Saturday, January 31, 2009

The New Avataar of Literature in The Digital Age

Via Time:

Literature interprets the world, but it's also shaped by that world, and we're living through one of the greatest economic and technological transformations since--well, since the early 18th century. The novel won't stay the same: it has always been exquisitely sensitive to newness, hence the name. It's about to renew itself again, into something cheaper, wilder, trashier, more democratic and more deliriously fertile than ever.

If you think about it, shipping physical books back and forth across the country is starting to seem pretty 20th century. Novels are getting restless, shrugging off their expensive papery husks and transmigrating digitally into other forms. Compared with the time and cost of replicating a digital file and shipping it around the world--i.e., zero and nothing--printing books on paper feels a little Paleolithic.

And speaking of advances, books are also leaving behind another kind of paper: money. Those cell-phone novels are generally written by amateurs and posted on free community websites, by the hundreds of thousands, with no expectation of payment. For the first time in modern history, novels are becoming detached from dollars. They're circulating outside the economy that spawned them.

Daniel Suarez, a software consultant in Los Angeles, sent his techno-thriller Daemon to 48 literary agents. No go. So he self-published instead. Bit by bit, bloggers got behind Daemon. Eventually Penguin noticed and bought it and a sequel for a sum in the high six figures. "I really see a future in doing that," Suarez says, "where agencies would monitor the performance of self-published books, in a sort of Darwinian selection process, and see what bubbles to the surface. I think of it as crowd-sourcing the manuscript-submission process."

We can read in the rise of self-publishing not only a technological revolution but also a quiet cultural one--an audience rising up to claim its right to act as a tastemaker too.

So if the economic and technological changes of the 18th century gave rise to the modern novel, what's the 21st century giving us?

Old Publishing is stately, quality-controlled and relatively expensive. New Publishing is cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money or institutional taste. If Old Publishing is, say, a tidy, well-maintained orchard, New Publishing is a riotous jungle: vast and trackless and chaotic, full of exquisite orchids and undiscovered treasures and a hell of a lot of noxious weeds.

Not that Old Publishing will disappear--for now, at least, it's certainly the best way for authors to get the money and status they need to survive--but it will live on in a radically altered, symbiotic form as the small, pointy peak of a mighty pyramid.

None of this is good or bad; it just is. The books of the future may not meet all the conventional criteria for literary value that we have today, or any of them. But if that sounds alarming or tragic, go back and sample the righteous zeal with which people despised novels when they first arose. They thought novels were vulgar and immoral. And in a way they were, and that was what was great about them: they shocked and seduced people into new ways of thinking. These books will too.
Read the entire article here.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Little Book of Hindu Deities

Chanced upon the gheehappy website. An extremely cute and adorable looking Krishna welcomes you to the site. A little browsing revealed that they sell an equally delightful looking book called "The Little Book of Hindu Deities"

A page on Shiva says : "At his other side, he has a drum so he can kick up his heels when he's done meditating." Reading about Ganesha reminded me of the first few lines in Girish Karnad's play 'Hayavadana'. The Bhagavata in the play asks Ganesha "the destroyer of obstacles, who removes all hurdles and crowns all endeavours with success, bless our performance now." The Little Book of Hindu deities explains Ganesha's nature in the following fashion: "In a panic to appease his distraught wife, Shiva brought Ganesha back to life and gave him the head of an elephant. It wasn't a perfect match, but Ganesha's elephant ears have served him well, the better to hear the needs of his people." Teehee! Cute!

Comics Worth Reading has a short review on the book:

This adorable work is a wonderful introduction to Hindu culture, and the cartoon illustrations in vibrant colors are immediately welcoming.

Author Sanjay Patel is a Pixar animator, and it shows in the way that his simple single drawings have a sense of motion and life about them. Each of 30-some gods, manifestations, avatars, and demigods gets a page of explanation, accompanied by a full-page illustration. Patel also includes information on epics, planets, and the chronology of creation.

It’s obviously educational, but it’s fun as well. I think this would make a terrific teacher for students of any ages who wanted to learn more about Hinduism.

View sample pages of the book here.

There is also an awesome page sprinkled with lovely sketches. Go, go, go! See for yourself!

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Internet Population Distribution

Via Wehr in the World

Laptop for Rs.500

Via The Times of India

A $10 laptop (Rs 500) prototype, with 2 GB RAM capacity, would be on display in Tirupati on February 3 when the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Techology is launched.

The $10 laptop project, first reported in TOI three years ago, has come as an answer to the $100 laptop of MIT's Nicholas Negroponte that he was trying to hardsell to India. The $10 laptop has come out of the drawing board stage due to work put in by students of Vellore Institute of Technology, scientists in Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, IIT-Madras and involvement of PSUs like Semiconductor Complex. “At this stage, the price is working out to be $20 but with mass production it is bound to come down,” R P Agarwal, secretary, higher education said.

Apart from questioning the technology of $100 laptops, the main reason for HRD ministry's resistance to Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project was the high and the hidden cost that worked out to be $200.

The mission launch would also see demonstration of e-classroom, virtual laboratory and a better 'Sakshat' portal that was launched more than two years ago. Sources also said that the ministry has entered into an agreement with four publishers — Macmillan, Tata McGraw Hill, Prentice-Hall and Vikas Publishing — to upload their textbooks on 'Sakshat'. Five per cent of these books can be accessed free.

