Wednesday, July 30, 2008

India's little authors do some serious writing

Via the Deccan Herald:
Ishita, an articulate fifth grader who has the country's current affairs and key issues on her fingertips, penned the short story that was adjudged one of the best by Scholastic's panel of judges comprising authors Anupa Lal, Samit Basu and senior CNN-IBN journalist Suhasini Haider.

"My story is about a girl who wants to make it to the Spelling Bee because she is a good speller and the odds that she has to fight to get there. She overcomes them. It is about grit and determination," the bespectacled Ishita, 10, explained in flawless diction.

She has been writing for the last three years.

"My short story on the activities that people like to indulge in won a prize in a school contest. It encouraged me to take up writing seriously," said the author, whose forte is fiction.
Picture uploaded by carf

More from the Launch

A few videos:

More at Vir@Youtube

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Book Launch: Kolhapur to Beijing

We had a book launch earlier today in Bangalore.

Nisha Millet, Hakimuddin, Virdhawal Khade, Mr. Ashok Kamath, Managing Trustee Pratham Books and Mala Kumar releasing 'Kolhapur to Beijing - Freestyle.

Pratham Books launched their 150th title "Kolhapur to Beijing---Freestyle!", amidst great excitement and fanfare. The book was released simultaneously by Virdhawal Khade, Olympians Nisha Millet and Hakimuddin Habibulla , Ashok Kamath [Managing Trustee, Pratham Books] and the book's author Mala Kumar.

In a run up to the launch, Pratham Books had engaged in getting children to wish the swimmer before he proceeded to Beijing. Over 32,000 children and adults sent wishes through post, email, and also posted messages on the Pratham Books website and blog site. A 164 ft (50m) long greeting card carrying these messages was presented to Veer. It was a heartening sight to see young children holding up the card for Veer and wishing him luck.

A nostalgic Veer said, "I'm very grateful to Pratham Books for having brought out this book, it brings back so many memories which would have otherwise been lost forever."

It should be on television too:

NDTV - Today at 7pm or tomorrow at 7 pm

Suvarna TV - 10.30 -11.00 today night

Aaj Tak - Not sure when

Ice TV - today 8.00pm, 10.30pm - 11.00pm
Re-telecast tmw - 9.00am Ice plus
tmw at 8.00pm and 9.00pm Ice

NewsINXnews - today 7.00pm to 8.00pm

Place a pre-release order for the book before 31st July and we will send you one with Veer’s signature! Click here to buy now.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ghetli Zhep Veerne Panyatun Aakashkade

Utkarsha sends her best wishes to Veer through this card....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wordle Cloud

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. This is a Wordle of our blog, click on the image to see it full size.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Virdhawal Khade: The Book

Via the Hindu:
Pratham Books, a not-for-profit publisher of children’s books, will now bring this story to young readers in the form of an illustrated book called “From Kolhapur to Beijing – Freestyle!” in English and seven Indian languages.
The book, written by Mala Kumar, is for children between 11 and 14 years, and will be launched in Bangalore by the end of the month, before he leaves for the Olympics. You could also send your best wishes to Virdhawal and motivate him to do his best. Pratham Books will reach your wishes to him on a 164 foot-long card (that’s the size of an Olympic swimming pool).
The card will be presented to him at the book launch. Email your best wishes to by July 25.
Or send your handwritten best wishes by post to:
Arathi, Pratham Books, 633-634, 4th C Main, 6th B-Cross, OMBR Layout, Banaswadi, Bangalore - 560 043.
Or click below and leave your comments and wishes there:

Round Up

Daniel Hillis on the future of the printed book:
Romance novels may have a future, but we are witnessing the sunset of the tome. I believe in George Dyson's vision of a tomorrow where books of knowledge are oddities, relegated to the obscure depths of monasteries and search engines. It makes me a little sad and nostalgic. But my sadness is tempered by the sure understanding that is neither the last nor the first change in format for our accumulation of wisdom. The book is a fine and admirable device, but I do not doubt that clay tables and scrolls of papyrus had charms of their own.

