Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Tallest Story Competition: Bringing Indian Tribal Art to Life

West Highland Animation brought Indian tribal art to life through animation. Leslie MacKenzie had been catering to the children from the Gaelic minority population of Scotland by producing animation. Where does Indian tribal art figure in the scheme of things?

Via talleststory
Leslie felt it would be helpful for minority cultures to know about each other as the world moves towards globalization. She wanted to explore the tribal stories and art forms of the subcontinent. She noticed that there were more Asians living in Scotland than Gaelic speakers, and all of a sudden the plan had a name: In “The Tallest Story Competition”, the Scots would host a competition, and tribal communities from India would be invited to tell the most fantastic story. Their traditional art styles would be adapted for animation.

Five tribal art forms would be selected: Warli stick figure paintings are done in white, upon a mud background, a style that would be good for cel animation. Gond painting uses an technique of creating textures by pattern, and it would be suitable for cutout animation, while the brass sculptures of Bastar could be animated using computer generated 3D; The Patua style and the Saora styles would also work as hand drawn or as cutouts.
A team travelled to India to conduct research for their project, document the art styles to use as references for animation, visit the Master craftsmen of each art form and gain a better understanding of the art forms. But what was The Tallest Story Competition all about?

Via west highland animation
This unusual animated programme features well-known Gaelic mimic and comedian Norman MacLean as an animated puppet introducing five tall tales from the remote heartlands of tribal India. Not content with merely introducing the cartoons he also plays a number of parts in the stories themselves – these include a raucous jackdaw, an underworld shaman, the humble House-Bonga and even the carnivorous Head-Bonga himself!
Via talleststory
The Tallest Story Competition has been dubbed into Hindi for broadcast in India, and the five tribal languages for distribution in the tribal areas. It is the first animation in Gondi, Santali, Soara, Halbi and Marathi. The aim is to increase awareness and pride in the minority cultures of India. People who have not interacted with tribal communities might come to see that these modest rural people have highly refined artistic traditions, and environmental philosophies that are extremely relevant today.


The Pot of Gold

Life seems unfair in the Worli village where the husband works away at his paintings while his young wife does everything else. As her frustration rises he tries to convince her that God is the ultimate provider. Her doubts are only overcome when the pot full of gold that she finds in the forest is miraculously delivered to the young couples’ house. 2D white figures on Terracotta backgrounds in traditional Worli Tribal painting style. Sound track by Lokam, Gautam and Uttam the famous Baul Brothers from Bengal.

Read more about this project here and here.

Pratham Books Speaks to 4th Graders at Central Manor, Pennsylvania

We are having more storytelling and Skype sessions with our friends at Central Manor, Pennsylvania. With three Skype sessions lined up this week, you can tell that we absolutely love the sessions with the kids. Yesterday, I got to talk to Ms. Amy Wiggin's fourth graders. It was their first Skype session, but they seemed well prepared and confident. Our earlier Skype sessions have been with a fewer number of children, but this time around there was a class of twenty eager children to talk to.

From their bright and colourful classroom, the Skype session started with kids waving and shouting a loud "hiiiii". We started with five students reading out poems on the festivals and holidays celebrated in America. I learnt about Martin Luther King, Presidents Day, April Fools' Day, Thanksgiving and Valentines Day. Apart from reading the poems, each of the kids patiently answered my questions. Andrea showed me a picture of George Washington and also told me that he appears on their dollar bill while Abraham Lincoln appears on a penny. Hannah gave me an informed insight on how Martin Luther King fought for the rights of African-Americans while Shayanne claimed that she didn't trick anybody on April Fools' Day. Ally gave me tons of information on why Thanskgiving was celebrated and shared what her family ate for Thanksgiving last Novemeber. Shanaya shared what her class did for Valentines Day and made my mouth water with all the talk of candy being given to her classmates and teachers.

After the reading session, it was time for the question and answer session. Hands flew up with all the children eager to ask questions. Many had come prepared with their questions written down on pieces of paper. The first question I received was "What is the 'in' thing for fourth graders in India to wear NOW?". Some of the other things kids wanted to know were...

What is the gas price in India right now?
How do you choose your President?
What festivals do you celebrate? Do you have any festival like Halloween where everybody dresses up in costumes?
Do some people in India travel on elephants?
What car dealerships exist in India?
Do you call soccer football? Or do you call socccer soccer?
What is the significance of the red dot on the forehead?
Who are some of the famous singers and musicians of India?
What animals are popular in India?
What is the religion followed in India?
What activity do Indians enjoy the most? And what sport do people like?

We talked about Holi, Diwali, bindis, India's cheapest car (Nano), A.R. Rahman, cricket, elephants and tigers, the election process and more. They say "time flies" and I couldn't agree more with that statement. The time monsters had eaten.. no, wait.. the time monsters had gobbled an hour away and it was time for the children to go back to class. With a promise to send them pictures and Indian music and meeting online another time for another fun-filled session, we said our goodbyes and logged off with happy smiles.

A huge thank you to Ms. Teresa Reisinger and Ms. Amy Wiggins for arranging the Skype call.

Read about our previous Skype sessions with Central Manor:
Pratham Books and Central Manor : A Multi-cultural Collaboration
World Storytelling Day Celebrations at Pratham Books
The Very Happy Readers

Twittering Thursday

We missed last week's 'Twittering Thursday' post as we were voting last thursday. Here is a quick look at what we were tweeting about and what tweets caught our attention...