The mission, with an 11th plan outlay of Rs 4,612 crore, is aimed at making a serious intervention in enhancing the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education. The mission has two major components. One, content generation through its portal 'Sakshat', and two, building connectivity along with providing access devices for institutions and learners.
Read the entire article here.

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Slow Moving Innovation

Found an article with some interesting thoughts on innovation. If you are in the process of innovating something and nothing fruitful is emerging from your projects or it is not being received well by others, don't lost heart. Read on to find out why.

As word of the invention of the internal combustion engine first spread in 1870, owners and workers in the booming buggy-whip industry probably took scant notice. Maybe some prescient buggy-whip entrepreneurs saw the early writing on the wall — that this new invention would one day put them out of business. But most didn’t. Why would they? Mass production of the automobile — the coup de grace of the horse-drawn-carriage accessory industry — didn’t happen for another 40 years, when Henry Ford mass-produced the Model T on his newly invented assembly lines in 1913.

What’s the lesson learned? Innovation takes a long time — longer than most businesses realize or even want to admit. Richard Luecke, the author of several books from the Harvard Business Essentials series, defines innovation as “the embodiment, combination or synthesis of knowledge in original, relevant, valued new products, processes or services.” Within this “synthesis of knowledge” is a twisting vortex of new ideas that have to be extracted, implemented, and exploited in order to become real innovations. In other words, identifying new ideas is only the first step in a long process. Bringing them to market and then dominating that market is an entirely different matter.

Certainly, time scales are different for different industries, and there may be evidence of innovation happening in faster time cycles because of rapidly improved technologies. But innovation isn’t only about new technology. In fact, it’s mainly about culture. Humans are by nature habitual animals, and it takes a lot to move us off of our habits. Technology may be advancing quickly, but that doesn’t mean humans have the interest or the aptitude to adopt it right away.

(Link via PSFK)

Donald Duck's Family Tree

Trace the roots of Donald Duck here. Find the expanded version here. Tell us who your favorites are. I vote for 'Pintail Duck'. Hmm, on second thoughts, Elvira 'Grandma' Coot looks quite adorable too. And oh, Fergus McDuck looks so intelligent. Who do you like? (Thanks to for providing this link)

Go here to see the larger version

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BBC to put 200,000 paintings online

We wrote about Google Earth bringing masterpieces from the Prado Museum to armchair art lovers. Art lovers now have another reason to rejoice as BBC is planning to put up several of the nation's oil paintings online.

The BBC is to put every one of the 200,000 oil paintings in public ownership in the UK on the internet as well as opening up the Arts Council's vast film archive online as part of a range of initiatives that it has pledged will give it a "deeper commitment to arts and music".

A partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation charity will see all the UK's publicly owned oil paintings – 80% of which are not on public display – placed on the internet by 2012.

The Public Catalogue Foundation, launched in 2003, is 30% of the way through cataloguing the UK's collection of oil paintings.

And Cory Doctrow says:
This is ferociously awesome, at least on the face of it, though one can imagine all kinds of ways they could screw this up (crappy EULA, stupid Flash-based DRM, low-rez only, wasting license-fee money trying to keep non-British IP addresses out of the collection, etc). But, assuming they do this the way you'd expect something built by and for the Internet would work, this is the best news for free culture that I've heard since the BBC announced that they were going to put all their archives online for free remixing.
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Join Pratham Books at Crossword, Bangalore as we teach children how to make salt!

30th January, 2009 is Gandhiji's 61st martyrdom anniversary.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Handwriting in the Digital Age

Any of you been in a situation where you pick up a pen after ages, try to write something and notice that it doesn't resemble your handwriting in any way? How many of us even carry around pens with us these days? What will happen to handwriting in this digital age?
"The moving finger writes," says the famous Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, "and, having writ, moves on." Nowadays, the finger more likely is hammering away on a computer keyboard, texting on a cellphone, or Twittering on a BlackBerry.

Some people are concerned, though, and one is Kitty Burns Florey, whose book "Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting" comes out Friday - John Hancock's birthday and National Handwriting Day. Florey, author of nine novels and a book about sentence diagramming, became interested in the subject after reading that computer keyboarding has displaced handwriting in schools.

"My first reaction was horror," Florey said in an interview at her home, "then I thought, 'Why would anyone use handwriting in today's world?' I write my books on the computer. I discovered two schools of thought: One is that it wouldn't matter if nobody learned handwriting because we all have computers, and the other is that this is an interesting, historic, valuable, and beautiful skill that has been around for thousands of years, and we are just tossing it out."

In the e-mail age, most people seldom need to write more than a grocery list or a short note, or sign a check. It's not only kids; many who formerly wrote fluently and neatly have forgotten how.

"It's a very disturbing problem," said Kate Gladstone of Albany, N.Y., who has a website specializing in handwriting improvement. "I see people in their 20s and 30s who cannot read cursive. If you cannot read all types of handwriting, you might find your grandma's diary or something from 100 years ago, and not be able to read it." There are practical concerns as well. Sometimes we don't have a computer, or the professor won't let us bring it to class to take notes. Or sometimes, as happened in New Orleans hospitals during Hurricane Katrina, computers lose power and medical orders and records have to be written out by hand.
Read the entire article here

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Thoughts on Free Labour on the Web

As you read this, someone is writing a movie review. While you sip on a hot coffee, someone has found an jeweller online who makes bizzarely funky stuff and has decided to showcase this designer on a site that is known for showcasing unusual things . So, why is everyone doing all this when they are not being paid a cent/penny/dime/paisa ?