Bloggasm on the effect of free e-books on the sale of printed versions:
A few months ago Tobias Buckell noticed a trend in his book sales that most midlist novelists don’t typically see. His book Crystal Rain, which had been released in mass market paperback a year before, experienced a sudden spike in sales, more than doubling from the previous week. Perhaps even more noticeable was the jump in sales of the sequel to that novel, Ragamuffin, which saw an even more dramatic increase.

This was unusual because most titles by midlist authors are sold within the first few months of the release date; after that they drift quickly into obscurity as newer books are given shelf space in book stores, often times pushing the older novels out of the store completely.

But what caused this sudden increase? Because of all the myriad factors that drive product buys it’s incredibly hard to pinpoint specific triggers, but it just so happened that the jump occurred right after Crystal Rain’s publisher, Tor Books, had released a free ebook version of the novel online.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Empire Strikes Back

Author Andrew Keen has challenged book publishers to fight back against the "tyranny" of free content. Speaking at The Bookseller's conference "Digitise or Die", Keen warned that publishers and other intermediaries were being pushed out of the new economy by the prevailing "northern Californian libertarian mindset" that demanded everything for free.

Jason Hanley, strategic development partner at Google Book Search, stressed that digital would most likely supplement rather than displace existing revenue models, with multiple rather than one dominant model developed. He referred to statistics which suggested that 80% of users searching on Google were looking for book content, adding, "publishers do see results". Rather the "digitise or die", Hanley said the conference should be titled, "digitise".

Read the full piece

Never before have so many avenues been available to content creators to reach the masses. It's not the consumers or the creators who have much to fear; it's the publishers.

Picture uploadedby drp

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Free eBooks = Profit

Via Masnick, another data point that seems to suggest that giving away your books for free via the Internet really does boost sales of hard copies.
Neil Gaiman, who was part of Harper Collins experiment with giving away free ebooks, discovered (like so many others) that giving away the free ebooks helped increase sales. And, of course, it wasn't just for the one book that was offered for free, but across all of Gaiman's works. The other bit of information is that, as we expected, HarperCollins found that many people were not at all happy with all of the restrictions it put on the ebooks (including that you had to read it on their website rather than download it


From the India Today, the story of a magazine with a difference.
In a world driven by cut-throat competition, what does one make of a publication that wants to sell less? That is the claim being made by Sameera, a Bhopal-based niche magazine.

Yet, it is not as if the magazine is aiming for a diminishing readership. What it really wants is to develop the habit of sharing among people to help save the environment.

This unique approach to magazine circulation is guided by the fact that Sameera is perhaps the only magazine of its size in the country to be printed on handmade paper.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Read India in the Economic Times

Another such initiative by Pratham, Read India, aims to inculcate the 3R's among children across the country — reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic. It focuses on the introduction of 'learning to read' (and arithmetic ) activities in schools. This includes simple interventions like incorporating a reading period aimed at improving fluency in reading to teaching the use of alphabets.

"Read India is a focussed campaign and we have received excellent feedback. We have been using various teaching-learning materials besides reading cards and, as a result, many students who struggled earlier have now learnt to read. In fact, we are now moving from learning to read to reading to learn," elaborates Madhav Chavan, founderdirector , Pratham.

Read the full article at ET.

POD for University Presses

This is from the Creative Commons blog:
ETC Press has just launched as an "academic, open source, multimedia, publishing imprint." The project is affiliated with the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and is in partnership with When authors submit their work to ETC they retain ownership of it but they also must submit it under either an Attribution-NoDerivativeWorks-NonCommercial or an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. ETC press then posts the works to where they are available for purchase in its hardcopy form, or free download. While the project focuses specifically on writing about entertainment technology, it is easy to see ETC's model scaling to publishers of other topics and genres.This points to a range of possibilities for Indian universities too. Universities or departments within them can now publish their reports and journals on an "as-needed" basis without having to bother about upfront costs or unsold copies. The potential is enormous.