We were tweeting about our book "Handmade in India" getting more than 1500 views in a single day. When we last checked, its our most popular book on our Scribd account with 1000+ downloads. We wonder if recession maybe one of the reasons that 'Happy Maths 4 : Time and Money' is our second most downloaded book. Parents teaching kids the importance of time and money at an early age? Also stumbled upon the article Scholars wrote on Pratham Books.

Illustrator Alberto Cerriteño's "Cactocyclops with Hat and Bow" made us grin and we quite liked this pop-up made from Indian currency. Browsed through the World Digital Library, looked at the Wikipedia Selection for schools, checked out Pronunciation Animations and watched an animated folktale "The Story of the Khichrahi Festival" done in the Gond art style. On World Earth Day (22nd April), we were looking at Google's earth day logo and looking at pictures of 10 most incredible globes.

Stuff we were reading included "How to: Use Social Media to Champion International Causes", what people's favourite offline reference books are, why venture capitalists are eyeing the Indian education market, Rohini Nilekani's article titled "Rising from the Ashes", what a teacher and her grade 4/5 students are doing to change the world and how storytelling was used to promote tourism in Tamil Nadu.

"Thoughtcrime Experiments": a remixable, CC-licensed science fiction anthology is up for download.

We were retweeting...

@thecreativepenn's link to the private language of book inscriptions , @weheartbooks sent us to look at this vintage kid's book site and @thecreativepenn sent us to read "The golden eras of writing for children offer fascinating stories for adult readers."

Image Source:
Frank Chimero

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Harry Potter Doesn't Figure in British Children's Laureates Lists of Best Children's Books

Via The Afterword

Children should get acquainted with Long John Silver, Mary Poppins and Oliver Twist before Harry Potter, say the most recent five U.K. Children's Laureates.

Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and the current Laureate, Michael Rosen, were asked to choose seven works each to recommend to children as part of a 10th anniversary celebration for their position. The list was heavy on the old school, while Harry Potter's old school, Hogwarts, was nowhere to be seen.
Via guardian.co.uk

The five children's laureates were asked to pick their favourite children's book and plumped almost overwhelmingly for older books, with only five of the 35 titles selected less than 20 years old.

The 1930s were the most popular decade for the laureates, with seven titles making the list, from TH White's story of a young King Arthur, The Sword in the Stone, to Noel Streatfeild's tale of three orphaned girls, Ballet Shoes, and PL Travers's classic Mary Poppins.

You can see the list of books here.

Image Source: wpwend42

Open Source Ranking - India is 23rd on List

Open Source Activity Map

Red Hat commissioned the Georgia Institute of Technology – Georgia Tech, to research the state of open source around the world, and has now publshed the results of the research as the Open Source Activity Map and Open Source Environment Map.

The environment map is speculative – and is function of various factors like Government initiatives/Industry environment and Community.

The research found several themes that impacts the open source movement:

  • Technology adoption at national (country) level
  • Public policy issues and adoption within public sector
  • Private sector adoption and use
  • Developer roles in adoption and use
  • Economic issues pertaining to open source software

Overall, India stands 23rd in the current activity map and slips to a dismal 53rd in speculative ranking (mostly because of lack of initiatives from govt. as well as community).

Read more here.

"Our Delhi Struggle" Will Soon Be Available as a Book

Dave and Jenny were two New Yorkers who moved to Delhi and blogged "to showcase the fun and insanity of living in India, to help the people back home share what we experience, and to help other people who might be visiting, moving, or just curious about life on the subcontinent". They have now moved to Singapore, but have managed to sign a book deal with Harper Collins.

The book will be part memoir and part guidebook: an in-depth exploration of the Delhi we lived, the lessons we learned, and the funny things that happened to us. It’ll be like this blog, only much longer, much more detailed, and much funnier.

Writing has begun, and will continue for the next six months. We expect to release the book next April, just in time to channel the excitement of Delhi’s Commonwealth Games into fame and fortune.

This blog will be an integral part of the writing process. We’ll rely on readers’ opinions and insights to add detail to the book. Right now, for instance, we’re writing the section on getting around Delhi, and all the white-knuckled moments we’ve had in the back of an autorickshaw. Our question to you: what was your scariest auto-related experience?

Hop on over to their blog to see how your experiences can help shape book.

Image Source

The Official Whitehouse Photostream

The Whitehouse has an official Flickr account and they are publishing the pictures under a Creative Commons license. Yay!


Via Daring Fireball
I love these photos from official White House photographer Pete Souza — it’s a historical photo documentary being published in real time.
See more photos here.

Image Source : The Official White House Photostream

Pay Online and Adopt a School

Via Times of India

Use a credit card online to adopt a school! That’s what the education department proposes to introduce for the 2009-10 academic year. It plans to put in place an online payment mechanism through which individuals can cite their credit card numbers to make contributions to government and aided schools under the School Nurturing Programme.

The programme, on since early this year, has received a good response. “Many individuals wanted to contribute, but didn’t have the time to visit schools or the authorities. So, we decided to make it easy by leveraging technology,” Kumar G Naik, commissioner for public instruction, told TOI. To begin with, this system will be implemented in Bangalore.

For construction of toilets or library, the department would prefer the donor to deposit money with the SDMC or department officials. “A visit to schools by donors in these cases is better,” he said.

Visit schooleducation.kar.nic.in
Read the entire article here.