From the article " Will Work for Praise: The Web's Free Labour Economy" :
It's dawn at a Los Angeles apartment overlooking the Hollywood Hills. Laura Sweet, an advertising creative director in her early 40s, sits at a computer and begins to surf the Net. She searches intently, unearthing such bizarre treasures for sale as necklaces for trees and tattoo-covered pigs. As usual, she posts them on a shopping site called Asked why in the world she spends so many hours each week working for free, she answers: "It's a labor of love."

Traffic on ThisNext is soaring, with unique visits nearly tripling in a year, to 3.5 million monthly. What's in it for the volunteer workers? "They can build their brands," Gould says. "In their niches, they can become mini-Oprahs."

Beyond brand-hungry strivers, masses of free laborers continue to toil without ever seeing a payday, or even angling for one. Many find compensation in currencies that predate the market economy. These include winning praise from peers, earning an exalted place within a community, scoring thrills from winning, and finding satisfaction in helping others.

Bo Peabody, founder of Tripod, one of the earliest networking sites, and now a venture capitalist at Village Ventures in New York, points to a constant tension between free-labor entrepreneurs and their volunteer workers. Initially, users are "driven by a desire to express themselves," he says. "But there's a limit to how much they'll do for free." At some point, businesses have to figure out how to share their winnings with the volunteers. One of his portfolio companies, a software startup called Kluster, assembles people to brainstorm on everything from new inventions to corporate logos. Those with winning ideas claim a share of earnings if the project ever makes money. Devising ways to reward free workers "is a very difficult jump," Peabody says. "This is a theme running through our entire portfolio."
Read the entire article here

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New Media and Breaking News

When the Mumbai terror attack happened on 26th November, 2008, it was observed that several people were blogging and tweeting about the incident. The recent crash of Flight 1549 into the Hudson River and the manner in which new media broke the news was analysed by Michael Surtees on DesignNotes.

Just by keeping up to date on his tweets, tracking down live video and photographs, Surtees was able to stay involved with the events as they took place. In his article he highlights how one could follow events through a variety of sites as long as they know where to look. DesignNotes reflects on the day’s activity:

Thinking about it now, the speed of events was pretty crazy. Within an hour and half I had learned that a plane had landed in the Hudson River, saw images within minutes of it happening, watched the rescue live, hearing survivors being interviewed soon after, and by the time it was over knowing that everyone was going to live – I was listening to music from A Flock Of Seagulls. All the tools that I used to get more info was available to anyone out there which was kind of cool in itself.

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Free Stuff and More


Via boingboing

MCM, author of the fabulous anti-DRM kids' book "The Pig and the Box," sez,

Two years and a lot of learning later, I'm finally re-releasing my anti-DRM book "The Pig and the Box" in a snazzy Second Edition. The new version is more kid-friendly (at the suggestion of some teachers and librarians) as well as having a shinier cover. And even better, I finally figured out the whole "distribution" angle, so you can buy it practically anywhere in the world (even Japan!)

This is part of my "12 Books in 12 Months" project, where I'm launching a slate of Creative Commons-licensed titles throughout 2009. Next up is the third book in the SteamDuck series, and then the start of an "open source" action series called "TorrentBoy".

Find the free downloadable PDF's here. You can also watch a video, buy the book, order the e-book or write a review about it on the same site. The book is available in 14 languages.


Amazon has hundreds of free mp3s available for download, including tracks by Brian Eno & David Byrne, Ani Difranco, and Reverend Horton Heat. ( Via Kottke)
Last year, we wrote about Monty Python's decision to put all its content online for free hoping that would drive people to buy more of its scarce goods -- such as DVDs. And, as a bunch of you have submitted, it appears to have worked wonders. Monty Pyton's DVD sales jumped an astounding 23,000% and are now the number 2 best selling item in the Movies & TV category on Who was it that said "you can't compete with free" again? (Via techdirt)

The National Film Board of Canada is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2009 – and everyone’s invited.

To help mark the occasion, we’ve opened our vaults and put over 700 full-length films, trailers and clips online for free home viewing.

Our collection includes animation, documentaries, experimental films and alternative dramas. We showcase films that take a stand on issues of global importance that matter to Canadians – stories about the environment, human rights, international conflict, the arts and more. Works that push the boundaries, give a voice to the underrepresented, and build bridges between cultures. ( Link)
Visit to watch these films.

Two digital publishing sites have quietly started rolling out electronic books that can be viewed just using a web browser.

Random House is now offering several full length books for free on Scribd. The choices include The Surgeon, a 2002 novel by bestselling author Tess Gerritsen. What's also significant here is that Gerritsen is making the book available as a DRM-free PDF download.

Meanwhile Zinio, a site that offers digital magazines and textbooks, is expanding into mass-market books. Zinio has opened a digital bookstore that features a handful of titles. These include technology tomes like Social Media Marketing in an Hour a Day. (Via Micro Persuasion)
Read the entire article here.

