Saturday, February 28, 2009

Announcements

1. LAST DAY TO SEND IN YOUR ENTRIES FOR THE "READ INDIA BRAND NAME CHANGE CONTEST"

Today is the last day for you to send in your entries for our "Read India Brand Name Change Contest". For those of you who have already sent it in, thank you all for submitting your entries. And those who haven't, read the contest details here. Mail us at contest@prathambooks.org to submit your entries.


2.DISCOVERY STUDENT ADVENTURES PILOT TRIP APPLICATION NOW OPEN!
In 2010, Discovery Education will launch Discovery Student Adventures, education-based international trips to eight destinations including: Arctic, Australia, China, Cost Rica, Ecuador/Galapagos Islands, Italy/Greece, New Zealand/Fiji Islands, and South Africa.

To effectively integrate educator feedback into these inaugural trips, a select group of educators will have the opportunity to travel with Discovery in the summer of 2009 as part of a one-time special opportunity to pilot a Discovery Student Adventure trip.

Educators will serve as chaperones to a group of students, and once selected for a trip will be able to select four students, who must meet the Discovery Student Adventures selection criteria. Student selection criteria will be given at time of acceptance. Travel program will be at no cost to the selected educators and students.We are looking for educators that teach 5th through 12th grade. (Link)
More details here.


3. N2Y4 MOBILE CHALLENGE LAUNCHED
N2Y4's Mobile Challenge calls for your world-changing ideas of how mobile applications can help citizens, groups and others create a better world for everybody.

Submissions are now open for your mobile Projects but the deadline is April 3rd, so get yours in today! (Link)
Learn more about N2Y4 and participate!


4. ANNOUNCING THE FREE! SUMMIT

Via The Long Tail
“As regular readers of this site know, I'm pretty passionate about how businesses need to understand the economics of "free" in figuring out how to create business models that work. So, I'm excited to announce that I'll be hosting and emceeing the newly announced Free! Summit, to be held in Silicon Valley on May 11th.

Also, we're very much looking for individuals or organizations interested in presenting case studies on how they've used free as a part of their business model. We already have a few lined up, but feel free to suggest others of interest.
5. YOUR TWEETS COULD MAKE IT TO A BOOK
Twitter Wit is a book of Twitter’s wittiest messages, edited by Nick Douglas and coming out Fall 2009 from HarperCollins. Want to contribute? Just log in and tell us which of your tweets you’d like to see in print. (Link via biz)
Image Source: betsystreeter

Friday, February 27, 2009

Build Your Own Magazine

If you had the opportunity to pick and choose from a range of articles and compile your own magazine, what would your magazine contain?

Via PSFK :
HSBC recently surprised travelers at Heathrow Airport with a temporary, build-your-own magazine shop, where patrons were given the opportunity to pick and mix articles they liked from various mags to create their own ‘perfect travel companion’. Over the two week event created by Cunning, 2,030 customized magazines were created, and more than 7,000 travelers visited the stand.



Buy an Album and Hang Out With the Artist

Another instance of musicians trying out different strategies to engage with their fans:

If you've ever fancied going miniature golfing with Tool's Maynard James Keenan, Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh and Nine Inch Nails' former drummer ... this may be your chance.

Josh Freese, official drummer for Devo, A Perfect Circle, the Vandals, and at various other times, NIN, Guns N' Roses, Sting, Ween and the Offspring – is releasing his solo album. And whereas most artists are content with CD, vinyl and digital download versions, Freese is more ambitious. Not only is the American musician offering a $50 (£25) version that comes with a T-shirt and five-minute "thank you" phone call – for $10,000 (£4,987) you can also have his car.

It's certainly an original strategy for combating piracy. Why illegally download the album, called Since 1972, when for $500 (£249) you can get a signed CD, T-shirt, cymbal, and then join Freese for a dip in a sensory-deprivation tank and supper at Sizzler?

And what will a fan who pays $75,000 get? Find out here.

Also read: Music and Business Models and How 'Free' Became a Best Seller

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Send in Your Entries: The Read India Brand Name Change Contest

Pratham Books needs a new brand name for its range of books. Currently our books go under the Read India imprint. We need a new name for a new imprint.

Some of you may have already sent in your entries. For those of you who haven't : HURRY! The contest ends on 28th February, 2009.

Find more details on the contest here: The Read India Brand Name Change Contest.

So, put on your thinking caps and send in your entries to contest@prathambooks.org .

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Siftables: David Merrill's Smart Blocks

One word that sums up this video is "WOW"!

Take a look at David Merrill's work on Siftables, tiny computer blocks which he says will "bring information into our worlds on our terms"

View the demo here.

Via kottke.org
I find most interesting about Siftables is that the blocks form a computer that doesn't need instructions but it doesn't seem like a computer at all, i.e. the Holy Grail of computing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

StoryBank- Using Mobiles to Share Stories

Via receiver magazine

For the last two years, Frohlich and Jones have worked together on StoryBank, a project enabling textual and computer illiterate people to build a repository of audio-visual content via camera phones. Here's their report from Budikote, a village in rural India.

Mobile phones are having a particular impact, and the StoryBank project, based in a rural Indian region, has been looking at ways of using them to enable technology-poor villagers to participate in and benefit from content creation and sharing activities. Skipping the text-based internet paradigm altogether, the project is exploring how camera phones and a library of digital stories (the story-bank) can be used to extend existing initiatives in community radio.