Image Source: Pratham Books

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Announcements

1.INDICORPS YOUNG PROFESSIONAL INITIATIVE

Via ThinkChange India
Indicorps, known for its one-year fellowship program, is now launching a new Young Professional Initiative program that allows young Indian professionals to apply their time and skills to a short-term project. The five-month program includes a one-week orientation, a mid-term workshop, an immersion component, and regular reflections.

YPI Term: 1 July to 1 December 2009

For more information and to apply, please visit us online at: www.indicorps.org/ypi. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis (preference will be given to applications before 1 May 2009) until the start date.

More details here.


2. SWADES KI KHOJ 2009 : FELLOWSHIP IN RURAL INDIA

Via Chirag

A two-week foundation course will be held at Chirag, in Nainital District of Uttarakhand, in early July for the selected youth. The foundation course seeks to provide an orientation about life in rural India. The course will commence with an exploration of issues and tools to understand and analyse life in villages. The course will include sessions on primary education, community health care, the relationship between natural resources, humans and livestock, agriculture, community forestry, animal husbandry, off-farm rural livelihoods, water, the not-for-profit sector, governance and Panchayati Raj. The course will be interspersed with visits to villages – including night-stays in homes.

The selected youth will then join their host organisations and will be located there for the next 11 months.

The filled in application form including a one-page statement of purpose have to be received by Chirag by the 15th of May 2009.

More details here.


3. WORKSHOP FOR NGO's ON FREE SOFTWARE AND LOCAL LANGUAGE COMPUTING

Via NGO Post
This event is geared towards NGOs and similar civil groups who have a need to migrate from proprietary software to open source alternatives.

The workshop will cover the following broad domains:

Free and Open Source Software:
  • Introduction to Linux based distributions Fedora, Ubuntu.
  • Open Office Tools.
  • Internet Tools (firefox, pidgin, thunderbird).
  • Desktop publishing (GIMP, scribus, inkscape), Web publishing(CMS, blogs).
Indian Language Support:
  • Problems and issues related to use of non-standard/proprietary fonts and tools.
  • Status of current support for Indian languages.
  • Set up, and customisation for Indian language desktops
  • Becoming an active member of the community, and contributing back.
  • Discussions on getting support, creating active groups/community out of participants and creating similar groups in their locality/work space.
Date and Place: This event will be held in Delhi,India from June 5 -6, 2009. Last date for submitting application forms: May 10, 2009.
More details here.

Image Source: dwrawlinson

Improving English Skills of Dharavi Teachers

Many of you know about Dharavi and many of you have seen it on screen through the eyes of the children in Danny Boyle's 'Slumdog Millionaire'. Dharavi is Asia's biggest slum and one needs to remember the sheer number of children who live in this slum. To educate these children, it is important that their educators have the necessary skills. Improving the English skills of teachers in Dharavi is one such venture that will impact the education received by the children who study in the slum.

In its unique initiative, Landmark International Institute for Empowerment (LIFE Trust) has introduced a path-breaking technique of teaching English to the Anganwadi school teachers of Dharavi. It is conducting a 2-month pilot project in the slums for 25 Anganwadi teachers. Based on the success of the project, LIFE Trust plans to extend the same to 950 teachers during the year.

Anganwadis are pre-school centers established by the Central Government to engage children in rural, tribal and slum areas across India up to 6 years in an integrated manner.

But in this new endeavor, LIFE Trust has gone a step further and identified a need to extra empower the teachers in language usage and has developed a project around the global language – English, as a start. It has created a unique ‘English DVD’ for this initiative and the teachers will be trained on ultra-modern portable DVD players! The DVDs contain visuals and a voice over to make English learning interesting and interactive. The classroom sessions would be enriched with discussions and role-plays to deliver all round quality learning. Additionally LIFE Trust will also record all the teaching sessions over the 30-day period which will help enhance the module when they expand later this year.

Their main priority right now is to equip the Anganwadi teachers with the necessary skills to develop interesting teaching aids for their students, and create a level playing field for pre-primary students from private and public education institutions.
Read the entire article here.

Image Source: saibotregeel

A Kit to Thwart Writer's Block

Lack the inspiration to write? Devoid of new ideas? Try Elizabeth Dilk's kit to thwart writer's block.

Via designboom
While specifically designed with writers in mind, the kit can help many people kick start their creativity. As a graphic design student Dilk was asked to ‘find something I hate, change it and make it better, and then advertise it’ for a project. As she states ‘because I hate getting writers block, I researched the many ways to solve it, and created a packaged kit.’
The kit comes with tools to encourage and inspire the writer. The kit also contains silkscreened depressing doodles which Elizabeth created to look like they could have been drawn by someone in the throes of writers block, pre-chewed pencils so that your nervous twitches and procrastinating actions are provided for you and you can skip the chewing and just start writing.




See more pictures of the kit here.

Image Source

Kahani Movement

Kahani means 'story' and the Kahani movement aims to "capture untold stories from first-generation South Asians in the U.S. and provide those stories with a platform to be heard".

Via SAJA Forum
Co-founded by brothers Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN) and Suneel Gupta (Mozilla), the Kahani Movement is a non-profit project aiming to inspire generations of Indian-Americans to capture and share stories from their ancestors that immigrated to the United States from India. The project takes a Hollywood 2.0 approach to sharing these stories by motivating young Indian Americans to pick up a camera, interview their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and then post that footage to Kahani's web platform (kahanimovement.com). The eventual audience for this content is a generation of people who may never have the benefit of a real conversation with their immigrant ancestors.