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Visual Depiction of Wikipedia

There is all this talk about some changes that the Wikipedia model may undergo. But, while that debate goes on, let us take a look at a visual Wikipedia campaign created by Mike E. Perez, Mark Decker, Jacob Brubaker. And the idea behind this campaign was:
Many people tend to view Wikipedia as an unreliable source of information because anyone can edit entries on the website.

Our concept was to present an everyday person as an "expert" on a specific subject in order to show that whether the information comes from a university professor or from an avid gamer, it is still reliable.

Each piece shows a straight view of each persona and a mind map of their thought process. We felt this approach humanizes the experience of Wikipedia.

Our tag reads: "I [edit] wikipedia"

The brackets around the word "edit" are a reference to the brackets around the edit links on the actual wikipedia site.

See more pictures on quartermane's flickr stream

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Books, Social Networking and Publishing

We found two presentations by Michael Bhasker on The Digitalist. The second presentation is a little lengthy, but worth a read!
The former presentation is fairly straightforward and deals with how publishers can and should be getting more involved with social networks. It was originally delivered at a conference in Russia so is primarily visual, hence I’m not really sure quite how well it works online.
The latter is a more of an academic, off the wall, blue skies thinking presentation. It was enormous fun to write and allowed me to go back to my glory days talking about people like Jacques Derrida (no, don’t groan, he’s cool, honest). The presentation basically looks at how our culture is turning back into an oral culture, how even text is becoming like oral communication and asks what this means for the novel and the book.

How a Non-Profit Can Use Twitter

One of our previous posts was on how the United States Air Force goes about blogging. Here is an example of how the National Wildlife Federation is using Twitter as a social media tool.
I signed NWF up and started tweeting random wildlife facts and links to NWF action alerts and more. I didn’t really know how to start the conversations yet–but I knew that NWF could be a reliable resource for anyone who wanted to follow us.

NWF’s Twitter account was always fun and useful, but I soon wanted a more personal voice, so I created my own account @starfocus and encouraged other people at NWF interested in tweeting to do the same. I knew it would give a personal voice to our programs and I hoped it would open up conversation more and encourage people to feel connected to the organization.

Things did bubble from there! We have two programs on Twitter, @campusecology and @greenhour, along with numerous staff members. @NWF still serves as our main touch point. I think it is great to have people and programs also serve as Twitter accounts because conversations can be more personal and targeted.

NWF has gotten a lot of value from Twitter. We use it as one of our top listening tools because we get to join in the conversation and also get a glimpse of how we are doing our jobs. We have mended relationships because of Twitter, we have made new friends because of Twitter, and we have helped spread important messages and increased our online activism all because of the way this social media tool leads people to things that interest them.

Start slow, listen and understand the space before you jump in. Don’t follow too many people initially–but follow people who share your interests or who are local to your area. Grow organically and be authentic. Talk to people like they are your friends, not like you are trying to advertise. I think the most important thing you can do is be real and ask for help when you need it.

Read the entire article here.

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The Places We LIve


The Places We Live features panoramic photos of slums, narrated by the people who live there (through translators). Really really engrossing. To access the stories in the restricting Flash interface, skip the intro, click on a city, and then on one of the households in the upper left corner. There's a book too.
The site has pictures from Venezuela, India, Kenya and Indonesia. Remember to turn on your speakers when you visit this site.

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Change in Wiki Model?

Just yesterday, we blogged about a project that was adopting the Wikipedia format to provide agriculture related information. The same post also mentioned how Britannica was inviting users to contribute, but would have more control than the Wikipedia model over the information being put up (Read the post here).

So while many projects are adopting the Wikipedia model, is Wikipedia itself on the verge of making some huge changes? A post in tells us more:

Until now, Wikipedia has allowed anybody to make instant changes to almost all of its 2.7m entries, with only a handful of entries protected from being altered.

But under proposals put forward by the website's co-founder Jimmy Wales, many future changes to the site would need to be approved by a group of editors before going live.

Wales argues the scheme will bring greater accuracy, particularly in articles referring to living people. But the possibility has caused a furore among Wikipedia users, since many see it as a fundamental change to the egalitarian nature of the site.

A user poll on the website suggests 60% are in favour of trials, which could take place within the next few weeks. But some think the split could ultimately threaten the future of the site.

Such changes have been considered before, but were brought into focus last week when Wikipedia falsely announced that two prominent US politicians had died.

On the day of Barack Obama's inauguration, the site reported the deaths of West Virginia's Robert Byrd - the longest-serving senator in American history - and Ted Kennedy, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and collapsed during the inaugural lunch.

Both reports were false, and Wikipedia quickly changed the site back to reflect the truth, but the situation drove Wales to push strongly for change.

"This nonsense would have been 100% prevented by flagged revisions," he wrote on the site. "This was a breaking news story and we want people to be able to participate [but] we have a tool available now that is consistent with higher quality."

If the site grants new powers to editors, it would bring Wikipedia even closer to traditional encyclopedia websites such as Britannica, which last week announced that it would be launching a new online version that would allow readers to submit their own updates to entries.
Read the entire article here

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How to Write a Book

Author Steven Johnson has written a short piece on the techniques and tools he adopts to write his books.

Via boingboing
But the one constant for the past four books has been an ingenious piece of software called Devonthink, which is basically a free-form database that accepts many different document types (PDFs, text snippets, web pages, images, etc). It has a very elegant semantic algorithm that can detect relationships between short excerpts of text, so you can use the software as a kind of connection machine, a supplement to your own memory.

