Friday, March 29, 2013

Sproutkin Launches A “Netflix For Children’s Books”

Sproutkin

Via TechCrunch

Sproutkin, a newly launched subscription service for children’s books, has raised an initial, but undisclosed (and still ongoing) seed round of under $1 million from investors which include 500 Startups, the TechFellow Fund, and other angels. Like the tagline implies, the startup is introducing a Netflix for children’s books – that is, it’s a rental service where you pay to receive shipments of new books on a regular basis, but you don’t necessarily get to keep them.

 Like most startups in the kids or family apps space, Bleharski says she was inspired to build Sproutkin out of a personal need. When kids are young, she explains, you’re reading to them nearly every night, making it difficult to maintain a constant supply of quality, new books. “It takes a lot of time – I don’t think people realize that,” she says of her trips to local libraries and stores. Plus, she adds, “when you’re ordering off Amazon, you just don’t know what you’re going to get. And once you read it, it’s kind of done.”

Parents of children ages 3 to 6 can subscribe to Sproutkin’s service, receiving a shipment of 10 books at a time, which are generally centered around a theme

The books shipment also includes a card with follow-up activities, trivia and other questions mom or dad can ask to spur on kids’ imaginations. And at the bottom of the box, there’s a return label, so when you’re finished, you can just drop it in the mail and get a fresh batch of books. Bleharski notes that, unlike Netflix, parents can actually go online and request the new shipment before the old one is mailed so there doesn’t have to be a time frame where you’re without books to read. In addition, parents have the option to buy any of the books their child has really bonded with, instead of having to send them back.

Foyle Young Poets 2013 Award


Via The Poetry Society

We are delighted to annouce that this year's competition will have acclaimed judges Hannah Lowe andDavid Morley at the helm. It is once again on the search for exciting new young poets aged 11-17. So what are you waiting for, take the chance and enter your poem! Take a look at the full rules and information on the prizes and opportunities.

Deadline for Entries is the 31st July 2013. Enter online here or download a postal entry form.

Overall Winners from the 15 to 17 age category attend a week-long intensive residential Arvon course where they develop their creative writing skills alongside fellow poets. Winners aged 11-14 group benefit from poetry residencies at their school followed by distance mentoring.

You can find out more about the 2012 Winners, whose poems can be read online and in the new Foyle Anthology Gorgeous like a thunderstorm

Click here for more details.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Building Platforms to Fund Libraries

Over the last few years, Pratham Books has received a number of requests from organisations and schools to donate books and libraries to these institutions. However, Pratham Books has had to decline many, if not most, because our current model envisages schools and organisations buying our books for their libraries.

While we have run periodic campaigns to donate books, for example the Pearson campaign http://blog.prathambooks.org/2012/02/65000-books-for-1000-libraries-thank.html, and our campaign on International Book Giving Day http://blog.prathambooks.org/2013/02/send-some-love-on-international-book.html, we have not focussed on this aspect of our mission.

However, over the recent past, we have realised that there are a number of organisations out there that are in need of books and libraries and may or may not have the social capital to raise funds to pay for. Also, we have discovered, especially during the Pearson effort, that it is hard to find a single resource of organisations that can absorb books and libraries and are credible enough to feature on a funding platform.

Image courtesy : AvalokiteĊ›vara Trust 

To this end, Pratham Books proposes to build a web platform that will help orgainisations looking to setup libraries raise funds to buy Pratham Books. In some sense, think Kickstarter for libraries.

The broad idea is to create a platform that showcases a portfolio of curated organisations looking to raise funds for setting up libraries and provide a way to collect online and offline donations to a preferred library appeal. Social media interactions and sharing will be a deep and central part of this platform.

It must also allow for organisations to post multiple library appeals and have a way for them to provide updates about these libraries. The platform must be able to track information of all donors and generate individualised thank you notes and automated updates based on their donations and their preferred library.

The platform should be flexible enough to accommodate fundraisers of other kinds too – say, for example, Pratham Books wants to raise funds for a particular book. It should also be flexible enough to accommodate multiple publishers – that libraries can be based on books/sets from multiple publishers.

This, however, is only one part of the project. The other part of the project is building the people and partner networks and processes that will be integral to the success and scalability of this platform.
1. Discovery of organisations that can accept donations and have access to networks to raise funds.  Further, working with these organisations and individuals to build their capacity to raise funds from their networks to fulfil their library requirements.
2. Creation of the technology platform to intermediate this, and other donation, processes. (You will not be expected to actually build the platform but identify and work with design and technology firms and teams, as required.)
3. Putting together the donor/donee processes
4. Build the processes, human, organisational, financial and technological, that allow this entire model to work and scale
5. Making awesome sauce!