With an open-source approach to film production, the Kahani Movement gives the storyteller the ability to not only share his or her stories with a network but also be able to access the content from other participants. 




the kahani trailer from Suneel Gupta on Vimeo.

The purpose of creating the Kahani Movement is three-fold:

1. Assemble a well-organized archive of content that helps current and future generations better understand the Indian immigration experience. "Second generation immigrants reach a point in their lives when they begin to truly appreciate their parents’ struggle.” says Suneel Gupta. “When I reached that point, I wanted to sit my mom down and sincerely listen to her story. But my children, and their children, might not have that opportunity.”

2. Empower the Kahani Movement community to collaborative creatively. Simon Beaufoy was inspired to write Slumdog Millionaire after reading the novel, Q&A. Similarly, Kahani Movement inspires community members to add to and remix content on the site to tell the Indian immigration story in new, imaginative ways.

3. Inspire others outside of the Indian community to create their own Kahani Movement. Every community has powerful stories that are worth preserving. An important goal for Kahani is to lower the barrier to capturing these stories by creating a digital model that is easy to replicate.
Visit Kahani Movement

India buys 250,000 OLPCs

In January, there was news that the prototype of a $10 (Rs.500) laptop was to go on display. Some questioned the feasibility of this laptop. Three months down the line, India has gone ahead and puchased 250,000 OLPCs. Why? Ars Technica has the story...
The government of India has signed an agreement with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project and will purchase 250,000 of the organization's XO laptops. The machines will be distributed to students throughout the country. India's decision to embrace OLPC is a bit unexpected in light of the country's past antagonism towards the project.

The MHRD later reversed its views about the health implications of youth computing and launched its own dubious program to build a competing $10 laptop. Unsurprisingly, the $10 laptop never materialized. When the country finally unveiled its highly ambiguous plans for its $10 "Sakshat" computing initiative earlier this year, it was revealed that the device would not be a laptop and would cost significantly more than $10 to produce.

India has finally decided to adopt OLPC after all, despite the government's previous skepticism and plans for building its own technology. PC World, which spoke with OLPC India CEO Satish Jha, reports that the laptops will be sent to 1,500 schools. Jha hopes to ship 3 million laptops in India this year.

Read the entire article here.

Image Source : One Laptop per Child

Rewind. Recap.

The week that was...


Last week, we had a book fair at Infosys and received a great response. Emily, our new intern, brought with her a suitcase full of books to share with underprivileged kids.

Read about Shakespeare's presence in India's heartland and how you can get your fix of Hindi pulp fiction in English. Why are publishers moving towards India during the time of recession? While some publishers are promoting their DVD style 'special features' for e-books, author Chinua Achebe will help Penguin infuse new energy in African literature. Amartya Sen talks about India's relationship with books and a popular webcomic will soon be published as a book. Some people wonder if the book "Kite Runner" should be banned. Lastly, a mother's thoughts on reading Enid Blyton's books with her daughter.

Take a look at our announcements to see what competitions are taking place around the world. Find out about Qimo - the Ubuntu for kids. Watch this video on the Children's Daevelopment Bank : a bank run entirely by street children.

Wouldn't your child love this paper chair? We leave you with Miki Sato's lovely fabric illustrations.

Image Source: svet

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tere's Illustration

Came across this illustration done by Tere Arigo and had to share it with all of you. Do any of you have a bookstore you would want to be stranded in?

You can see more of Tere's work here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Get Your Fix of Hindi Pulp Fiction in English Now

Via The Times of India

Gun-toting detectives, deadly dons, mystical tantriks and spunky women — there’s no mistaking the ingredients of a Surender Mohan Pathak novel. But to get your hands on one of the bestselling works by this doyen of Hindi pulp fiction, you’d probably have to head for the railway station.

Elbow your way past the passengers rushing to board the 2560 Up Shivganga Express, find the lone well-stocked bookseller, make yourself heard amid the clamour of chai garam and grab your copy. What if you don’t know Hindi and you’re still dying for a racy read, desi-ishtyle? Now, an English translation of a Pathak blockbuster
— the first for any Hindi pulp fiction writer — promises all the thrills, chills and kills of the original whodunit.

Painsath Lakh Ki Dakaiti — reborn as The Rs 65-lakh Heist — first came out in 1978. Since then, it has sold a phenomenal 3 lakh copies and had 15 reprints. It also introduced the “negative” hero — a genre that Bollywood made its own several years later.

With Dakaiti’s English translation hitting stores this month, Hindi pulp is set to go where it never has — onto the bookshelves of elite India. Long labelled lowbrow, these big sellers of small-town Hindustan have usually been printed on cheap paper (that’s how pulp gets its name) and sold for a song. Blaft Publications is set to change all that. “Pulp fiction in Indian languages is incredibly popular but no one has ever bothered to translate it,” says Rakesh Mohan of Blaft.

It is both fitting and ironic that the writer breaking the language barrier first hit the big time with his translations of James Hadley Chase novels. Pathak’s writing style — crisp, detail-oriented and fast-paced — suited the Chase translations so well that other publishers began marketing their own Hindi versions of Chase.