Since I wrote that essay, I've developed a new approach to using Devonthink that was enormously helpful in writing Ghost Map and Invention. The first stage, which is crucial, is a completely disorganized capture of every little snippet of text that seems vaguely interesting. I grab paragraphs from web pages, from digital books, and transcribe pages from printed text -- and each little snippet I just drop into Devonthink with no organization other than a citation of where it came from.

And so in the last stage before I actually start writing, I create a little folder in Devonthink for each of the chapters. And then I sit down and read through every single little snippet that I've uncovered over the past year or so of research. And as I'm reading them on the screen, I just drag them into the chapter folder where I think they will be most useful. Some snippets get dragged to multiple folders; most don't make it into any folder. But I read through them all, and in reading through them all, I have a completely new contextual experience of them, because I'm at the end of the research cycle, not at the beginning. They feel like pieces of a puzzle that's coming together, instead of hints or hunches.

And the added bonus here is that Devonthink has a wonderful feature where you can take the entire contents of a folder and condense it down into a single text document. So that's how I launch myself into the actual writing of the book.

It's a great technique for warding off the siren song of procrastination. Before I hit on this approach, I used to lose weeks stalling before each new chapter, because it was just a big empty sea of nothingness. Now each chapter starts life as a kind of archipelago of inspiring quotes, which makes it seem far less daunting. All I have to do is build bridges between the islands.
Read DIY: How to write a book

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Going Green

We bid farewell to 2008, and greeted 2009 with this message of 'recycling'. Recently, two other eco-friendly initiatives caught our attention (read here and here). Today, we bring you two different approaches adopted to encourage people to 'go green'.

Via Neatorama

Edina Tokodi is an eco-minded artist who hopes to create more environmental friendliness in the midst of urban bareness.

In leiu of spray paint this street artist creates moss installations that have become the talk of the town in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Consisting of mossy animal figures and camouflage patterns, this art is “meant to be touched, felt, and in turn touch you."

For me, the reaction of life on the street is also very important. I am curious about how people receive them, if they just leave them alone, or if they want to, take care of them or dismantle them. This is what makes my work similar to graffiti, although I am searching for a deeper social meaning and a dialogue with memories of the animals and gardens of my past in a small town in Central Europe. I believe that if everyone had a garden of their own to cultivate, we would have a much more balanced relation to our territories. Of course, a garden can be many things.

Toyota chose the 2009 Detroit auto show to debut its new 3rd generation Prius model. The car served as the centerpiece of Toyota expanding line of hybrid vehicles. Rather than print up a typical glossy brochure, the company gave away thousands of paper cards with seeds embedded in them. The front contains a simple tag line that says ‘Good ideas grow. Literally.’ The back has the planting instructions, which are essentially burying the card in soil and watering it. Each card contains a mix of annual and perennial wildflower seeds.
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Grandma's Graphics : Public Domain Childrens' Graphics

Feast your eyes on some wonderful vintage graphics and clipart today.

Via boingboing:
Grandma's Graphics hosts a really lovely collection of web-resolution public domain children's artwork, perfect for design projects:

From Harry Clarke to 1890's storybooks, if you're looking for unique images or clipart for use on your web pages or in other design or craft projects you've come to the right place. There's a treasury here at Grandma's Graphics that you probably won't find anywhere else online. Some of these graphics are quite large and take time to load, but be patient, they're worth the wait.
Visit Grandma's Graphics

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An interesting way to let your child learn more about "Bapu"

In case the above link does not work please click here

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Colouring Books for Adults

Who says that colouring books are only for children?

Via PingMag
Colouring books for adults have become popular in the last few years for their purported mental effects, helping people to reduce stress and relax. If you are up for giving it a try, we recommend the World Mandalas: 100 New Designs for Coloring and Meditation. The book includes designs based on religious and tribal mandala. Filling in these designs with colours has a strange calming effect, and it seems that once you’ve finished, you could probably analyse your mental state by the colour combinations that you have chosen.

Graphic designer, Mimiko Akiyama, has created a Song Colouring Book especially for the elderly (and we are can’t wait for the English release.) The book features illustrations based on old nursery rhymes and popular songs. Filling in the colours, thus moving your hands, and singing the illustrated songs are ways for the elderly to stimulate their minds.

Finally, we have a delicacy for you, Colouring-Origami (we also showed you before) by Japanese design group “Onchu!” is compiling various creators: The marvellous book features unique illustrations of butterflies, insects, and more. Actually, the pages are origami paper, so after colouring in, they can be removed from the book and folded into 3D shapes for further decorating.

Read the entire article to learn about the pages that can be painted and then used as postcards, drawing anatomy, electronic colouring books, colouring your favourite manga and more.
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Granthayan: A Mobile Bookstore

In September, we had published a post on the Pankaj Kurulkar's 'Granthayan' project. An article on tracks the developments that have occurred in the past few months:
An electrical engineer by training, 45-year-old Kurulkar ran a networking and hardware solutions company for 15 years, before he put Rs3 crore of his own into Granthayan, a chain of mobile bookstores that travels the length and breadth of Maharashtra selling mostly Marathi books. Kurulkar says he plans to later replicate his business model in other states, focusing on books in their regional languages.