A minimum of a one-year full time commitment is required and the position is based in Bangalore.

If you are interested in working on this project - please contact gautam(at)prathambooks(dot)org.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What Books Should Kids Read?

Absolutely loved reading Susan Stephenson 's views on the Fun with Learning blog.

A while back, a mum wrote to me, worried that her daughter had suddenly begun to enjoy reading. That might seem a strange cause for concern, but the problem was that the books were targeted toward Grades 2-3, whereas the child was in Grade 4. Not only that, but the girl was capable of reading more difficult text. It’s just that these easier texts were books she WANTED to read, and enjoyed reading. Whereas the books she was supposed to read were not.

Where do these messages come from that we should “push” our kids, challenge them with difficult material, encourage them to read books that are branded with their grade level? Who says it’s the best thing for our kids? Is it any wonder so many kids think of reading as a chore?

Vision :"A Book in Every Child's Hand"Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that all learning must be fun or we should abandon it. In our less-than-ideal world, there will be times in all our lives when we must knuckle down and learn something despite there being no perceivable fun or pay-off involved. 

What I am saying, and I believe this with every fibre of my being, is that if we want kids to LOVE reading, parents should let them read what they enjoy, when they can, regardless of their perceived ability or grade level. There is nothing wrong with kids reading junior books when they are 16 or even an old chook like me.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Asian Festival of Children's Content


The Asian Festival of Children's Content is back and will be held from 25th - 30th May, 2013 in Singapore.

Via AFCC

AFCC is a festival that brings together content creators and producers with parents, teachers, librarians and anyone interested in quality Asian content for children around the world.

With a mix of professional conferences, masterclasses and workshops, rights fair and media mart, and public events, AFCC is a unique and popular event right here in Asia that provides an opportunity for writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, distributors, parents, children, teachers, and librarians to meet, learn, develop their craft, and discover business opportunities.

The National Book Development Council of Singapore has been organising the highly popular Asian Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference for the past ten years. Leveraging on its success, the conference was expanded to form AFCC which has emerged as a very popular professional and trade event since 2010.

The Country of Focus at AFCC 2013 is Malaysia.

Learn more about the festival and go through the schedule for the conferences, masterclasses and workshops and public events.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. Early Bird pricing is available till 31 March 2013.

Image Source : AFCC's Facebook page

Friday, March 22, 2013

World Water Day : Catch Every Drop!

Suddenly there seem to be so many days to celebrate something or to create awareness about a particular issue. 20th was World Storytelling Day. Yesterday was World Poetry Day. And today is World Water Day!   2013 is also the International Year of Water Cooperation.
World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. (Via UN Water).
How are you contributing towards conserving water and spreading awareness about the issue?
Our friends at the Alternative are running the 'Catch Every Drop' campaign -a campaign on sustainable water, sponsored by Arghyam, with partners India Water Portal and Biome Environmental Solutions. 
Whether it is the Cauvery river dispute, the unregulated proliferation of bore wells or the death of Bangalore’s beautiful lakes, everyone has a story, an opinion or a question on water. While most people understand and recognize the importance of saving water, not everyone knows how to do it, or even what exactly they can do. 
‘Catch Every Drop’ is a showcase of stories of pioneering water conservation work done by corporates, lake restoration groups, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and individuals in Bangalore. These stories, we hope, will inspire you to join this growing community of people who truly care about water, our planet’s most precious resource.
The Alternative is conducting a series of events on 22nd and 23rd March - panel discussions, open houses, lake trails and more. Click here to view the schedule of events.

Also, did you read about how Aabid Surti (one of our authors) is saving water - one drop at a time?

It is never too late to start a conversation around water with your kids. We are listing out three water related books to spark that important conversation about conservation.

1. The Talaabs of Darbhanga - by Anupam Mishra and Prashant Soni
Summary : Ayachi Pandit could not give anything to the Dai When his son was born but he whispered something to her and she went away happily. A few years later when she was summoned again by the Pandit, she was completely thrown off her feet!

From the book review on the Saffron Tree blog:
A lovely story about simple meaningful living, beautifully told. 
There are more ‘drops of wisdom’ in the form of notes on traditional rainwater harvesting techniques in India - the stepwells and kunds of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the zings of Ladakh, anicuts, and the bamboo pipe system used for drip irrigation in Meghalaya. And yes, the Dai’s Ponds exist even today in the northern part of present-day Bihar, what was then Mithilanchal. 
A story that is probably more relevant today than ever before – both for the values of the principal characters and the message on water conservation. Isn’t life all about leaving the world a slightly better place than when we got here?
Read the entire book review here.

