story.
If it weren't for them Inter-Tubes we wouldn't even have been blogging. Sobering thought that.
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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Education...via Unique Whiteboard

There's no better way to learn than to travel....see the Important Lesson of Life that my cousin Shankar learnt while travelling by an autorickshaw in Bangalore, India!
Don't you just LOVE the philosophy, the grammar and the spelling!

Garfield minus Garfield

Via the Washington Post:
What if a comic strip lost its main character? Would it lose its essence? Would it even make sense? Those questions floated on Internet message boards until Dan Walsh of Dublin did us all a favor and answered them with his Web site, Garfield Minus Garfield.

Via the New York Times:
Jim Davis, the cartoonist who created “Garfield,” calls himself an occasional reader of the site, which he calls “fascinating.” He says he is flattered rather than peeved by the imitation.

“Some of them really work, and some of them work better,” Mr. Davis said in a telephone interview.

And this is what Dan has to say:
In an age when the internet gives everyone an opportunity to put their own spin on art, music and literature, it’s a pity more people aren’t as generous with their work - just imagine some of the fantastic creativity we could be enjoying.
Jim Davis gets it.

On eBooks

Today's New York Times reports an astonishing fact: Book publishers wholesale their ebooks to Amazon for precisely the same price as their paper books. Amazon loses money on every ebook for the Kindle they sell because publishers don't discount zero-cost ebooks.

Apparently, the publishers don't count the paper, storage, inventory, shredding and shipping expenses in their cost calculations.

Either that, or they own a tree plantation or a printing plant.

And of course, they own neither.

And via Tyler Cowen:
Penguin has reported that e-book sales from the first four months of 2008 have surpassed the house's total e-book sales for all of last year. According to the publisher, the spike is "more than five times the overall growth in sales, year-on-year, through April 2008." Penguin Group CEO David Shanks said he attributed the jump, in large part, to the growing popularity of e-book readers.
What are publishers thinking? It's a nascent market, don't kill the golden egg laying goose.
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How a Tamil publisher sells books like toothpaste

Via Mint:
In Indian publishing, if a book sells 5,000 copies it is a best seller, and Shobhaa De’s Spouse: The Truth about Marriage sold 35,000 copies in its first year. So Alla Alla Panam, which has quietly moved 25,000 copies every year since 2004, should have made at least some noise. But it hasn’t, maybe because it is in Tamil. Alla Alla Panam (literally, “heaps and heaps of money”) is a Tamil stock market primer, New Horizon Media’s biggest seller and the most definitive proof of its statement of purpose.
A very interesting article on one of the largest publishers in the South and their non-obvious business model.

T-Series Doesn't Get It

And neither does the Government of India.

Via PC World:
The Delhi High Court in India passed an interim injunction on Friday that prohibits Yahoo Video from streaming copyright content from Indian music company, Super Cassettes Industries, according to the lawyer representing the Indian company in this case. The court, after finding a prima-facie case, also issued a notice to Yahoo and its Indian subsidiary.

The music company, which uses the brand T-Series, is seeking a permanent injunction and damages for the alleged dissemination and display of its copyrighted content on Yahoo Video.
The crux of the problem is:
Copyright infringement is treated very differently in India than it is in the US, which is part of the reason why Super Cassettes Industries has been so successful with the courts. Section 79 of India's Information Technology Act of 2000 (PDF) holds ISPs, web hosts, e-mail services, social networks, and the like liable for the copyright infringement of their users. Such service providers are protected in the US as long as they respond to takedown requests, however, thanks to the DMCA's Safe Harbor provision.

Companies like Google have long objected to India's stance: "We don't hold the telephone company liable when two callers use the phone lines to plan a crime," wrote Google India policy analyst Rishi Jaitly last fall. "For the same reasons, it's a fundamental principle of the Internet that you don't blame the neutral intermediaries for the actions of their customers.
So it's two fold, one that the Government of India's policies don't allow an Indian web company to flourish simply because of these naive rules and secondly, T-Series believes that there music being available on Yahoo will lead to declining sales. If anything, it's free advertising and people, assuming they like the music in question, will go out and buy the music. After all, it's not as if a customer can stream the music to their cars or iPods or cellphones.

It bears repeating, litigation is not a business model.
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Monday, June 2, 2008

Round Up

This week's round-up is via the excellent blog at Wikinomics.
Luke Naismith writes, on his blog Knowledge Futures, about the differences between coordination, cooperation and collaboration.

Across the world, the Gulf Times reports on how the Qatar Academy and 9 other schools internationally are participating in the Horizon Project, bringing wikis into the classroom.

On Copyright

JP Rangaswami musing very lazily about copyright...
My wife and I have been married nearly 24 years; a long time ago, when she was pregnant with our first child, I remember her saying “You know something? It’s amazing just how often you notice pregnant women just because you’re thinking about pregnancy”. I’m sure psychologists have a term for the condition, some sort of bias I guess.

That’s the way I feel about copyrights and trade marks right now, in fact that’s the way I feel about intellectual property rights in general. Somehow I’ve become sensitised to noticing stories that have something to do with copyright, ever since my blood began to simmer while reading the nonsensical arguments related to the Harry Potter lexicon lawsuit.
It's an excellent read as are most of his writings.

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Publishers <3 Their Green-er Side

At BookExpo America, the book publishing industry's annual trade confab that took place in Los Angeles over the weekend, green was the hot new color. The trade show typically draws around 30,000 editors, booksellers, publicists, agents—and authors looking for a moment in the limelight.
Read the full article at Businessweek.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Raise the Volume: Publishers are going for promotional blitzkriegs, even television spots, to sell their books

Even for eyeballs inured to all sorts of advertisements flickering on television, this 15-second one is new: an animated car vrooms into the screen and to the dust jacket of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. An ad for an individual book is unusual, but not surprising considering HarperCollins has reportedly shelled out an advance of $35,000 (Rs 14 lakh) for the debut novel. While HarperCollins India has started a promotional blitzkrieg of sorts, others are pitching in for their authors. Nobody is ready to publish and perish. Not yet.

The relatively new publishing house Westland and Tranquebar Press, meanwhile, is tying up with a social networking site to publicise its Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul, the first country-specific Chicken Soup that is put together by Raksha Bharadia. “In future, we see ourselves using the Internet very strongly to take our books to the people,” says Priyanka Chowdhury, head of publicity, Westland, who thinks TV and radio ads for books will catch on in India. “The book business is peculiar in the sense that we operate on a very thin profit margin. It is a vicious cycle because funds for promotions come from profits and there cannot be profit unless there are promotions and the books sell.”

Apart from the wine-and- openings, publishing houses have been doing interesting but relatively inexpensive promotions like getting dancer Malavika Sarukkai to perform for sister Priya Sarukkai Chabria’s book release or a qawwali for the launch of Salma Ahmed’s memoir Cutting Edge. But no longer. When huge advances become the prologue, hard sell will script the first chapter.

Source: Express News Service

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