There could be several rough patches to negotiate. Only 59% of India’s rural population can read, according to the 2001 census, and reading material itself is limited outside the cities. Local languages have also had to face the growing popularity of English.

“Rural areas don’t see anything other than newspapers and textbooks. So good, affordable reading material, which is simple, is the need for the day,” says Rukmini Banerji, a programme director at non-government organization Pratham, which prepares an annual report on the status of education measuring student literacy. Pratham’s publishing arm, Pratham Books, which prints cheap children’s books, also has plans to enter the rural retail market next month, according to managing trustee Ashok Kamath.

Granthayan’s business was inaugurated in August, with 10 custom-designed Tata trucks functioning as mobile bookstores. The vehicles, 18ft long and 8ft wide, were fitted with shelves, tube lights, ceiling fans, scanners, cash machines and even their own generators, to resemble a typical mall storefront.

According to Kurulkar, Granthayan has sold around 100,000 titles in the first three months of operation, and stocks both Marathi and English titles, though, he says, 75% of the company’s stock and sales are in Marathi.

“People don’t go out of their way to buy books,” says Rane, “but if they see them right at their doorstep, there is a lot of scope to sell books, for good quality books.”
Read the entire article here

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Books and India

1. The Kolkata Book Fair will be held from 28 January- 8th February, 2009.

Arguably the biggest book fair in Asia, the annual Kolkata Book Fair is a popular cultural event in the city that attracts publishers, writers, buyers and book lovers from all over India. Each year a country is chosen as the special focus and authors from that country are invited to read excerpts and discuss their works. The scope of the fair now goes far beyond books and includes a world food market, exhibitions, an employment fair and other displays and entertainment. (Link)
2. There will also be 'a Scottish touch to the Kolkata Book Fair'
Book lovers in the city will get to taste Scottish art and literature as Scotland is the “focal theme” in the Kolkata Book Fair 2009.

Scotland’s participation in the event will help to explore connections between both the countries in the spheres of art, culture, literature, heritage, music films and tourism.

“There will be Scotland counselling centre, ‘Study and Work in Scottland’, at the pavilion on the fair ground. Interactive sessions between Indian and Scottish publishers, story-telling, and events on contemporary literature will also be held at the event,” Sen said.
3. Also, read about 'British Council's UK Publishing Entrepreneur Trip to India'
So, James and Peter from Apt Studio are currently in India on The British Council’s Young Publishing Entrepreneur trip.
Via The Hindu
Part of a 12-day tour to the country facilitated by the British Council in India to enable these publishers and talent-scouters to find more about the publishing scene in an emerging economy, the young entrepreneurs are busy looking for exciting ventures here.
4. The Jaipur Literature Festival concluded on 25th January, 2009. Some notes from the Jabberwock blog (1, 2, 3 and 4). And from the : 'The Jaipur Literary Festival, Part 1 of X: Chetan Bhagat'.

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To Wiki or Not to Wiki

The Wikipedia project started in 2001, and since then has completely changed the definition of encyclopedias. Wikipedia's strength is its collaborative nature and the user-generated content contributed to its knowledge base.

"This means that people of all ages and cultural and social backgrounds can write Wikipedia articles. Most of the articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet, simply by clicking the edit this page link."
The Wikipedia model has caught on and similar collaborative projects are shooting up across cyberspace. India recently launched 'Agropedia' : the agricultural Wikipedia.
Indian scientists have launched an 'agricultural Wikipedia' to act as an online repository of agricultural information in the country.

It aims to disseminate crop- and region-specific information to farmers and agricultural extension workers — who communicate agricultural information and research findings to farmers — and provide information for students and researchers.

Content will be continually added and validated through review and analysis by invited agricultural researchers, in a manner similar to that used by Wikipedia and using open source tools, says V. Balaji, head of knowledge management and sharing with the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a partner in the project.

The site also houses blogs and forums where anyone can provide and exchange knowledge.

It is hoped that even where farmers have no access to the Internet, the Agropedia information can be used as a basis for radio plays, for example, says Balaji.

Agropedia's lead architect, T. V. Prabhakar of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, initially envisioned the website as the equivalent of Wikipedia for global agriculture three years ago, but for now it will concentrate on India-specific information.

On the other hand, Britannica has also started inviting users to be involved in the process of content-generation. But, they aren't exactly following the Wiki-model.

"We are not abdicating our responsibility as publishers or burying it under the now-fashionable 'wisdom of the crowds'," said the announcement.

Britannica will accept user edits and some new material, but it will all be vetted before showing up on the site (and later in the printed versions of the encyclopedia, which rather amazingly still exist). Editors who know their subject can make sure that the encyclopedia does not have to settle for "something bland and less informative, what is sometimes termed a 'neutral point of view.'"

Users who want to contribute their own pearls of wisdom to Britannica will need to register with real names, making the new Britannica model sound in many ways like the Citizendium project.

And yet, as Cauz's remarks about Google remind us, it is Wikipedia that routinely tops the search engine's results. When it comes to knowledge, Cauz doesn't believe that "good enough" is really good enough, but Internet users obviously don't share the same reservations.

When speed matters, the much-maligned "wisdom of crowds" certainly has something to offer. When it comes to accuracy, Britannica believes its more deliberate approach wins out.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weekend Treat For The Little Ones

ABC's and alliteration :). Watch alligators "entertaining elephants", "getting giggles" and act "shockingly spoiled"!