This book is available in English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi and Telugu. Buy the book.

**********

2. NARMADA - by Parthiv Shah and Vidya Shah
Summary : An evocative visual journey down the Narmada and through the heart of Central India. Join Aadi and Avani as they learn about the special bond that exists between the Narmada and the people who have lived on her banks since centuries.

Pratham BooksFrom the book review on the PaperTigers blog:
the photographs provide a bridge between the simple narrative structure and the sophisticated factual information. As an introduction to riparian culture in India and as an environmental research source for older children, text and images present an important ecological story.
Read the entire book review here.

This book is currently available in English, Hindi, Kannada and Marathi. Buy the book.

**********

3. CAUVERY - by Oriole Henry and Clare Arni
Summary : Take a journey down the river Cauvery, from high up in the mountains where it is born, down past islands covered with birds. The river twists and turns around where battles were fought and spooky curses cast. Discover thundering waterfalls, scary boat rides and much, much more about this magnificent river.
Pratham Books
From the book review on the Saffron Tree blog:
Here is a book which I fell in love with, the moment I set my eyes on it. It is a very well written book with stunning photographs which take you on the journey of the river Cauvery from it's birth to it's end.

The facts and the legends are beautifully interwoven, so that the children retain their interest as we go along. They don't get bored with the facts.

The facts are enhanced by the wonderful photographs and trivia little details given at the bottom of the page, which will surely interest the children.

I simply loved the way Oriole Henry has written this book- the factual details, legends and her own emotions which conveyed a feeling of ownership of the river !
Read the entire book review here.

This book is available in several languages but currently we only have stock of the Hindi version. Buy the book.

Novel way to save water....one drop at a time


We're delighted to share this story about our author Aabid Surti with you today, which happens to be World Water Day. We know this mulit-faceted man as the person who retold the popular Gijubhai stories for Pratham Books. 

 

But that he is also a tireless and unique water crusader is news to us.


“Aabid Surti is an odd character. A few years ago, the angular, bearded author was invited to meet the President of India to receive a national award for literature at a ceremony in the capital, New Delhi. He politely declined. Absorbed in writing the first draft of his new novel, he cited the reason that he did not have time. But what he has made time for every Sunday for seven years now, is going door-to-door in Mira Road, a non-descript suburb of Mumbai, with a plumber in tow, asking residents if they need their tap fixed for free!



As a distinguished Indian painter and author, Aabid has written around 80 books but no story so moved him as the truth about water scarcity on the planet. “I read an interview of the former UN chief Boutros Boutros Ghali,” he recalls, “who said that by 2025 more than 40 countries are expected to experience water crisis. I remembered my childhood in a ghetto fighting for each bucket of water. I knew that shortage of water is the end of civilized life.”

Read the entire article here, written so lovingly by the equally multi-faceted Aalif. If you would like to read the Gijubhai books in Kannada or Marathi, do look up our store here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Call for Online Curators for CBSE Syllabus

Via email

Location: Bangalore

Google is looking to hire technology savvy teachers familiar with CBSE syllabus for a year-long assignment. Selected teachers will be part of a pioneering initiative to make Online Education Resources (OERs)
useful to Indian students and teachers. OERs like Khan Academy, IIT's NPTEL and MIT's Open Courseware have made high quality educational resources accessible to millions of teachers and learners. Khan Academy's educational channel has 225 million views on YouTube, while NPTEL's channel has 82 million views and MIT's OCW has 46 million views. Educationists across the world consider OERs to be one of the biggest revolutions in the field of education in recent times.

Applicants should be familiar with CBSE syllabus (preferably higher standards) and must have taught it in a classroom setting for at last two years. They must also be technology savvy and be familiar with using computers, search engines, social media and YouTube.

Responsibilities will include:

1) Identifying concepts from the CBSE syllabus
2) Mapping the concepts identified to YouTube videos created by partners
3) Create assessments and questionnaires for student evaluation
4) Identify gaps in educational content on YouTube and work with YouTube partners to fill these gaps

Good communication skills, an aptitude for teamwork and ability to work in a collaborative environment are a must for this role.

To apply, e-mail your resume to india-teachers@googlegroups.com

Invest in the Rupaiya Paisa Series Today!


Profits, profits, profits is all we are thinking right now! Yes, Pratham Books continues to be a not-for-profit publisher, but we really do think children will profit from reading our latest release, a set of books called the Rupaiya Paisa Series

Invest today in the Rupaiya Paisa Series to ensure that your children are empowered with knowledge about the funny world of money. The books make financial literacy easy to comprehend and use in their day-to-day lives. Clear text and playful illustrations aim to simplify financial concepts like earning, saving, investments, tax, shares, and the joy of running one's own business. 