The irony isn’t lost on Pathak. “I didn’t think one day someone would be translating my book,” says the 69-year-old, who lives in east Delhi and pens — the old-fashioned way — about four novels a year, to add to his 268 novels. The genre seems to be big business — each print run earns Pathak Rs 4 lakh.
Read the entire article here.

Image Source

A Tree Shaped Bookshelf

Spotted this tree of books when we clicked on @thecreativepenn's tweet.

Image Source

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Paulo Coelho Institute

Via Paulo Coelho

I would like also to bring your attention to 430 children that need our help. The PAULO COELHO Institute is a non-profit-making institution financed exclusively by the author's royalties. The main idea is not to be a charity, but to give opportunities to the underprivileged and ostracized members of Brazilian society. Thus, the Institute concentrates its funds on:

a) Children
b) The elderly

At present, the PAULO COELHO Institute provides financial support to Creche Escola Meninos da Luz, Lar Paulo de Tarso (in the Pavão-Pavãozinho favela, Rio de Janeiro), that looks after these 430 children. In 1996 we started with 80 children, and we could go up to this number, but it is not easy.
More information here.

Image Source

Children's Paper Chair

Via the coolhunter

There's nothing like a picture of an earless dog drawn in crayon on your 85 dollar a meter wallpaper. Well this little gem of an idea will keep those little artists off your walls and on to paper, where they belong.

It is not only a clever idea, the children's paper chair also makes a statement about the amount of paper we use. As the paper is used, the front end roll becomes larger and grows with the child. The paper size is roughly 500 meters. That's a lot of earless dogs.
That really is a whole lot of drawing to do. And a whole lot of fun too!

Image Source

Should the "Kite Runner" Be Banned?

Khaled Hosseini has joined the illustrious ranks of Philip Pullman and the authors of a story about gay penguins, after his novel The Kite Runner became one of the books that inspired most complaints in America last year.

The bestselling and critically acclaimed title, the story of a 12-year-old Afghan and his betrayal of his best friend, includes the rape of a boy, and provoked challenges in the US over what objectors saw as sexual content and offensive language. Some objections led to the removal of the book from library shelves, while others saw it replaced with bowdlerised versions minus the offending scenes, according to the American Library Association, which compiles an annual list of the most challenged titles in the country.

Via livemint.com

Let's look at the parents' point of view first. The reasoning would probably go thus: It is never too early to start telling children about racial tolerance, and to start educating them about the history of race; banning Huck Finn, therefore, is a flawed notion. But as a society, we have come to accept that it is sometimes too early to expose children to certain types of sex and violence; the prevalent system of cinema ratings is one example of that. If, as a parent, I expect that my video library will not rent out Basic Instinct to my ten-year-old, maybe I should also reasonably be able to expect that my book library will not rent out The Kite-Runner to my ten-year-old.

But just as we don't (and shouldn't) ban Basic Instinct, I see no reason to pull The Kite-Runner from shelves entirely. Ironically, that would be exactly the sort of draconian move that would fit very well into the The Kite-Runner's plot itself, absolutely against the principles of free expression. It would also be a literary sin, reducing a work to the value of just one of its constituent scenes. Which begs the Question for the Week: What's the middle ground here? Or, to be more provocative: Do we even need a middle ground? Shouldn't we just support free expression unstintingly, and figure that if kids pick up The Kite-Runner and read it, they will unequivocally be the better off for it?

Read the entire articles: 1 and 2

Image Source: nathan17

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Children's Development Bank

A bank in India run entirely by street children, allowing them to save the money they earn.

Publishers Move Towards India and China During Recession

Earlier this week, we talked about Shakespeare's presence in India's heartland. It is no surprise that with book sales slumping in US and UK, publishers are setting their sights on countries like India, China and South Africa.

Via guardian.co.uk
In China, inspirational business books such as Who Moved My Cheese and family health titles compete with the latest blockbusters; in India, classics from Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton vie for shelf-space with homegrown authors and the penned advice of billionaire IT entrepreneurs; while in South Africa, the boarding school antics of John 'Spud' Milton have captured readers' imaginations and created a Harry Potter-like craze.

Across the world, the appetite for English language books is booming and publishers struggling under the weight of the recession in their core markets of the US and UK are increasingly turning their sights overseas.

In contrast, overseas English language markets are positively booming. India is the world's third largest English language book market and has been growing at about 10% per annum for several years.

But with its booming population, of whom 350 million speak English, it is no surprise that most of the publishers at the London Book Fair are turning their attention, eagerly, to India.

"India is an incredible growth market at the moment," says Alistair Burtenshaw, the exhibition director of the London Book Fair. "It provides fascinating business opportunities in almost all sectors, and that's absolutely the case in publishing."

Chiki Sarkar, editorial director of Random House India, says the country is now looking for its own enduring serial novelists, able to produce consistently good mass-market fiction: "What kinds of books are we looking for? We've just started a series of Indian historical romances and are scouting for local Barbara Cartlands and Georgette Heyers, and I think everyone is looking for the Indian Frederick Forsyth."
Read the entire article to see how this trend is emerging and also why publishers are setting their sights on China and South Africa.

Image Source : DragonWoman

DVD Style 'Special Feature' for E-books

As e-book readers are not the only device for people to read e-books, Random House UK is providing special features for its audience that reads on their computers.Via The Afterword

The initiative, called Book and Beyond, launched yesterday. The ten titles in the series so far includes Lee Child's Nothing to Lose, which is packaged with an animated graphic novel and Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, which gives the reader the option to listen or read the book as each chapter begins. The memoir of the Canadian metal band Anvil is also available, complete with a video interview with the band, and an enhanced version of an currently un-named Irving Welsh book is in the planning. What they do with that one could be interesting.