Original Winnie The Pooh Drawings

Carry on to BiblioOdyssey to see more 'Winnie the Pooh' drawings by E H Shepard.

Games for Change

Thanks to Barack Obama, "change" was a word we saw splashed across newspapers, screaming at us from televisions, popping across our computer screens, echoing in our ears and embedded in our minds. And yes, change is essential! Games for Change is a portal that brings "real world games for real world impact".

Via NetSquared :
Games are “growing up”. Like documentary film before them, they are now transitioning from an entertainment-only medium into a vehicle able to engage serious and social-issue content. Game technologies provide an extraordinary opportunity for learning, civic engagement and social change around some of the most pressing issues of our day: poverty, climate change, racial inequities, global conflicts. Games allow players an environment to explore complex issues and their interrelated variables in a way that one-way media such as film and television cannot. “Situated learning” where players learn by interacting with the content has been shown to foster a deeper relationship to the material and a “safe” place to practice new behaviors.

Games for Change (G4C) aims to bring about concrete positive social change in the real world through supporting the emerging field of digital games. These new games not only involve the user in dedicated and sustained engagement in the issues facing them, but they aim to move the users to take their new knowledge one step further: taking action in the real world.
Topics range from human rights to economics, public policy to public health, poverty to environment and global conflict to news and politics.

Games like " A Seat at the Table illustrates the root causes of global poverty and hunger, and let’s you navigate the choices that will determine how much you and your family will eat. Ayiti: The Cost of Life is a game that challenges its players to manage a rural family of five in Haiti over four years and keep them healthy, get them educated, and help them survive.Pictures for truth is a full 3d adventure game where you play a journalist in China. You will take picture and publish article to help about human right related trouble". (link)

View the list of games here and let us know what you think about them.

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Bringing Art to Art Lovers Through Technology

You may be a person who loves art and knows what it feels like to be mesmerized by a work of art. You may know what it is like to swim in a pool of colours, to glance behind the lines, to be transported to a totally different world as soon as you set eyes on a work of art that speaks to you. You may have devoured, gaped and stared longingly at the huge books on art that your library stocked and remember every minute detail mentioned in these books. But it is not always possible to access or view these masterpieces (maybe you cannot take a trip to the museum on the other side of the world or maybe you just aren't allowed to see them). Would it surprise you if I said that technology has the answer?

From the article "Google brings masterpieces from Prado direct to armchair art lovers"

The Madrid museum and the internet search giant today unveil the first use of Google's mapping programme to allow art lovers to get so close to their favourite paintings that even the brush strokes are visible.

"It allows people to see the main masterworks in the museum as they never have done before," the museum said. "You can see details that the human eye alone is unable to see."

Fourteen of the Prado's masterpieces – including works by Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez and Hieronymus Bosch – can be seen online in almost microscopic detail. The technology allows internet users to fly across the surface of the canvases, homing in on details that would be invisible to the naked eye if they visited the Madrid gallery in person.

The Google Earth images have a resolution of 14,000 megapixels, some 1,400 times greater than a picture taken on a standard 10 megapixel camera. They were sewn together digitally from more than 8,000 high-resolution photographs of sections of the paintings.

A behind-the-scenes video of how this project was made possible and its outcome:

Meanwhile, in India, another project has allowed for the display of the inaccessible Chola murals from the Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur.

Via Frontline
IN a remarkable feat performed in the face of overwhelming odds, two officers of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and a young photographer have photographed in minute detail four huge frescoes found in the Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. What makes their work all the more creditable is the difficult location of the murals, their enormous size and their reflecting surface, all of which posed big challenges.

If most visitors had hitherto no access to these paintings because of their location, they can now relish the paintings' exact photographic reproductions, which are on display at the newly opened Interpretation Centre on the temple premises.

Satyamurthy said: "The ASI, Chennai Circle, therefore, undertook a project to photograph the murals, prepare photographic reproductions and display them in almost their true size and original colours. This effort required special techniques because of paucity of space, poor lighting and the enormous size of the murals. They had to be photographed in many small frames and then joined to make one frame. This effort needed high skill."

Sriraman said: "What is seen in the paintings is seen in the frames. We have assembled the photographs without loss of perspective. Anybody can see the paintings in their original dimensions in our photographs." He explained why the ASI decided to go public with the paintings: "Documentation is important because people of the next generation should know that these paintings existed. Recopying is important. In photography, you get accurate reproduction."
Read about how the photographs were taken and the importance of these photographs for art-historians as well as the general public.

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How are E-books Doing in Brazil?

Last year, we had posted an article on the possible cause of high prices of books in Brazil. We have also often featured the views, opinions and practices adopted by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho (here, here and here). Today, we take a look at whether e-books are becoming a trend in Brazil or not.

Via Global Voices
Does the distribution of free e-books, or parts of it, work well also for other Brazilian writers? Would there be any competition between e-book and paper book for writers other than the magical Coelho? In looking at the universe of e-books in the Brazilian blogosphere, one immediately notices that numerous authors are making their work available online as a means to spread the word about it. There are websites and blogs created solely for this purpose.

The Overmundo [pt] initiative is a collaborative effort created specifically to disseminate Brazilian cultural production which does not get coverage in the mainstream media. Aside from keeping a cultural database to house the works, including e-books, the Overmundo website has the Overblog [pt] resource, which is a blog to discuss the works available on their website.