We believe investing in these books will reap rich benefits!

Books in the Rupaiya Paisa Series;
The World of Money!
How Money Travels!
The Money Managers
Be Wise with money

The entire set of 4 books costs only Rs.160. Click here to buy the entire set.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tell a story about a sparrow, a kuruvi, a gubbachi, a chidiya....



Today is World Storytelling Day. Hope you get to tell someone a nice story! Or hope you get to listen to a wonderful story. Listening to stories – whether one is a child or an adult – is generally theraupetic, and absolutely elevating if the storyteller is good. 



Today is also World Sparrow Day, a day dedicated to the chirpy little bird that has a very important role in the well-being of our world. Do something to bring back sparrows to our cities...check out how you can rise for the sparrow.

This seems like a perfect day to share a story called The Sparrow and the Fruit with you, dear friends! Thanks to Creative Commons, the books are available as free download in many languages. You'll find them here: English, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. Happy storytelling! Happy reading!

You may also buy the book in English, Hindi, Marathi,  Urdu, Tamil, Kannada,and Telugu here. And while you're at the e-store, do check out the other popular sparrow book, Kaka and Munni.



A Story for World Storytelling Day

Today is World Storytelling Day.
World Storytelling Day is a global celebration of the art of oral storytelling.  On World Storytelling Day, as many people as possible tell and listen to stories in as many languages and at as many places as possible, during the same day and night. Participants tell each other about their events in order to share stories and inspiration, to learn from each other and create international contacts.
To celebrate, we are sharing one of our new books 'Counting on Moru' with our readers. Counting on Moru is an important story of disovering the joy of learning again. So, share this story with your kiddos and have a happy storytelling day!




If you enjoyed this book and want to gift it to a child, you can buy it from our store. This book is available in English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi and Telugu.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lucknow Literary Festival

The Lucknow Literary Festival will take place on 23rd and 24th March, 2013.

From the Festival's website
Lucknow Literary Festival 2013
The first ever Lucknow Literature Festival is an endeavour of the LUCKNOW Society. Lucknow is the land of Munshi Premchand, Yashpal, Amrit Lal Nagar, Mirza Hadi Ruswa, Asrar-ul-Haq Majaz, Mir Anees, Abdul Halim Sharar, Brij Narain Chakbast along with Qurratulain Hyder and Attia Hosain who gave us masterpieces and made epic contributions to Literature.

Even today Contemporary authors like Javed Akhtar carry on this legacy, and consciously try to challenge the reader with innovative writing. Authors like Veena Talwar Oldenburg, Amaresh Mishra Neelesh Mishra and Prasoon Joshi have kept the flame of the written word burning bright.

Despite the presence of such literary greats, Lucknow has not had a literary summit for a long time, even though the city has had a tradition of kavi sammelans and Nashists. The Literary festival will once again invoke the creative spirit of the city and bring together the scholars from all over the country.

The festival will witness a diverse spectrum of novelists, playwrights, poets, screenwriters, journalists, lyricists and bloggers which will usher in the revival of the city’s literary culture.

The event hopes to further boost the magnetic pull of the city’s rich architectural heritage. The world renowned zaiqa of Awadh is also the quintessential ingredient in the culture cauldron of the city. For us, it is an opportunity to bring in the traveller as well as the “literary tourist” to Lucknow.

Books will be launched, contemporary and historical issues will be discussed and debated threadbare. Through reading sessions the average reader will once again discover the joys of Books. There will also be an entertainment quotient to the festival. Award winning documentaries will be screened. With live performances, the sound of music will also resonate at the festival.

The festival is our endeavour to bring forth the lutf of languages – English, Awadhi, Urdu and Hindi on a common platform. As an annual event, we hope to see it grow into a melting pot of idea’s and cultures where litterateurs come share and enjoy in the city of ada, andaaz and adab.

Find more information about the Festival on the official website.

Image Source : the Festival's website

Friday, March 15, 2013

Register for TEDxBangaloreChange

The TEDxBangaloreChange event's focus this year is 'Positive Disruption'

What?

Disruption is usually unwelcome. It represents conflict, chaos, and potential danger. We discourage disruptive behavior in our homes and our societies, often favoring passivity and compliance. But disruption can be a positive – sometimes vital – catalyst for change. It can challenge old assumptions, ignite conversations, activate authorities and expose new possibilities. Disruption can shed a unique light on difficult issues, giving a fresh urgency and perspective to the challenges of our global community. To solve the most intractable challenges in health and development, we need positive disruption. It is the path to true progress.