While village textual literacy rates are low, visual and oral expression thrive.

The starting point for the StoryBank project then, was a sense that the villagers had valuable stories and information to share, which might be extended with new technology. In particular, the way they currently told stories with pictures and music might be used to enliven radio content, or could be captured and shared in new ways... These included widening participation through making stories on a mobile phone, using photographs as illustrations, and providing 'listen again' facilities in a convenient location.

So the system we've built has at its heart a large touch screen display in the village's community resource centre. This is a place where self-help groups gather, school children hang out and other villagers often pass through for information or to bump into their friends. Then, there are the mobile phones, Nokia N80s, donated by Nokia, a partner in the project. Villagers make short stories of up to six images and a two-minute audio track on the phones. They can then go to the community centre and donate their content to the StoryBank. Alternatively, they might want to share their story with others – the phone has a special-purpose media player and stories can be transferred to other phones over Bluetooth. All of the stories are available for browsing on the StoryBank screen – groups can watch them together and they can be downloaded to the phones for later viewing.

The system gave a public voice to many more people in the village than ever before. People of all ages, castes and occupations were involved – school children and young people were particularly enthusiastic, but other groups also participated – including farmers, labourers, health workers, auto drivers, teachers, cleaners, shopkeepers, carpenters and housewives. This wide participation of people in the trial reflected the usability of our phone and display interfaces, and shows that it is possible to create and share digital content without any textual input and output, or prior knowledge of multimedia editing tools and computers.
Read more on this interesting project here. You can also visit the StoryBank website here.

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"Sita Sings the Blues" to Air on PBS

Those of you who are not familiar with the copyright debate that ensued over Nina Paley's "Sita Sings the Blues", you can read more here and here.

Meanwhile, "Sita Sings the Blues" will be aired on PBS.

Via boingboing
This is the critically acclaimed short film that blends Hindu traditional stories with jazz-era music, whose distribution has been stopped by an unforeseen copyright claim on some of the 1920s music that is integral to the film.
Via beliefnet
"As engaging as the film is, explaining it is tricky: along with traditional 2-D animation there are cutouts, collages, photographs and scenes with hand-painted watercolors as the backdrop. At certain points Ms. Paley mixes laughs with exposition by having three flat silhouette characters dispute the details of the Ramayana's tragic saga of the Hindu goddess Sita, who is exiled by her husband, Rama, who fears she has been unfaithful after she is abducted by a demon king. At other points Ms. Paley weaves in the story of her own collapsing marriage, and the time switches from ancient India to present-day San Francisco and Manhattan, the images hand-drawn and jittery. In between everything else are flash-animation musical numbers featuring Sita in voluptuous Betty Boop-like form -- almond-shaped head, saucer eyes and swaying hips -- accompanied by the warbling voice of a real-life flapper-era singer named Annette Hanshaw."

Stories, Stories and More Stories

1. A SHORT STORY EVERY WEEK ( Via harperstudio)

Over at HarperPerennial Cal Morgan has started a blog called Fifty-Two Stories, publishing one short story per week for an entire year. If you subscribe you’ll receive a short story every Sunday in your web feed. Most will be new stories, but they’ll include some classics too.

2. JOHN CHEEVER STORY REVIVED ONLINE (Via Open Culture)

John Cheever’s story “Of Love: A Testimony” hasn’t been anthologized or reprinted since it was originally published in 1943. Now, you can find it online at Fivechapters.com. Throughout the week, Fivechapters will roll out the story in nice daily installments, as is their general custom.

3. The BURGOMEISTER'S BOOKS

Via truly-free.org
So, this venue was established in early 2007 to encompass works published between 1930 and the present; to provide them freely, like Gutenberg, in universal textual form.

Of course, we're talking about ebooks... my ebooks. My personal backups. But since you've dropped by, I'm happy to lend them to you. Naturally you'll delete these books when you've finished - your way of returning them.

Pixton for Creating Comics : Create/Share/Remix

At Pixton, you can create a comic without having to draw it. Design your own character. Want them to look darker? Or maybe fatter? Or would they look better with long hair? Hmm, maybe not! Ok, lets try short hair. And lets not forget about the style statement they can make with their clothes. Make them look like they are doing a dance, or running around, or wave at you. What about expressions? Yes, that too. Add props and change the scenes where your characters are set in.

One exciting feature is that the site doesn't limit the creation of a comic to just English. You can even choose to create in Norsk, Deutsch, Eesti, Polski and even Devnagari!! The site claims to autotranslate comics from 20 languages.

Try your hand at creating a comic and leave us a note so we can see it too. Happy creating!

You can start creating your own comics or browse through comics created by others here.

Pratham Books is Having a Chocolaticious Day

Did we not tell you what big foodies we are? No? Did you really miss this, this and this?

Yesterday, we did mention that a big bag of chocolates crash landed in our office. We now provide you with the incriminating evidence:



If you drop in to our Bangalore office, we may share some goodies with you :).

Food Phrases Explained

A month or so ago, we posted a link titled "The Sciene Behind Some Popular Phrases ". Today, about how some 'food phrases' came into existence.
“Not worth his salt.” In Roman times, salt was a highly valued commodity used for trading. To say a soldier was not worth his salt was the same as saying he wasn’t worth his salary; he was absolutely worthless.

Money is sometimes called “dough” or “bread” because money is what puts the bread on the table. By that logic, the two are basically interchangeable.