Narnia speaks Hindi now

For those who are worrying about the recession, here's a whole new (well, almost) sector opening up. The just set up National Translation Mission requires 8,000 translators, 2,000 copy editors and 2,000 evaluators to man it, with Rs 99 crore from the union government financing the job.Not many are aware, of course. Anything that's not in English barely makes news. In a country of a billion plus people, only about 10 million Indians use English as their first language. Yet an estimated 40-45% of the (again estimated) Rs 7,500 crore Indian publishing industry's sales come from English publishing. Unending colonial hangover?Yes, India has more people who know English than in its land of origin. Though most Indians are more comfortable in their mother tongues, our toffee-nosed English publishing sector, the only one really publicised by the media, is just waking up to this fact. But as Kannan, publisher of the Chennai-based Kalachuvadu group that translates books into Tamil, points out: "Authors are keen to see their work in many languages even when it does not mean much revenue. The international trend is marginal writings and Indian English publishing must turn to Indian languages to trace these expressions."

The whole article can be read here. Source: Financial Express

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Day with Read India

Some pictures and a story from spending a day with the Read India campaign in Bihar.

If you are reading this via RSS or email, please click through to see the presentation.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pratham Books in the Mint

Samanth Subramanian has a write up on our story cards in the Mint today:

The Read India campaign was designed to solve the problem of reading skills, and it has involved efforts such as incredibly inexpensive books and a network of around 5,000 libraries across the country...

Innovation in learning: Pratham, a non-profit publishing house from Bangalore, has sold four million story cards, most to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, India’s universal education initiative.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Alternative Publishing Models

Via Peter Suber:
Frances Pinter and David Percy have made an excellent documentary film about business models in the publishing world that use Creative Commons licenses.

Frances has been heading a CC-based publishing project in Africa. It is the Publishing and Alternative Licensing Model of Africa (PALM Africa), is based in Uganda, and South Africa, and she tells me the Ugunda project is going especially well. She also tells me she'll be soon expanding this idea into other publishing spheres, which is very exciting.

Head on over to watch the interviews.

Picture uploaded by Dawn Endico


Steve Rubel asks whether publishers are facing a three pronged build up to what he considers the 'perfect storm'. The three factor he identifies are gas prices because "as gas prices go up, so will the distribution costs", "a greater awareness among consumers of their environmental impact [and] will cut back on print in favor of digital media." and lastly, "growing popularity of speedy 3G-enabled smart phones".

Picture uploaded by sweejak

Sunday, July 6, 2008

For an equal world

Jyotsna Sreenivasan is the creator of a website that lists books aimed at creating gender equality
The website asks, "Are you looking for good books that help children to break through gender stereotypes and be true to themselves?" No, I'm not, but I'm certainly curious about a Gender Equality Bookstore ( Log on and you can buy "from the complete Brave Girls and Strong Women booklist of over 80 exciting, empowering books for young people ages 2-17," all from small publishers dedicated to creating a world of equality. Sure, we wanted school textbooks to be free of tiresome 'Mother is cooking, father is reading the newspaper,' 'Selvi-is-a-nurse-Murugan-is-a-doctor examples', but running a store that promotes stereotype-bashing, girl-empowering books is something else.For this, you need credentials - the kind Jyotsna "Jo" Sreenivasan, writer, editor, writing coach and creator of the website has. "I've been a feminist since childhood," she said in an interview. "My first novel for children, The Moon Over Crete, is a time-travel adventure in which a girl travels 3,500 years back in time to ancient Crete, where women and men were equal."Her award-winning novel Aruna's Journeys, for ages 8-12, is about an Indian-American girl's search for identity. Jyotsna's written Ela Bhatt's story for kids 10 years and above, fiction and non-fiction pieces for magazines, literary reviews and journals. She is a Phi Beta Kappa with an M.A. from Ann Arbor, Michigan and is founder of Awaz, a women's group.What's the website about? "When I put the website together several years ago, it seemed like people were getting interested in books with strong girl characters and women role models," she said.Though there were quite a few books that portray girls as independent and capable, parents and librarians weren't aware of those from smaller publishers. "It's not that people aren't writing or publishing such books — it's just that they often don't get much publicity."Jyotsna's website is an attempt to set this right. When you buy books for kids, you'd pick ones that are sensible, well written and perhaps with a pro-environment slant. Should you add gender to your thinking?"You could certainly add awareness of gender stereotypes when you consider which books to buy," she agreed, but the quality of writing would be the over-riding reason. "There's no point in buying a book that's poorly-written, even if the author's intentions are good."She reads every book she hosts on her website and has rejected some "because I didn't think the quality was high enough."