Who?

The speakers for the event are :
Rukmini Banerji (Head, ASER Centre) - Education and Policy
V. Ravichandar (Chairman, Feedback Consulting) - Urban Renewal 
Sean Blagsvedt (Founder, Babajob.com) -Social and Job Networks for the Poor; 
GK Jayaram (Founder, Institute of Leadership & Institutional Development) - Leadership and Mentorship
Srikanth Nadhamuni (CEO, Khosla Labs) - Technology and Governance

When?
4th April, 2013

TEDxBangaloreChange is an invitee only event with very limited seats. If you'd like to attend, head to the site and register for the event.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

AFCCSKETCH - An Online Illustration Contest

Via AFCC

AFCC 2013 is proud to introduce afccSKETCH, an online illustration contest. Illustrators will draw a piece of artwork based on a given theme, which they can email to us! We will post all submitted illustrations on our Facebook page. Our panel of judges will then decide on three winners whose works will be mounted and displayed at the Book Illustrators Gallery.

This year’s theme: One Big Story. Give us your interpretation of what One Big Story means in the context of children’s literary content! Works will be judged for skill, aesthetic quality, and how well the artist adheres to the theme. We accept works from around the world!



PRIZES
We have attractive prizes lined up for our three winners! The first and second runners-up will go home with S$200 and S$100 Vouchers in NoQ Store Vouchers respectively, while the top winner will get one AFCC Writers & Illustrators Conference Pass (worth S$300) and S$300 in NoQ Store Vouchers.

The deadline to send in entries is 13 May 2013.

Find more details about the contest here.

The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong

 Via TED

Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend -- not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let's change the way we think about changing the world.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What Kind of Book Reader Are You?


The Atlantic Wire has two articles on identifying the kind of book reader you are.

On the platform, readingThe Hate Reader. Oh, you. You pretend to be curmudgeonly, you do, but you really just devour the reading you do in a different way. You're loving it nearly as much as you're hating it, and maybe then some, even as you complain the author can't put two sentences together properly or that the book is dragging hopelessly in the middle and what kind of plot twist is that, even? An elephant in Act 3? These characters are so poorly drawn as to be comical! You call that a conclusion? Vampires, really? If you are a hate reader you will finish each hate read down to its very last word, and you may well close the covers and toss the volume across the room, but you will do it with a great, secret frisson of satisfaction because it feels so good. You may be an aspiring, disgruntled novelist yourself. Suggested hate reads: Twilight;Fifty Shades of Grey; any much-celebrated novelist's latest offering that's bound to be arguably less than all the hype. 
Delayed Onset Reader #1. You are without a doubt a book lover, and when you walk into a bookstore or any place books are available, you can't help yourself, you buy one or many. When you get home you put them aside, often reverently, as if they were art, displaying them on a bookshelf or propping them up on your bedside table, pages ready to meet your eyes as soon as you have the moment. But you're very, very busy, and days, weeks, or months may go by before you actually crack open one of these books. It's not for lack of trying! When you finally do, you will be overjoyed by all the learning and emotional depth and humor and writing quality that exists in this book that's been sitting within reach all along, and you will be amazed that you waited so long to ever open it. Suggested delayed onset #1 suggestions: The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman; The Princess Bride, by William Goldman; Lolita by Nabokov; Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. 

The Bookophile. More than reading, you just love books. Old ones, the way they smell, the crinkles and yellowing of the pages; new ones, the way they smell, too, the crispness, running your hands over a stack of them at the bookstore. You like books rescued from the street as much as signed first editions; you like drugstore paperbacks, you like hardcover new releases, you like it all. You just like books. To you, they are an object of beauty, and you would never, ever hurt them in any way. Suggested bookophile reads: Anything you can get your hands on. God, that's gorgeous, isn't it?
Read the entire articles here and here and discover your reading personality.

Image Source : moriza/ Mo Riza

Marvel Offers 700 Free Digital Issues

Marvel Comics
Image credit : Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
Via The Telegraph

Marvel Entertainment, home to the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers has made 700 first issues available to digital readers for free, through the Marvel app and the company's website in a project called 'Marvel #1'. 
The titles range from the 1960s Silver Age to contemporary issues with characters including Wasp, Mr. Fantastic, Power Man and Iron Fist. 
David Gabriel, senior vice-president of sales, said: "This is aimed at attracting fans from all walks of life — those who know our characters from the big screen, those who were readers but fell out of the habit and our long-term fans too. We believe that if we get those fans in the door, they'll stay and help grow this industry, with purchases both in comic stores and via digital comic outlets."