Aside from these collective initiatives, there are also writers who are bloggers themselves and publish their texts, or parts of them, independently online for their readers. Some renowned Brazilian poets are doing just that, such us the poet Frederico Barbosa [pt]. He is making available his entire collection in e-books, even in translations, but he also provides links to whoever wants to purchase paper copies. With a consolidated career, he seems to see no contradiction between e-publication and paper publication, his main interest being that the poetry reaches the reader, in whatever way they prefer.

Brazilian writers, publishing houses and government are betting on the dissemination of literary works on the Internet, seeing that there is more complementarity than competition amongst digital and paper medias - at least in times where the reader still prefers to read on paper.
Read many more examples here.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pratham Books and Central Manor : A Multi-cultural Collaboration

So, we started our New Year with a bang! Here, we had just come back with big wide smiles and happy hearts after our success at the Bihar Reading Improvement Program and then we were having a reading session across the globe. Read on...

Via PM Technology Blog

Students at Central Manor recently had the opportunity to sharpen their reading skills while participating in the district’s first international voice call. Via Skype, students spoke with Gautam John, a representative from Pratham Books in Bangalore India. Pratham Books is a non-profit trust dedicated to publishing high-quality children’s books in multiple languages. Pratham has generously donated several books to the Central Manor Library collection.

Mr. John was treated to a private reading of books by two Central Manor students. First up was a book about automatic cow milking practices. Our students learned that in India most cows are still milked by hand; a process that takes up to 20 minutes. Next, a student read a book about Pennsylvania geography. Mr. John and CM students also spent some time talking about differences and similarities between PA and India.

While the call took place at 10AM EST, it was 8:30 P.M. in Gautam’s homeland. A big thank you to Pratham Books and the staff at Central Manor for helping our students develop a critical 21st Century skill: multi-cultural collaboration. We look forward to cultivating a long-term relationship with our new friends in India.

We look forward to many more of such exciting collaborations. Stay tuned!

Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl

On this blog, we have posted articles of how people are combating violations of their human rights and also about learning how to create more awareness about their rights. Recently, trouble has been brewing in Pakistan as a ban on girls' education has been imposed by the Taleban in the north-western Swat district. BBC News has entries(here and here) from the diary of a young schoolgirl.
I was in a bad mood while going to school because winter vacations are starting from tomorrow. The principal announced the vacations but did not mention the date the school was to reopen. This was the first time this has happened.

In the past the reopening date was always announced clearly. The principal did not inform us about the reason behind not announcing the school reopening, but my guess was that the Taleban had announced a ban on girls' education from 15 January.

This time round, the girls were not too excited about vacations because they knew if the Taleban implemented their edict they would not be able to come to school again. Some girls were optimistic that the schools would reopen in February but others said that their parents had decided to shift from Swat and go to other cities for the sake of their education.

Since today was the last day of our school, we decided to play in the playground a bit longer. I am of the view that the school will one day reopen but while leaving I looked at the building as if I would not come here again.
And a video to remind us of the rights we all are entitled to:

Friday, January 23, 2009

From the World of Books

Let us flip through the pages (erm, click through the sites) of cyberspace and find out what is happening in the world of books.

1. Have blogs been good for books?

Pratham Books jumped on to the blogging bandwagon in 2008. Through our blog, we have been able to share some of our books, receive feedback, get opinions on new ideas and do several other things. Like our blog, there have been several others that have mushroomed rapidly across cyberspace. Robert McCrum presents his views on the effect of this phenomenon:
I've read somewhere that, across the world, there are about 175,000 new blogs launched every day. That's two new blogs a second, a truly awesome statistic from the global IT revolution of our times. Since I joined The Observer as literary editor in 1996, the world of print seems to have been in continuous transition.

People - readers - complain about change, but I like it. Change is good, and change has served global literature well, on balance. The world of books is in better shape than for a very long time.
What's not in doubt is that it's a huge democratic moment: more people than ever before are being able to share their ideas and feelings with a global audience, and to engage in a vivid contemporary dialogue about the meaning of culture, in books, film, music, theatre and art.
How bad can that be?
2. In other news, read about "The Triumph of the Readers".
According to a recent report from the National Endowment for the Arts, our Nashville library is bearing out a national trend. For the first time in more than 25 years, the number of people reading fiction is on the rise.
In these new and improved numbers of readers given to us by the NEA, the most heartening rise is in the 18-to-24-year-old group, the ones who seem to have been born with iPod buds stuck in their ears. They've recently taken the biggest bump up in readership after years of the most significant decline. But doesn't it make sense? This is the first crop of newly minted adults who were raised up on Harry Potter novels. They came of age attending midnight release parties at their local bookstores and then faking mysterious illnesses the next day for the absolute necessity of staying in bed to read.

I am a firm believer in the fact that it isn't so much what you read, it's that you read. Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we've never met, living lives we couldn't possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character's skin.
Read the entire article here.

3. On a lighter note, compete in the literary Olympics.

4. And some trivia on lost manuscripts
Bestselling thriller writer Robert Ludlum wrote his first novel - "a literary effort", as he called it - while a young man in the US marines. He lost the manuscript after a long drinking session while on leave in San Francisco. When he returned to writing fiction in the 1970s he was cured of literary pretensions.
Have a great weekend!

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