“Cool as a cucumber” exists because the high water content of a cucumber keeps them pretty cold. Lettuce and celery both have high water contents as well, but I guess “cool as lettuce” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

“Apple of my eye” is thought to have originated from an old English idea that the pupil of the eye was solid, like an apple. So the “apple of my eye” is the pupil of my eye. I guess that sort of poetically means what catches my attention most.
More 'food phrases' explained here.

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Slumdog Millionaire and Book Sales

Via guardian.co.uk

Director Danny Boyle won't be the only person in raptures at the board-sweeping success of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars last night: Vikas Swarup, author of the book on which the film is based, is also likely to be rubbing his hands together in glee.

Swarup's Q&A, the colourful tale of how an 18-year-old boy from the slums manages to win one billion rupees on a television game show, was ticking along at a perfectly average rate before Boyle filmed it for the big screen as Slumdog Millionaire, selling some 35,000 copies since publication three years ago, according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan.

But the film's initial success at the Golden Globes in January, coupled with pre-Oscar buzz, means the novel has sold the same amount of copies in the last month-and-a-half, according to the Bookseller, which reports that the paperback film tie-in edition has sold 35,666 copies since it was published on 2 January this year.

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Tweet Tweet, Meet Our Friends

Tweet tweet! You do know that we are on twitter right? Some interesting tweets from some of our friends and the people we follow on Twitter:

JustOneMoreBook led us to the Mini Book Expo For Bloggers. Claim it-Read it-Blog it.

jonbard sends you to find out if you need an illustrator for your picture book manuscript.

frankejames sent us to discover a best-selling book written with only 50 words.

cinnamonteal's re-tweet of Luludotcom's tweet shed some light on author royalties and traditional publishing vs self-publishing.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Dean Gorissen's Illustrations for a Chocolate-y Day

We started off the week with a HUGE bag of chocolates crash landing in our office. So, while we binged on chocolates we stumbled across Dean Gorissen's illustrations which perfectly suited the moment.
Dean Gorissen recently completed illustrations for the TWIX ‘pause’ campaign across the gulf region in the Middle East. The Campaign, utilizing posters, press and TV, shows multitudes of people rushing about in Parks, Markets, City Streets and encourages them to pause, take a moment and enjoy a Twix.
Seen below are details from "Souk".

Link

Will a Crowdsourced Novel Work?

Remember this post on how James Patterson was inviting 28 other authors to write the world's first online chain story in 30 days? But will this work?

Via louisgray.com
Now we have AirBorne, "the world's first chain novel inspired by James Patterson." The concept is that best selling thriller writer Patterson will write the first and last chapter of this "crowdsourced" novel. The 28 of 30 "middle chapters" will be written by selected writers, who get the honor of writing one chapter apiece. Presumably, the writer of chapter 14 has to wait until the first 13 chapters are completed, or have a strong idea of what's going on in the story, to pick things up. That fact alone must have made this project a logistically challenging one.

It will be interesting to see how viral and popular (and airborne?) a project such as AirBorne can get. While chapters are limited to a lean 750 words a pop, will people be keen to churn through it for 30 straight days -- a lifetime in the online realm? And that's to say nothing for the editorial challenge of maintaining some form of stylistic and storytelling consistency through a cavalcade of 29 writers (including one battle-hardened pro) telling one tale.
Via ReadWriteWeb
Although the James Patterson novel is more of a marketing campaign than anything else - and, in this case, the "crowd" is actually a hand-picked selection of aspiring writers - it's still interesting to see such a widely-read writer embracing the co-writing trend. While those passionate about the subject may say this particular effort doesn't qualify since it isn't truly written by "the crowd," it's events like this that take the general idea behind the trend and cross it over to where it can make a mark on the minds of the mainstream.
What remains to be seen at this point is whether a crowdsourced, co-written novel can actually be any good.

Book Nooks for Kids in Bangalore

Where can your kids go to hang out with some books in Bangalore?

livemint.com tells us where:
Libraries are not places with shelves full of dusty books only. Loads of play space, art material, movies and acting sessions, you get all this and more at children’s libraries in Bangalore. We visited three to find out why going to library is more fun than watching TV.

I-Cue, JPNagar, Phase II

Books apart: At I-Cue a child can paint and do craftwork in the art room or just learn more in the computer room. “The idea is to create a space that doesn’t seem like a boring library. Once the kids get familiar with the space, they stroll over to the book shelves and leaf through the books on their own,” says Simha. Children can also join the book club where they can exchange notes on the books they’ve read with their peers.

Hippocampus, Koramangala

Hippocampus was started by Umesh and Vimala Malhotra who missed a place in the city where their five-year-old son could could learn, play, read and interact with other children. “We spent a year in the US and when we came back we didn’t understand why Bangalore didn’t have a decent public library,” says Malhotra. So they started Hippocampus six years ago with the aim of making reading fun. Hippocampus has a large collection of books that children can borrow and they can also participate in various club activities. Hippocampus also helps people set up neighbourhood libraries and works with 70 government schools to set up libraries and encourage reading habits.

Booky Bob, JP Nagar

“Kids initially come in grudgingly, thinking it’s going to be boring like their school libraries but soon they pester their parents to bring them here,” says Ghazala Anjum, activity coordinator at Booky Bob. The interactive library houses at least 5,000 books and is open after school hours (4pm) and 7pm and on weekends. Memberships to Booky Bob are of two kinds—the Whiz package includes a graded reading programme (where two qualified teachers work with children on improving their language skills) and the Ace programme which includes weekend activities.
Click here to know more about these libraries.