Source: The Hindu (Chennai)

Golden Quill Book Awards.

Just read this, thought would share it with the, one of India's leading online shopping destination has instituted the Indiaplaza Golden Quill Book Awards. This annual award is aimed at encouraging quality writing amongst Indian authors. Leading publishing houses in India have been invited to nominate their best books published in 2007. Five books will be short listed and evaluated by an eminent panel of judges for the final "Critics' Choice Award". The readers will nominate the "Reader's Choice Award" through the online voting system. The winners will win the "Golden Quill" trophy and a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh. The award will be given to an Indian author domiciled in India for original full length novel or a work of fiction in English or a translation into English of an original full length novel or work of fiction of any Indian language published in India in the previous calendar year.The panel includes Sir Mark Tully, writer and theatre critic Shanta Gokhale, Anita Nair, and novelist Mahasweta Devi. For details visit

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pratham in the India Today

The current issue of the India Today has a write up about the Pratham network.

A cement floor becomes a blackboard, a fridge is bought with what looks like Monopoly currency and hopscotch gets a twist with numbers written in boxes to be identified as children skip along.

It’s summertime and school is over, but 20 km off the eight-lane Delhi-Jaipur expressway in Kankrola village, Haryana, 70 children between the ages of six and 10 are at a Pratham summer camp.

Three hours a day, seven days a week, their voices drown out the cries of peacocks as they chant tables under a banyan tree in a quarter acre compound bordered by shahtoot, pipal and neem trees.

Six-year-old Nikita looks forward to her reading class, Chand Aur Tare, her favourite story. Santosh Shivendre has learnt to write her name and painstakingly practices numbers from one to 100 everyday, but doesn’t know how old she is.

It’s a world away from Mumbai’s slums, where Madhav Chavan and Farida Lambay started Pratham in 1994, a product of the Bombay Educational Initiative by UNICEF.

Read the full story...

Friday, July 4, 2008

Reading 'round the Country

Pushkar Sharma from now from Pratham USA, earlier from Pratham's Research team, has been traveling around India since June visiting summer camps and Pratham programs.

Please read about his unfolding adventures ......check out his blog

Active Learning in Barabanki

Can a self-centred Bangalorean appreciate a bag of tricks in remote Barabanki? Ashok Kamath learns a trick or two...

Sampurna and I landed at Lucknow’s Amausi airport at about noon – over an hour late and the delay was NOT caused by “late arrival of incoming aircraft” but because the engine did not seem to have enough power even to move. Our host in Lucknow, Dharmendra, had to wait.

As we moved out of the airport, I did not see many changes. In my earlier avatar (as a fire-spewing corporate dragon/manager/boss ???) I used to visit customers in Lucknow and I distinctly remember the road that takes you from Amausi to the city and nothing much had visibly changed. Except that the hoardings were now hogged by cellphone service providers who were pretty much non-existent at the time of my last visit about a dozen years ago. The sights and smells were the same – except that this time I was looking at the city through a different pair of eyes – that of a social development practitioner.