The special features do not work on e-readers, but as RH's digital publisher Jonathan Davies told Bookseller: "While today the portable devices don't have video playback, one day in the future they might.The project is in some ways about learning by doing and these are baby steps."

Read the entire article here.

Image Source

Leanne Shapton's Wooden books


These wooden book blocks have such a nice rustic feel to them. Vintage-ish!

From her website
Leanne Shapton is an illustrator, author, art director and publisher based in New York City. She is currently the art director of The New York Times Op-Ed page. Shapton is the co-founder, with photographer Jason Fulford, of J&L Books, an internationally-distributed not-for-profit imprint specializing in art and photography books.
See more wooden books here.

Image Source: designboom

A Warning for the Book Industry

In "Why should I care about e-books? Lessons learned the hard way from the newspaper biz", Brendan warns the book industry not to go the newspaper way. He urges people to see the signs and do something before it is too late. A few he raises are:
  • Who will control access to digital books - will libraries merely trade their expensive-to-maintain collections for a subscription to Google books? Are libraries hastening their own obsolescence by allowing Google access to their collections?
  • Will Amazon’s closed-platform standard for e-books prevail (the Kindle)?
  • Will an author’s share of revenue on e-books be a traditional fixed percentage, or a variable, we’re-not-going-to-tell-you-what-we-received-from-your-work-but-here’s-a-quarter-go-buy-yourself-something-nice percentage of advertising revenue that Google might deign to dole out (as it does with ad revenue to site/blog owners)?
  • Will any company be able to realistically compete in e-book sales that isn’t a megacorp? For that matter, will any megacorp even be able to realistically compete with Google?
  • Will authors simply bypass all traditional distributors, publishers, and retailers, producing and promoting their books directly?
  • In a world of digital books and DMCA, what becomes of your ability to pass a book on to a friend, or re-sell it?
There are a few more questions he raises on his blog. Read the entire article here.

Image Source: flynnkc

Announcements

1. DoGooder TV: VOTING OPEN FOR THE NONPROFIT VIDEO AWARDS
The voting period to select the winners of the DogooderTV 2009 Non Profit Video Awards ends this Saturday, April 25, so now is the perfect time to head over to their site, view the different videos uploaded by organizations to promote a cause.

On the DoGooder Site, they explain a bit about this year's theme:

The DoGooderTV Nonprofit Video Awards highlight organizations that are using video to inspire and ignite social change. This year's theme, “Everyone's Doing It”, is meant to include submissions of all shapes and sizes, from organizational vlogs, to staff-produced web clips, to high-end, professionally produced videos. If your organization made a video—any video—in 2008, we want to see it!

Read the entire article here.


2. IS ONE OF YOUR STUDENTS THE NEXT MARK TWAIN?

Via HarperAcademic

To celebrate the publication of Who Is Mark Twain?--a collection of previously unpublished pieces from Twain--HarperStudio and Borders are sponsoring a writing contest.

One of the pieces in the book was left unfinished by the great American writer, so HarperStudio wants to see who has what it takes to finish the story.

The contest ends on May 31st. For more details, visit I Am the Next Mark Twain!


3. THE GEOTOURISM CHALLENGE: POWER OF PLACE

Via responsenet (via NGO Post)
Competition focus: In partnership with National Geographic Society, Ashoka's Changemakers is looking for examples of sustainable management of tourism, or geotourism, as it is widely known. NatGeo defines geotourism as ''tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place--its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.'' We're looking at people and organizations -- including the government, and corporations -- that are are initiating responsible innovations that use tourism to help sustain, enhance, or preserve local culture, build heritage, and natural habitats. For more details on the competition, please visit: http://www.changemakers.net/geotourismchallenge
Entry Deadline: May 20, 2009.


4. CULTIVATING INNOVATION: SOLUTIONS FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES

Via responsenet (via NGO Post)
Competition focus: In partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ashoka's Changemakers is looking for innovative solutions that span the entire agricultural value chain – from seeds to sales. Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people—the 1 billion who live on $1 a day or less—rely on agriculture to feed themselves and their families, yet many cannot grow enough to sell or even eat. If you've come up with strategies, tools and opportunites for small farmers to boost their productivity, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families, enter now! For more details on the competition, please visit http://www.changemakers.com/en-us/agriculture
Entry Deadline: May 13, 2009.

Image Source: ArneRathjen

Chinua Achebe to Help Penguin Infuse New Energy in African Literature


When I read "Things Fall Apart" in college, the first thing we were told about the author was how his book aimed at being the 'insider's view' as opposed to that of the colonizer. Chinua Achebe is now all set to advise Penguin on a new series of books which aims to publish the very best in African writing.