Tell us about your kids favourite library or recommend other libraries.

2,500 Languages Disappearing

Via Global Voices
An interactive map of endangered languages, showing 2,500 out of 6,000 tongues at risk, has been released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The international organization asks users to contribute comments to a project that has many bloggers worried about preserving cultures.
Some of the things that bloggers had to say:
We need to prize bio-diversity, cultural and racial diversity, and linguistic diversity because we lose too much by becoming homogenized into one big, white, English-speaking society.
And...
Why do we insist on romanticizing ancient languages that arguably noone wants to speak anymore? What about the hundreds of new programming languages that have sprung up in the past decades? Or the infinite variations of English that people are adopting and “remixing” to make their own around the world?
Via guardian.co.uk
"We as human beings should care about this in the same way as we should care about the loss of the world's variety of plants and animals, its biodiversity," said Christopher Moseley, editor-in-chief of the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. "Because each language is a uniquely structured world of thought, with its own associations, metaphors, ways of thinking, vocabulary, sound system and grammar - all working together in a marvellous architectural structure which is so fragile that it could easily be lost forever."

The modern world plays its part. A once healthy language dies because its speakers shift allegiances to that of a bigger, more powerful group of people, and, while this can happen through political pressure and military force, it is now most often brought about by the flood of migration from the country to the city. Perhaps unsurprisingly, two of the countries where the risk is greatest are India and Brazil, which are undergoing rapid economic transformations. "[These trends] often bring about the loss of traditional ways of life and a strong pressure to speak a dominant language that is - or is perceived to be - necessary for full civic participation and economic advancement," said Unesco.
Read "Worldwide: 2,500 Languages Disappearing" and "Words of warning: 2,500 languages under threat worldwide as migrants head for city"

Also read an earlier post on "Preserving Local Languages"

Bookie Woogie

Bookie Woogie is a children's book review blog which includes the entire family in the process of reading.
Welcome to Bookie Woogie, a children's book review blog by three kids and their dad.

What makes Bookie Woogie different from other review blogs?
Well, instead of hearing what grown-ups think about books for kids, you'll hear from some kids themselves. You'll see how these particular three kids' minds work... what elements they pick up on... what parts of a story are important to them.
A snippet from BookieWoogie:
Lily: The waves were wanting to splash the girl because she stuck out her tongue.
Gracie: There was a lot of splashing. The waves were getting bigger!
Isaac: It was like, Uh oh - that's not going to be good!
Gracie: The waves were HUGE! OH MY GOODNESS! Too big to fit on the page!
Dad: ...then - Crash!
Join them as they discover a book and put up a post every Monday. And you MUST keep a lookout for the adorable drawings produced by each kid that is inspired by the books they read.

Also read "Children's Books Reviewed by Children"

Migy's Illustrations

Migy has a trunk full of fun illustrations on his site. Meet Cyclopes, Medusa and a host of other characters in their bright and colourful avataars!

Medusa is an unhappy sort of girl. Having snakes for hair doesn't help much. She gets up in the morning and she cant do a thing with them. She tried all the latest styles. But no matter what she does they keep on moving from here to there. She really does have terrible hair.In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king.
Hop over to Migy's site to take a look at the rest of his work.

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P for Pratham Books, P for Participating

Some of you may have noticed that Pratham Books is:

T for Tweeting...

We are also:

B for Blogging

F for Flickr-ing (and also Facebook-ing)

N for Ning-ing

Sending updates on G for Google Groups

S for Scribd-ing

Y for YouTube-ing

Come 'C for Connect' with us by clicking on any of the above links!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Breakfast Serials

If you are wondering about the headline, yes it is spelt correctly. Serial and not cereal! PaperTigers tells us the entire story...
Author Linda Sue Park has a new novel out called A Long Walk to Water, “based on the true story of Salva Dut, a Sudanese refugee who fled his home village at the age of eleven because of war.

... don’t look for Salva’s story at you favorite bookstore—you won’t find it there. Instead, look for it in your local newspaper, as a “Breakfast Serial.”

Since 1996, Breakfast Serials have been taking novel-length pieces of original fiction and syndicating them for publication in newspapers, one chapter a week, in the U.S. and abroad. “A simpler, more popular literature that appeals to new audience sets”, these serials were originally aimed at young people “who know how to read but choose not to,” but their popularity soon captured the attention of adults as well. Their goal, as stated on their website, is “to refresh the reading experience in a new and convenient context and to forward the process of human attachment by way of an unfolding story.” A very nice concept that has people talking and trying to figure out “what happens next.”

Every Breakfast Serial installment is accompanied by full-color or b/w illustrations—something that sets them apart from novels published in book format, which usually aren’t illustrated. You can see two sample chapters of A Long Walk to Water, illustrated by Jim Averbeck, here.

In a moment when many are turning to online and wireless reading, how refreshing it is to know that great children’s stories are being printed and read in the pages of newspapers!
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5 More Random Things About Pratham Books

Picking up from where Gautam John left off on the "5 random things about Pratham Books", Kanchan Bannerjee compiled the following list:

1.We like to collect children's books wherever we go - including in Swahili (in this case the illustrations decided the choice).

2.We have 'foodie' discussions a lot.