Via WIRED
Until late Tuesday night, you can download 700 different #1 comics for free as digital issues in the Marvel Comics app. UPDATE: The launch has been delayed. The massive consumer demand for the free comics has melted down the servers operated by digital comics distributer ComiXology, and the company is working to try to restore service. “We don’t like letting you down,” ComiXology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger said in a blog post Monday. “We’re pausing the Marvel Comics #1 promotion for the time being. For those of you that want to take advantage of the offer – you will get your comics!” Steinberger urges those who still want to take part to enter an e-mail address into a web form so the company can send an update when the promotion is available again. 
Also, Marvel will be releasing weekly content in the Infinite Comics format specifically designed for mobile devices. Finally, the publisher will add adaptive audio soundtracks to its digital comics through an initiative called Project Gamma. 
The window for free #1 comics began on Sunday, and was supposed to last through 11 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 12, until the server crash occurred. The 700 comics range from classics to recent issues, and while Marvel SVP of Sales David Gabriel told Wired that readers will still have access to any comics they download when the promotion ends, “after Marvel #1 ends the comics will return to their regular price, so we encourage fans to download as many as they can.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Rituchakra Series

Mala and Manisha (the lovely ladies from our editorial team and authors too) talk about the Rituchakra book series.


You can buy the entire series from our online store : Everything looks new, Kheer on a Full Moon Night, Peacocks and Pakodas, Lassi, Ice-cream or Falooda, Hot Tea and Warm Rugs.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pratham Books is "Open" for Publishing


I joined Pratham Books in September 2007 for a six-month internship and it was soon obvious that I’d be there much longer. Their mission of “A Book in Every Child’s Hand”, the people and the organisation were fantastic and I ended up working there for five years. Currently, I am an advisor to Pratham Books.

Over the course of my first year, the mission and ways one could use to achieve the scale required without necessarily growing the organisation proportionally fascinated me. We reached out, via multiple channels and networks, to possible partner organisations who could use our content and the Nepal wing of the One Laptop Per Child project and the Open Learning Exchange, Nepal were the first who wrote to us asking if we could provide content for their project in multiple ways: On their low cost laptops being distributed for children's use, in their eBook library and translated into Nepali for local use.

These were exciting opportunities. But we soon realised the limitations of traditional copyright law and the administrative overhead involved in bi/multilateral negotiations of agreements for content licensing and reuse – none of which we had the bandwidth or wherewithal to engage in.  Creative Commons licenses seemed to be a possible way around this problem and in November 2008 we took the plunge and licensed six books under a Creative Commons Attribution-­Non-Commercial-­Share-Alike India 2.5 Licence. (This is the blog post announcing the plunge. )

Our idea was to test the waters and see what came of this openly licensed content. One Laptop Per Child project and the Open Learning Exchange, Nepal were most enthusiastic partners and distributed our content to children who would otherwise not have had access to our books in languages that we did not publish in. It did appear that our early foray in to the Commons was a moderate success.

However, while this was a big leap for us as a publisher, it did have some push back from the larger community as Philipp Schmidt’s comment points out: “... the NonCommercial option makes things unnecessarily complicated, but since they are part of a larger commercial publisher, I suspect it was the mother company’s fear of the unknown (Share What?) that meant it would be non-commercial or non-Creative Commons.”

Simultaneously, I was also growing more aware of “openness” as an important trend along with the strength of the Internet. It opens up communities and enables new platforms.. It was obvious that a dramatic revision of existing publishing models was possible and long overdue. I was also curious as to the nature of a social publishing model that could be built using connected communities collaborating around openly licensed content.

Over the course of 2009, we, internally, debated the idea of using more liberal Creative Commons licenses and the Pratham Books Board was very supportive of the idea of licensing a subset of our catalogue under a Creative Commons Attribution license. We decided to license about 400 books under a Creative Commons Attribution license and make them available on Scribd and the illustrations on Flickr and began uploading these in October 2009. However, for various reasons, we only ever managed to upload around 173 of these books with the remaining CC licensed books never having been uploaded to Scribd and Flickr and is a process we have only recently restarted.

As we wrote in our case study, the Creative Commons licensing model is one that helped Pratham Books achieve many of its aims of flexibility, scalability, and its mission of placing a book in every child’s hands. We have been able to tap into a common value system of sharing and openness with a growing community of users and this has increased the scale and reach of our efforts. We have been able to license content to multiple organizations and individuals, both known and unknown, with a one-time effort of releasing them under a Creative Commons license, as opposed to the traditional model which involved time consuming negotiations and discussions with each known organization or individual who wanted to use our content.

This has formed a strong foundation for our social publishing model.