Via guardian.co.uk
"The last 500 years of European contact with Africa produced a body of literature that presented Africa in a very bad light and now the time has come for Africans to tell their own stories," said Achebe, author of the classics Things Fall Apart and Anthills of the Savannah. "Africa is not simple – often people want to simplify it, generalise it, stereotype its people, but Africa is very complex."
Achebe hopes the series will bring new energy to African literature, and will help it reach a wider audience. "This is really what I personally want to see – writers from all over Africa contributing to a definition of themselves, writing ourselves and our stories into history," he said. "One of the greatest things literature does is allow us to imagine; to identify with situations and people who live in completely different circumstances, in countries all over the world. Through this series, the creative exploration of those issues and experiences that are unique to the African consciousness will be given a platform, not only throughout Africa, but also beyond its shores."
"I am honoured to join Penguin in inviting young and upcoming writers to accept the challenge passed down by celebrated African authors of earlier decades and to continue to explore, confront and question the realities of life in Africa through their work; challenging Africa's people to lift her to her rightful place among the nations of the world."
Penguin also announced today that it would be establishing a new literary prize for African writers, which will offer the authors of previously unpublished works in both fiction and non-fiction the opportunity to win R50,000 (£3,800) and a contract with Penguin South Africa.

Read the entire article here.

Image Source: lungstruck

Espresso Book Machine Reaches London

Via guardian.co.uk

It's not elegant and it's not sexy – it looks like a large photocopier – but the Espresso Book Machine is being billed as the biggest change for the literary world since Gutenberg invented the printing press more than 500 years ago and made the mass production of books possible. Launching today at Blackwell's Charing Cross Road branch in London, the machine prints and binds books on demand in five minutes, while customers wait.

Signalling the end, says Blackwell, to the frustration of being told by a bookseller that a title is out of print, or not in stock, the Espresso offers access to almost half a million books, from a facsimile of Lewis Carroll's original manuscript for Alice in Wonderland to Mrs Beeton's Book of Needlework. Blackwell hopes to increase this to over a million titles by the end of the summer – the equivalent of 23.6 miles of shelf space, or over 50 bookshops rolled into one. The majority of these books are currently out-of-copyright works, but Blackwell is working with publishers throughout the UK to increase access to in-copyright writings, and says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Described as an "ATM for books" by its US proprietor On Demand Books, Espresso machines have already been established in the US, Canada and Australia, and in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, but the Charing Cross Road machine is the first to be set up in a UK bookstore. It cost Blackwell some $175,000, but the bookseller believes it will make this back in a year. "I do think this is going to change the book business," said Phill Jamieson, Blackwell head of marketing. "It has the potential to be the biggest change since Gutenberg and we certainly hope it will be. And it's not just for us – it gives the ability to small independent bookshops to compete with anybody."
Read the entire article here.

Image Source: sukisuki

Emily's Suitcase of Books for Children


Emily Neidhardt is interning with Pratham Books for two weeks. Along with a truck load of enthusiasm, she also brought a suitcase full of books to donate to the Akshara libraries we work with. Emily says,
Out of the many places that books have gotten me in my life, the most recent is the chance to volunteer with Pratham Books. They have given me something substantial to do in Bangalore, India; far from my home near Boston, Massachusetts. I asked for donations of books from students in my high school, reaching out to them through posters, facebook, and word of mouth. I collected 80+ books to donate to Pratham and lugged them to India in a suitcase that almost exceeded the weight limit for checked baggage. Getting the opportunity to spread literature around the globe to children who have limited access makes me feel like a better person.
Emily goes on to talk about the importance of books in general...
Books. They don’t seem so special at first glance, just paper and ink bound inside a cover. But books are actually one of the most important components of education and are the starting point to careers, knowledge, and success. Since reading and writing are tied together, books are a necessary part of communication. If you can’t get your thoughts down on paper, how will you ever get them to reach other people on a larger scale? Books have passed on ideas for change and will continue to do so in the future.

Literacy is important in getting a job that will be able to support oneself and one’s family. It is the first step in eliminating poverty by getting people off the streets, into school and eventually college, and earning money. Even if money is not an issue, literacy is important for political and social change. If you cannot become educated by reading about a candidate’s beliefs, you will not be able to facilitate any tangible differences in the way your country or state is run.

Books are also important to develop someone who is well-rounded and not ignorant. By reading books, you take in the perspective of each author. If you take in enough of these perspectives, you can weigh them and pick and choose different aspects of each to create the one you like best. In these ways, books give people voice, a new perspective, and a chance for change.
And how important have books been in Emily's life?
Aside from Pratham, books have given me other opportunities as well. I’ve worked at a bookstore, obviously a job I would not have applied for or been hired for if I wasn’t a reader. Books have also linked me to all my subjects in school. From the history of the Beat Generation in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road to the science in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, all the subjects I have learned about in school have also been covered by the books I’ve read. Without ever picking up a book, I know I’d be deciding between community colleges instead of McGill University in Montreal and Elon University in North Carolina.

I think the best thing that books have done for me is given me a chance to leave reality on occasion. When you pick up a good book, you leave your life with all your concerns and you become totally involved in whatever is going on in the story. This has helped me deal with stressful situations, become a little less bored, and just take my mind off things. All in all, books have led me to question things and not just accept them as they are. They have helped me think creatively and every single one has given me a new perspective on life.

Emily is also helping out with reading programmes at an Akshara library in Bangalore. After Emily read out stories to the children, the kids were extremely eager to read stories for her too. One girl even said that she would like to read a story in Kannada for Emily.
Stay tuned more updates on Emily's adventures in India.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Qimo: Ubuntu for Kids; and Ubunchu: Manga Comic for Kids

At Pratham Books, we love Ubuntu (Yes, yes we do! We have proof here and here). So, when we saw Qimo, we got quite excited.