3. We love having events for kids.

4. We are thrilled when we have first-time people posting on our blog.

5. We speak Ubuntu - prefer to use open software .

Some of you may notice how food and Ubuntu seem to play a BIG BIG BIG role in the Pratham Books universe :).

Those of you who missed the previous 5 random things, click here.

Tinkering School

The 'Tinkering School' looks like an absolutely fun place to be. If I was a kid, I wouldn't want to leave this school! Looks like oodles of fun, fireworks of creativity, a huge box of enthusiasm, a sky full of inquisitiveness and a whole lot of madness (of the nice kind!).

Tinkering school is "a place where children where children can pick up sticks, and hammers, and other dangerous objects and be trusted. Trusted not to hurt themselves, trusted not to hurt others. It's a place where children are given the freedom to build, and destroy, and fail in a way that is very different from how they are now taught at school or home".

Two years ago, software engineer and tinkerer Gever Tulley told us five dangerous things you should let your kids do. He returned in 2009 to give us an update about Tinkering School, his part-lab-part-summer-camp where kids use power tools to create amazing things ... like roller coasters!

We'll be posting Gever's new talk soon -- but he'd like you to go ahead and check out this webcomic version of his 2009 talk.

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The Micropayment Debate

Bits and pieces of conversation we overheard from people on blogosphere...

From "You Can't Sell News by the Slice" (Via The New York Times)
Micropayments are systems that make it easy to pay small amounts of money. You could pay a nickel to read an article, or a dime for a whole day's newspaper.

Well, maybe. But it would be a first. Newspaper readers have never paid for the content (words and photos). What they have paid for is the paper that content is printed on. A week of The Washington Post weighs about eight pounds and costs $1.81 for new subscribers, home-delivered. With newsprint (that's the paper, not the ink) costing around $750 a metric ton, or 34 cents a pound, Post subscribers are getting almost a dollar's worth of paper free every week - not to mention the ink, the delivery, etc.

If the only effect of the Internet on newspapers was a drastic reduction in their distribution costs, publishers could probably keep a bit of that savings, rather than passing all of it and more on to the readers. But the Internet has also increased competition - not just from new media but among newspapers as well. Or rather, it has introduced competition into an industry legendary for its monopoly power.
From "How to Save Your Newspaper" (Via Time)
Newspapers and magazines traditionally have had three revenue sources: newsstand sales, subscriptions and advertising. The new business model relies only on the last of these. That makes for a wobbly stool even when the one leg is strong. When it weakens — as countless publishers have seen happen as a result of the recession — the stool can't possibly stand.

In addition, our two most creative digital innovators have shown that a pay-per-drink model can work when it's made easy enough: Steve Jobs got music consumers (of all people) comfortable with the concept of paying 99 cents for a tune instead of Napsterizing an entire industry, and Jeff Bezos with his Kindle showed that consumers would buy electronic versions of books, magazines and newspapers if purchases could be done simply.

When I used to go fishing in the bayous of Louisiana as a boy, my friend Thomas would sometimes steal ice from those machines outside gas stations. He had the theory that ice should be free. We didn't reflect much on who would make the ice if it were free, but fortunately we grew out of that phase. Likewise, those who believe that all content should be free should reflect on who will open bureaus in Baghdad or be able to fly off as freelancers to report in Rwanda under such a system.

I think it is valuable and should be valued by its consumers. Charging for content forces discipline on journalists: they must produce things that people actually value. I suspect we will find that this necessity is actually liberating. The need to be valued by readers — serving them first and foremost rather than relying solely on advertising revenue — will allow the media once again to set their compass true to what journalism should always be about.
From "Why Small Payments Won’t Save Publishers" (Via shirky.com)

Because small payment systems are always discussed in conversations by and for publishers, readers are assigned no independent role. In every micropayments fantasy, there is a sentence or section asserting that what the publishers want will be just fine with us, and, critically, that we will be possessed of no desires of our own that would interfere with that fantasy.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the media business is being turned upside down by our new freedoms and our new roles. We’re not just readers anymore, or listeners or viewers. We’re not customers and we’re certainly not consumers. We’re users. We don’t consume content, we use it, and mostly what we use it for is to support our conversations with one another, because we’re media outlets now too. When I am talking about some event that just happened, whether it’s an earthquake or a basketball game, whether the conversation is in email or Facebook or Twitter, I want to link to what I’m talking about, and I want my friends to be able to read it easily, and to share it with their friends.

Newspapers can’t entice us into small payment systems, because we care too much about our conversation with one another, and they can’t force us into such systems...

The internet really is a revolution for the media ecology, and the changes it is forcing on existing models are large. What matters at newspapers and magazines isn’t publishing, it’s reporting. We should be talking about new models for employing reporters rather than resuscitating old models for employing publishers; the more time we waste fantasizing about magic solutions for the latter problem, the less time we have to figure out real solutions to the former one.
Meanwhile "Kachingle Coordinates Microdonations to Get Content Creators Paid" (Via PSFK)
Kachingle is a new service that looks like it could bridge the gap between scattered micropayments and free content.

Kachingle acts as a distributor of microdonations. Member sites would sign up and place a Kachingle badge on their page. Readers pledge to send a monthly payment to Kachingle - $5.00, $10.00, $100.00 or whatever they want. Then, Kachingle distributes that money proportionately amongst the partner sites you’ve visited over the month. So, if you visited PSFK 50 times, and The New York Times 50 times, your pledge would be split evenly, and so on.
Image Source: jus.Luc's

Alice in Digital Land

American artist Maggie Taylor's fresh take on "Alice in Wonderland"...