We have been heartened to see communities create multiple derivative works ranging from iPad and iPhone applications, to porting such works to OLPC laptops, to creating entirely new books from existing illustrations and creating versions of their books for the print impaired – from DAISY and Braille books to rich audio books such that we are now closer to fulfilling our mission of reaching every single child. We continue to track these efforts and are always amazed at what communities create and have been stunned at the traction some of these have achieved. For example, our books on Scribd have been read close to half a million times, on the International Children's Digital Library we have had over half a million views and have been downloaded on various applications over a quarter of a million times. And in Nepal, where it all began, our books have been loaded on servers in seventy-seven schools and around twenty thousand children have access to these books. We also are fairly certain that the books have been used elsewhere and in different ways (For example, downloaded, printed and distributed – we have seen this happen but do not have any way of tracking such usage.)

The Creative Commons model has extended the Pratham Books mission in ways that we could never have envisioned but a question we have constantly grappled with is whether making our books available under an open license and, for free, online has a negative impact on sales. While anecdotally we believed it did not have much of an impact on sales, we lacked data that proved or disproved the hypothesis - until now.

Given that we had a set of around 400 CC licensed books, of which we had uploaded only around half, and that the selection of those uploaded to those not uploaded was more driven by chance than design, we found that we could compare the sales figures for those CC books available online on Scribd to those that had not been uploaded to Scribd.

Individual Book Sales, Online vs. Not Online, Discrete By Month

We first looked at the individual books to see sales patterns over time and it did seem that the books on Scribd outsold the ones not on Scribd but it was hard to infer the significance of this or the margin of difference between the two when looking at individual books’ sales.

Cumulative Book Sales, Online vs. Not Online, Discrete By Month

We then looked at the cumulative sales, of books on and not on Scribd, over time and it was clearer that books on Scribd certainly seemed to outsell books not on Scribd.

Cumulative Book Sales, Online vs. Not Online, Cumulatively

Lastly, when we looked at the cumulative sales data for CC books that were available on Scribd vs. CC books that were not available on Scribd, we were astounded to see that the former outsold the latter in such dramatic fashion in almost a 3:1 ratio. While we would be hesitant to say, given the specifics of our market and our model, that making books openly licensed and available online increased sales, we are a lot more confident in claiming that, at worst, it does not seem to depress sales of those books. And that, in itself, is an important learning for us and as it should be for the rest of the publishing industry.

If nothing else making some part of your catalogue available online is a powerful way to build your community, your brand and engage audiences because content is marketing in itself. We were fortunate that this also helps us get closer to a book in every child’s hand in ways that still amaze us. The International Literacy Day events from last year are a fine example.

We hope our experiences and evidence will encourage other publishers to start making their content available online, in toto, and even consider openly licensing some part of their catalogue.


Celebrating Books and Reading

Today,World Book Day is being celebrated in UK and Ireland. We found out about it through this post written by Sandhya. Sandhya shared a wonderful idea she came across when she lived in the UK and we wish that schools in India embrace this idea soon enough. Why? Because it is a brilliant idea :)

I was introduced to the wonderful idea of having a day set aside for books when we were in the UK all of 9 years ago. 
A went to a montesssori there, and one day, we received an envelope addressed to us in her school bag. It contained a book token for one pound, and a list of age appropriate books that we could choose from to buy through the school. We could choose one book from the list to buy with our book token. Not only that, we could choose more books from the list at a discount, as the school had a tie-up with the local indie bookstore. We would then receive our treasure package on World Book Day.

Hop over to Sandhya's blog to see why she thinks this is such a great idea.

Sandhya also goes on to say a few things about the work we do at Pratham Books. Thank you Sandhya!

From  arightowrite
Which brings me to India. Our country. We are far far away from a utopia where we have such an extensive network of free libraries, let alone book tokens for an affordable amount. There are some people doing some good in this field, though. Pratham Books, with their Read India Movement, aim to put a book in every child's hand.  
This vision has had them creating books like these, wonderful books for throwaway prices.
Pratham books also are available in most Indian languages, and there are books that feature the everyday life of ordinary people. They are also more rooted in reality than those of other publishers whose book are for a similar demographic. As a result, any and every child can identify with these stories, and can be encouraged to pick up these books. The low cost, local language, and quality reading values make these books ideal for 'putting a book in each child's hands'. 
Let me tell you of an experience - I volunteer at a school for special children. Among other things, I also read stories aloud. (On an aside, yesterday, 6th March 2013, was World Read Aloud Day. Another way to spread the joy of books tothose who can read, as well as those who cannot.) Many of these children have difficulty in imagining much beyond reality, and fantasy, mythology, fairy tales, etc., are a big no-no. I often find myself pulling out a Pratham books publication to read to them, which they enjoy thoroughly as they can easily visualize things that commonly happen at home, in schools, or in any other 'real' setting. I find myself struggling to hold their attention with the books of many other publishers, unless that book matches these criteria. This makes these books so much more inclusive.
Read the entire article on Sandhya's blog.