From their website
Qimo is a desktop operating system designed for kids. Based on the open source Ubuntu Linux desktop, Qimo comes pre-installed with educational games for children aged 3 and up.
Qimo's interface has been designed to be intuitive and easy to use, providing large icons for all installed games, so that even the youngest users have no trouble selecting the activity they want.
More details here.

Elsewhere on cyberspace space, Boing Boing informed us of a Manga about running Ubuntu.
Ubunchu, a manga-style comic for kids about the joys of running the Ubuntu Linux operating system. It's a free, CC-licensed PDF, and it's been translated into a very large number of languages, and there are more editions to come.
Ubunchu! The Ubuntu Manga is now in English

Image Source: 1 and 2

The Green and Khaki Publishers of Dehradun : Natraj Publishers

Via Scholars Without Borders

An unusual collection of Gandhi quotes, along with some great photographs made me aware of Natraj Publishers based in Dehra Dun, Uttaranchal. They have specialised in two areas, which, given the fact that they are based in Dehra Dun, home of the Forest Research Institute and the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, the Indian Military Academy, seem quite natural... Ecology and the Environment, and Military Studies. Green and Khaki.

The publishers also run The Green Bookshop in Dehra Dun, a hub for conservationists, ecologists and wildlife enthusiasts and specialists from across the world. The aim of the bookstore has been to spread environmental awareness and promote literature on ecological conservation. To this end, Natraj have a number of titles in the area, some reprints of classics, others newly commissioned and very timely books.
Read the entire article here.

Image Source

Amartya Sen on India's Relationship With Books

Amartya Sen's shared his thoughts on India's relationship with books at the London Book Fair.

Via Publishers Weekly
Sen talked about India's long and proud history of books and publishing, about the early development of printing in the seventh and ninth centuries - when, even then, there were concerns about "the barriers of technology and distribution" - and about what India had given to the world, including much of the language of trigonometry. Today, the barriers are social and economic, and Sen talked about the need for an expansion of elementary school education. With more of the country's vast population educationally enfranchised, many more browsers would become book buyers, whether of books in English or in any of India's 23 languages. As to newspapers, at a time when many in the west are taking their daily serving of news online, in India - despite the fact that the affluent are as techie as those in London or New York - newspaper sales are on the increase. Explained Sen, India's is "a newspaper culture" and news print is "perversely important" for a population that needs to satisfy its curiosity with a daily fix of news.

Asked by a journalist how he felt about the increasing dominance of the English language, Sen replied that it was important to distinguish between the upsides and the downsides of colonial rule. Global language and local identity can happily co-exist, he suggested.
Read the entire article here.

Image Source: Wikipedia

A Mother's Take on Reading Enid Blyton's Books With Her Daughter

Many of us are nostalgic about the books we read as a child. We save them, cherish them and try to revive the magical moments they presented it with when we were kids. And when the time arrives... we introduce these books to our kids and hope that they love these books as much as we did. Enid Blyton is a name that most people are familiar with and Vandana jots down what she learnt after presenting her daughter Prakriti with Enid Blyton's adventure series.

Via livemint
So when we read the first two chapters of Secret Seven Win Through together, Prakriti was utterly spellbound. The excitement of a group of kids in a faraway country resonated with the stuff she did every day with her gang downstairs. A generation earlier, it was this same sense of exclusivity and mystery evoked by “password” and “secret meeting place” that had me hooked to these books. Besides, I completely approved of those frequent references to snacks that the gang kept munching while trying to crack a case. Jam tarts, cream scones, oatmeal biscuits and homemade strawberry jam were exotic, unattainable treats in pre-liberalization India, which made reading about them all the more delightful.

But there were several words that I had to explain and I kept getting discomfited by the fact that I had to do that. “Susie!” says Peter about his second-in-command Jack's little sister, “She really has to be the most AGGRAVATING girl in the world.” I had to explain “aggravating” to Prakriti. And also “despair” and “dismay” and “splinter” when Pam says “I hate biscuits when you have to bite so hard that they splinter in your mouth.”

I thought about it later. if I had understood all this on my own when I was her age, and Prakriti needs them explained, it means my vocabulary was better than hers is. Assuming equal ability and standards of education, it just means my favourite theory is back at work: Kids these days are drowned in the pointless noise of popular culture through TV, which leaves them little time to read. The less they read, the less their vocabulary develops.
Read the entire article here. (Also, go through the comments section to see what other people had to say about this).

Image Source: Pinot & Dita

Pratham Books' Infosys Book Fair


Yesterday, Pratham Books held a book fair at the Infosys Campus in Bangalore. With a team of 8 people, we were all ready to spread the joy of reading. As we started setting up and putting up our bright posters, some employees sauntered past our stall and looked on. They saw the books we had on offer and some bought them on the spot while others promised to come back during their lunch break.

And then it was time for the lunch break....

*Phew*... The number of people that visited our stall was overwhelming and we loved their eagerness to buy books not only for their own kids but also for kids who could not afford to buy books. Some bought a book, some bought a few and some bought many sets of books. While we scribbled down their orders, clicked away at our calculators and handed out change, we saw the big grins on their faces and hoped that the children that finally received the books that evening had even bigger smiles. It was also heartwarming to see many generous people pledge money towards supplying books to underprivileged children.

One highpoint of the day was when we overheard two women gush over our Hindi storycards and say "I want to buy them all...all... all". We would like to thank everyone who came to our stall, bought our books, pledged money for underprivileged children, gave us feedback and will go on to give their kids the precious gift of a book.