Via BBC
A new exhibition, at the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock, sees Lewis Carroll's intrepid Alice entering a wonderland of impossible landscapes and intriguing panoramas that not only distort space and time but reality as well...


...the exhibition showcases the fresh and fantastical illustrations created for a new version of Alice in Wonderland...

Using a range of snapshots, plastic animals and glittering, mirror-like 19th century daguerreotypes Maggie creates her works by stitching, manipulating and layering individual images together...

...to create composite images that are not only dream-like and surreal but bizarrely in focus and real.
Travel to Alice's digital wonderland by clicking here.

Also read "Let Alice (from Wonderland) Help You Navigate"

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Edible Prints


Toast, Egg, Bacon, Beans and a dose of ketchup! Mmmm, an English breakfast! Or maybe you could just chomp on an "English Breakfast" print on rice paper and satiate your hunger?

Via sawatanaka:
A series of screenprints on rice paper using only food, i.e. cream, flour, fruit juice and food colouring.
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Rising Demand for Pakistani Fiction

Saeed Shah examines where Pakistani fiction and writers are heading in his article titled "As their country descends into chaos, Pakistani writers are winning acclaim".

Pakistani novelists writing in English - long overshadowed by literary giants from neighbouring India - are now winning attention and acclaim as their country sinks into violence and chaos.

Tales of religious extremism, class divides, dictators, war and love have come from writers who grew up largely in Pakistan and now move easily between London, Karachi, New York and Lahore. Since the publication of Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist two years ago, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, a new wave of Pakistani fiction is earning critical acclaim at home and around the world.

"Some of us have been writing for many years but suddenly we've had four or five novels coming out together and that's created a buzz," said Shamsie, whose latest work is an ambitious story that starts off in Second World War Japan and moves to post-9/11 Afghanistan. "Indian writing has been established for 25 years or more, since Midnight's Children (Salman Rushdie's book, published in 1981). Pakistani writing is very much in its infancy.

"Pakistani writing is like the new young fast bowler on the scene but Indian writing is like the spinner who's been going for years and whose greatness is assumed."

Pakistan and India remain enemies but the most sought-after commodity in the Indian publishing industry now seems to be Pakistani authors, who are perceived to be be producing a grittier and more engaged style of work.

"Great fiction comes from the tension that produces those dramatic political developments. Pakistan has been going through really interesting times. As writers process that through their fiction, they're coming up with an art with a real urgency and personal need."
Read the entire article here.

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Sketchory: CC-licensed sketches

Next time you are looking for sketches for a presentation or a project, head over to Sketchory and choose from their vast pool of sketches.

Via boingboing

Philipp Lenssen sez, "Today we open our new site which features over 250,000 drawings for sharing, remixing and more! You can also embed an animation of every image as it's being drawn. The Creative Commons license also includes certain forms of commercial sharing, e.g. if you'd want to sell a book with cartoons from Sketchory (for up to 1000 sketches). Also, we hope that everyone can help tagging the pictures so that the exploration features and search will improve over time."
Sketchory

10 Take-Aways From the O’Reilly TOC Conference

The harperstudio blog has a list of 10 take-aways from the O’Reilly TOC Conference. Publishers, you listening?
1) Content should be customizable. The free version, premium version, phone version, etc. can all exist together. Let the customer drive the format and delivery and tell you how they want their content. Listen to your customer. Content needs to travel with a lot of functionality and social potential. Mobile reading is going to explode. Phones are everywhere.

2) Free and paid can co-exist. Don’t get caught in the “nobody will pay” mentality. People are paying for access to information. The internet is not free! People pay for basic service. “Paid is coming back big time.” — Tim O’Reilly We have to reinvent what it means to add value. As American Express says, “Membership has its privileges.”

3) Curation still matters. The job of a publisher is to confer status.

Read the entire list here.

Marta Antelo's Poster

Marta Antelo became the winner of the poster's contest for the 40th Book Fair in Valencia with this absolutely lovely poster. (Link)

I think it truly captures the magical quality of books!

You can also see other illustrations by Marta here

An Audio Computer for Rs.500

We have talked about Literacy Bridge and the work that they do in an earlier post on our blog. Pratham Books is also looking at collaborating with Literacy Bridge and using our material for a pilot program. More news on the Literacy Bridge project and their arrival in India...

Via MumbaiMirror.com
Literacy Bridge, a non-profit organisation based in the US, has developed a new “sub-$10 audio computer” called the Talking Book Device, which is designed to improve literacy skills and facilitate access to information for rural people living with poverty and disease.

Developed by ex-Microsoft program manager Cliff Schmidt, the gadget is essentially a low-cost digital audio player with built-in speakers and a standard 3.5mm audio jack.

When paired with textbooks, students can engage in comprehension and pronunciation activities, play back lessons at various speeds, skip ahead or backwards, define vocabulary words, engage in multiple-choice style question-and-answer sessions, and other interactive activities.

Schimidt is also actively working with the Akshara Foundation – a Bangalore-based non-profit that works towards complete child literacy.

While the device currently costs $10, initial estimates by the researchers show that importing it to Bangalore for trials would raise the cost to around $15 – which is hoped to be curbed further by subsidies, donations, and other sanctions.