AHA! Summer Express 2013

The summer holidays are almost here! Are your kiddies going to any super summer camps this year? Here's one for the kiddos in Bangalore ...

Via an email sent by Rangashankara

 (Please click on the image for a larger view)

 Registrations open from 10th March.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How a Boy became an Artist

Via TED

When Jarrett J. Krosoczka was a kid, he didn’t play sports, but he loved art. He paints the funny and touching story of a little boy who pursued a simple passion: to draw and write stories. With the help of a supporting cast of family and teachers, our protagonist grew up to become the successful creator of beloved children’s book characters, and a vocal advocate for arts education.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Build a School in the Cloud

Sugata Mitra is the winner of this year's  $1 million TED Prize and his wish is to build a school in the cloud. His work with the 'Hole in the Wall' project has been featured on our blog previously (here and here) and here's more on his new wish for children across the globe.

Via TED

Mitra wants children around the globe, in addition to traditional schooling, to get a chance to participate in self-organized learning. Translation: to spend time in learning environments where they are given the space to explore on their own, make discoveries and share them with their peers. In his talk from the TED stage, Mitra offered a bold wish: to help design the future of learning by supporting children in tapping into their innate sense of wonder. To this end, Mitra asked the TED community to help him create the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India where children can embark on intellectual adventures, connecting with information and mentors online. He also asked the community, wherever they may be, to create child-driven learning environments for the kids in their own lives.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Low-cost, preschools in rural Karnataka

Rural preschool chain in Karnataka - sounds strange? Our friends at the Hippocampus Learning Centre have set up 77 low-cost, rural preschools and working to set up another 40 soon. The kids are learning rapidly. Read all about this wonderful for-profit, social enterprise in today's Indian Express :

Hey Hippocampus, we do like the way you're "changing the way children in Bharat learn"! Good luck and more power to your team.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Mobile Library in Pakistan Provides Books and Hope

Via npr

On a cold, rainy morning, a van pulls up outside a rural elementary school on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. The fluorescent green vehicle provides a flash of color on this otherwise gray day. There's a picture of children reading books under a large apple tree, and the words "Reading is fun" are painted in English and Urdu, the national language in Pakistan.

This is the weekly visit of the Bright Star Mobile Library.

Volunteer Ameena Khan starts pulling books from shelves on either side of the van.

"One is called Faces and one's an Urdu book," she says. "We're doing Bears on Wheels, which is a nice counting book. Fourth grade is going to read their own books."

The younger children gather to hear Khan read. The girls, bright-eyed and engaged, sit cross-legged on the floor in neat rows.

In Pakistan, rarely a day goes by without news of a bombing or an attack by militants. Many young Pakistanis have grown up in the grip of religious extremism, and there's little sign that that is likely to change in the near future. But the founder of the Bright Star bookmobile is trying to reverse that trend, starting at the most basic level.

Malik says the poor quality of education is having a ripple effect on the lives of children. He remembers talking to a group of boys, 9 to 16 years old.

"And I asked them what were their plans when they grew up. And I was quite shocked with the reply," he says. "The majority of them said they wanted to become mujahed, which is a freedom fighter."

Malik felt books were the way to broaden children's minds, to introduce them to a whole world of subjects, and to help build tolerance for others. But he discovered that virtually none of the public schools in and around Islamabad had libraries. A few keep a small selection of books under lock and key; others offer children religious pamphlets as reading material.

So Malik decided to take books to the children. He says the idea of creating a mobile library came to him after seeing a similar project at the San Francisco Public Library. But Malik says he soon encountered the type of bureaucracy that can choke the life out of a project — even from Pakistan's Education Department.

Like most nascent nonprofits, funding is fragile. The project runs on a shoestring budget, and it relies on donations and volunteers like Ameena Khan. She says she has seen a positive change in the children since they've had access to books.

Daring the Educate Afghan Girls

Via TED

Imagine a country where girls must sneak out to go to school, with deadly consequences if they get caught learning. This was Afghanistan under the Taliban, and traces of that danger remain today. 22-year-old Shabana Basij-Rasikh runs a school for girls in Afghanistan. She celebrates the power of a family's decision to believe in their daughters -- and tells the story of one brave father who stood up to local threats.