Barabanki was about 25 km away and you could see construction happening along the road from Lucknow to Barabanki. We reached the Pratham office at about 2.30 PM to find a group of eager team members getting trained. The idea was for us to meet these team members, talk to them, ask them how our (Pratham Books) story cards helped them and what should we be doing that we have not done before ; having done that we planned to accompany them to the field where they would practice what they learnt.

I had to introduce myself and I mentioned to them that I had come from Bangalore and was greeted by blank stares. It occurred to me that they perhaps do not know where Bangalore is (something that is unbelievable to the self-centred Bangalorean!) and so I said, “ Bangalore is about 2000 km away.” Still no response. Then, one brave soul piped up and said, “Sir is this the place where VVS Laxman comes from?” and then it hit me – cricket is the link in India.

“No, not VVS Laxman but from where Rahul Dravid comes from,” I said, and instantly the connection was made. I wanted to experiment the cricket link some more and I said, “We don’t like to talk much about Rahul because they lost the IPL,” and everyone seemed to know about IPL. Long live cricket !!!!

After an hour long interactive session with the team, we accompanied them to the field to see them practice their skills. As I understood this, the team members had the responsibility to “enroll” three unpaid volunteers in the village who would be trained and then would continue the work with the children. They were expected to work for about 2 hours a day for at least 25 days. The Pratham UP team wants to hit a total of 92,000 volunteers very soon .

Each of these volunteers were given a simple kit that included story cards, alphabets penned on paper to serve as flash cards, assessment tools and so on and a bag of tricks to attract children and retain their enthusiasm so that at the end of the month children would be able to move upwards on the ladder of learning. The volunteers work with the children and are great practitioners of the art of ABL – Activity-based Learning – on which we have been exchanging a barrage of e-mails.

They started by singing songs and pretending they were all elephants and slowly started to learn the numbers through these songs.

We left this group shown in the pictures to visit the next group where the children were sitting in small circles ( multiple circles) and each circle was managed by a volunteer. Many village elders were there on the periphery and watching the proceedings with paternal interest. Some children were being assessed for their reading skills and it was heartening to see a little girl – perhaps 8 years old – reading fluently. Others were learning to count and one group was doing the alphabet and the paper flash cards came out from the volunteer’s armoury. This was just another day for a committed volunteer corps to do the right thing and help children read and count.

By this time it was about 6 PM and we had to return to catch our plane back to Delhi. We started to ask folks what they thought about our story cards and the unanimous verdict was that the cards were a great hit and just the right product for this market segment. Children loved the little stories, they loved the colours ( even though “The Royal Toothache” was a B&W production); they loved the look and feel and all this made us feel good.

Cliched though it may sound, I came away more aware of what we need to do ; came away very impressed by the commitment of the volunteers and secure in the knowledge that there are folks who aim to ensure that Every Child in School and Learning Well.

Illustrations. Again.

This time, from the delightful blog run by Tara Goswami, who's book on Assam we will be publishing soon. Her blog has more...

"The ghats, the names, the histories, the colours, the heat and the splendid retreat, the buffalo's and the boys the babies and their toys, the water and its depth, the dirt and the filth, the joy and the silt, the baba's and the priests, the burkha's and the wedding procession, the yoga, the bakery, the meditation and the con artist, the laughter and the frown and people from all over town, the house of Yum and the half cooked meat, the loss , the beauty, the apparition of something ancient, the business man, the tripper, giggles, insults, foreign languages and our own, tip of the trishul, kashi, god, hippy, life, love, ignorance, understanding, music, show, faith, intrigue.................."


Came across these wonderful illustrations on Tomya Mateo's blog. Head on over there to see more....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Advertiment and Newsletter

First up, an advert we recently ran.

And this, a newsletter sent out by Pratham UAE that features our books.

Read this document on Scribd: Pratham Newsletter

Strategic Choices for Publishers

What do publishers need to accomplish to stay competitive and relevant?

Micheal Ross suggests that going digital and ensuring content that is appreciable by a global audience are two important steps.

I'd add, opening up access to the material as a necessary third ingredient.

Picture uploaded by tokyofortwo