“We have been actively involved with the foundation to run two pilot projects in India: One in Bangalore as an urban pilot and another in Hubli as a semi-urban/rural pilot project,” Schimidt said. “Akshara is very active at the grassroot levels and believes the gadget will be useful to children across the constituencies they serve.”

He also noted that further development on the Talking Book could see it meet its goal within a couple of years: An ‘audio computer’ for $5.
Read the entire article here and also learn about their pilot program in Ghana.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mixed Bag of Posts

1. TOYBANK- TOY DRIVES IN PUNE

Via NGO Post

Volunteers in Pune - get ready to join Toybank's toy drives in Panchvati, Pashan and Magarpatta. Toybank toy drives will be on in various buildings/societies in Panchvati.

Also there are toy drives happening in Juhu Vile Parle, Mumbai starting from 16th of February till 7th of March. Find out more here.

If you are interested please mail them at pune@toybank.org.


2. DIGITAL BOOKMARKS

Via bb gadgets

Mark-my-time would be my next timepiece, were it not for the fact that it is not the colorful retro wristwatch it appears to be, but instead a useful educational tool for children. Rubbery bookmarks that can be set to count up or down to a preset time, they're designed to help track how long a youngster's spent poring over the tomes.

3. UNTRANSLATABLE WORDS

Via Neatorama

Sometimes there are words that cannot be translated into another language without losing some of its meaning. According to the BBC and 1,000 linguists, the most difficult word to translate is "ilunga". A word in the Tshiluba language, which is spoken in south-east Congo. "Ilunga", when attempted to translate into English means "a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time".
4. MANAGEMENT STYLES OF THE RICH AND FICTIONAL

First on the list is Scrooge McDuck.

Via mental_floss
This self-made Scottish duck tycoon, with holdings in mines and mills, seems an almost infallible industrial titan. He does have a few cracks as a businessman, though. For one thing, the opportunity cost of keeping all of one’s money in a giant vault is vast. Even a conservative investment strategy could net Scrooge millions in interest each year, but he prefers to swim around in his coins instead. Also, Scrooge’s willingness to appoint his young, probably under-qualified nephews to key positions within his empire smacks of nepotism.

5. ART IN KENYAN SLUMS

Via Wooster Collective
Today, after more than a year of planning, 2000 square meters of rooftops have been covered with photos of the eyes and faces of the women of Kibera. The material used is water resistant so that the photo itself will protect the fragile houses in the heavy rain season. The train that passes on this line through Kibera at least twice a day has also been covered with eyes from the women that live below it. With the eyes on the train, the bottom half of the their faces have be pasted on corrugated sheets on the slope that leads down from the tracks to the rooftops. The idea being that for the split second the train passes, their eyes will match their smiles and their faces will be complete.

This new work, by far JR's most ambitious to date, can be seen from space and will be seen in Google Earth.

See more pictures here.

Pratham Books at Connexions 2009

Gautam John represented Pratham Books at the 2009 Connexions Conference ( http://cnxconference.rice.edu/). Here is a video of his talk on openly accessible and reusable children's content.



Pratham Books @ Connexions 2009

Letter Monsters

When letters turn into monsters, be scared.... be verrrryyy scared!

Haha, of course not! When letters turn into monsters, they turn into these adorably cute and fun creatures:

A frowning "A"...

A happy looking "B"...

The three-eyed moustached "e"...

Grouchy "G" and giggly 'g'...

A yelling "Y"...

Joey Ellis designed these letter monsters to help his son learn the alphabet. What fun! Go see the entire set here. Introduce your kids to these letter monsters too.




Peter Rabbit at Home


This morning, while we had our first cup of coffee, I decided to break the routine by checking the movie channels instead of the news channels. And happily, I caught the latter half of 'Miss Potter', a 2006 Chris Noonan film. This a biopic of children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter.

After seeing the movie, I checked to see if 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' was available as an e-book. Sure, it was. Was most enjoyable. Do check it out at
http://www.scribd.com/doc/351837/The-Tale-of-Peter-Rabbit-by-Beatrix-Potter.
Thank you, Donnette E Davis, for uploading that book and all the others too. You seem to be doing a remarkable job with children and parents as part of your homeschooling efforts at St.Aiden's Homeschool, South Africa.

Do check out Pratham Books on Scribd too.We would be very happy if children in South Africa could use them too!

Picture:Cover page of 'Little by Little', published by Pratham Books.

Comic Books and the Environment

Laura Hudson's article "Comics: The Paper Problem" is an excellent article that examines and issues that the publishing industry should consider. Filled with examples, the article lists out how we can all solve this problem. A must-read article for publishers.

Via Comic Foundry
Maxeem Konrady loved comic books. He loved them so much, in fact, he decided to become an artist, and began pursuing Fine Arts in Comics degree at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. During his junior year, he took a class on sustainability called Graphic Design for the 21st Century: As If Life Matters. He found what he learned about comics, and the publishing industry generally, to be “devastating.”

The problem is paper. Comic books, like all periodicals, are printed on it, and the paper-making process is an ecologically ugly one. An enormous consumer of energy and resources, the paper industry is the number one industrial process water user in the country , and according to the EPA’s 2004 Toxic Release Inventory, the third-worst contributor of air emissions among all industries, and the fourth worst in discharges to streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Its production of greenhouse gases, though, is perhaps the most disturbing. The paper industry is the fourth-largest producer of carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming as it depletes the very trees that stave it off.“The paper industry is one of the single most serious threats to our clean air, our habitat and our water because it’s so stubbornly ingrained,” Konrady said.

Although disheartened by the paper use of the publishing industry, Konrady remained committed to his dream of becoming a comic book artist.

“I knew I could make a book that eliminat[ed] the waste and the dangerous chemical production that goes into a typical book. I decided that I wanted to see how hard it was.”

The answer: Not that hard. He located a printer who offered more ecologically friendly alternatives, and produced a comic with vegetable-based inks on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, bleached with oxygen instead of chlorine. The impact of using alternative materials is significant: using recycled paper not only saves trees, it also conserves energy and natural resources, using only 60 percent as much energy , reducing water pollution by 35 percent, and air pollution by 74 percent . Not to mention keeping paper products out of landfills, where they account for almost 40 percent of all municipal solid waste .

It’s difficult to convince publishers to make any change that increases costs, particularly if the benefits are not obvious.

Still, Konrady believes comic book publishers can make the switch in a practical way, particularly if they find a way to market the change to consumers.
He is betting on the consciences of the other powerful people in the comic book industry: fans. The comic book community was one of the major reasons that Weissman and his organization originally turned their attention to the medium.

“Comic book fans are people that talk to each other, that have strong feelings about their comics books [and] intense interest in all aspects of the product.”

So, are fans concerned?

“A very impressive percentage” of the 1000+ people he interviewed expressed concern over the ecological impact of their hobby. “No one is happy to have to pay more money, but the majority of comic book buyers would be willing to pay more.”

Nobody expects the comic book companies to be heroes, to sacrifice or even to especially inconvenience themselves. Businesses have to weigh bottom lines against ideals, costs against benefits, and so do the consumers who may end up paying for it. In the end, we all need to decide what is important to us, and what we are willing to sacrifice for it.

Companies are always going to prioritize the bottom line over idealism, while idealists do the opposite, but if faced with the choice between minimal sacrifices versus clear-cut forests, polluted water, and global warming, perhaps we can expect them to at least consider doing what they can, especially when the cost of indifference seems so much higher than the cost of responsibility.

More information, including resources and guides for high-volume purchasers, is available at http://greenpressinitiative.org, environmentalpaper.org, conservatree.org, and fscus.org.
Read the entire article here.

Image Source: SheWatchedTheSky, Andy Field (Hubmedia)

Bibliochaise


Via Booktagger Blog

A bibliochaise would mean you always have a book within reach and can conserve on space by not investing in a separate set of bookshelves.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Digital Future of Children's Books

Jonbard's twitter update led us to this article in Publishers Weekly.

E-books may date from the early 1970s, when Michael Hart launched Project Gutenberg, but the revolution in e-books for kids has only just begun. True, three novels from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series were library distributor Overdrive's three most downloaded e-books for 2008, but adult and children's digital books combined still make up a small percentage of book sales—less than 1% of revenue at Random House, according to Bertelsmann CEO Markus Dohle in a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal. And only recently have children's e-books become fully integrated into even the largest houses' publishing strategies.

It's no secret that teens live online—Twittering, blogging, posting videos on YouTube and downloading from iTunes—or that most teens (80%, according to a national survey last fall) have cellphones. Together that adds up to a sizable potential market for mobile phone and Web-based e-books.

“Books are something they should see as enjoyable.” No one is arguing. In fact, one scenario that publishers are exploring to raise the fun quotient is mixed media à la Scholastic's The 39 Clues (the series combines traditional books with online gaming and card collecting).

“We're very gung-ho on e-books,” says Don Weisberg, president of Penguin Young Readers Group. “We as publishers have to be ready for it all. However anybody wants to consume a book—on your computer, on an e-book reader or a printed book—we're going to be there.”

One of the attractions of e-books for teens, she adds, is that reading becomes a social activity. “There are good things to be said about the book as a solitary pleasure,” Thomas says. “But with an e-book you can highlight and share a line instantly—e-mail it, Twitter it. It becomes a communal activity.” That's one reason that, as the company upgrades Web sites for its two most popular brands, the Twilight series (TheTwilightSaga.com) and its Poppy imprint (PickaPoppy.com), it will link to an iPhone app in the Apple store and offer downloadable audio and e-book samplers.

Even enthusiastic embracers of digital books for teens, like Kristin McLean, executive director of the Association of Booksellers for Children, who sees educational e-readers as a solution to the problem of the 50-pound backpack, have difficulty envisioning picture books going digital. “Books like The Black Book of Colors (Groundwood) will never translate,” she says.

Despite the promise of e-books, a number of challenges remain. In terms of the school market, limited budgets are problematic, as is the issue of whether students would be able to take e-books home to read, or even how they would do so. Many parts of the country are still without Internet access, and many more children have access to cellphones than computers.

Like her colleagues, Meghan Dietsche Goel, children's book buyer at BookPeople in Austin, Tex., is trying to figure out the best way for a bricks-and-mortar store to monetize e-content. “We're talking about how the retail store fits in, whether it's best to have a sign in the store or just to sell them online.” So far she hasn't seen a trickle-down effect from publishers' efforts to seed the potential e-market with free digital downloads of teasers or full books. “We haven't had anyone come in and mention it,” she says.
Read the entire article here.

Image Source: Aspheries