Thursday, May 29, 2014

Smartphones Drive eBook Sales in India

Via The Times of India
Ashok Banker has sold 2.1 million copies of his books, including his retellings of Indian mythological epics, most prominently the eight-book series on the Ramayana. Of these, 180,000, or about 9%, have been sold as e-books or electronic books that people read on mobile devices or PCs. Every month now, 3,000 copies of each of the eight books in the series sell as e-books.
departure lounge
E-books may be at an inflection point in India. For most publishers, ebook sales are between 2% and 5% of business, small compared to the 30% in mature markets where ebooks are mostly read on ebook readers like Amazon's Kindle.
But the smartphone surge, and the availability of reading apps on them, are redrawing the book market. "Few in India would want to spend a minimum of Rs 7,000 on an e-reader and then pay money to buy e-books," says Thomas Abraham, MD of Hachette India. "But now, with tablets and smartphones (that you bought anyway) having reading apps, we are seeing the beginnings of what might well be a big change. Last year we saw a quantum jump in sales," he says.

"Since the launch of the apps we have seen a 5-fold increase in orders and new customers," says Nipun Mehra, senior director of retail at Flipkart, adding that more than 60% of the readers use smartphones to access e-books.

Children's comfort with all things digital have made educational titles and children's books big in this category. "After literature and fiction, the next biggest are academic and test preparation e-books, followed by those on business and economics, and children's e-books," says Amazon India. Ganesh C Bhatt, founder of e-publishing company Cosmic Strands, says children's books are booming in India, and e-learning is gaining momentum.
Read the entire article.

Image Source : Robert S. Donovan

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Government Oriental Manuscript Library

A small board above the entrance modestly announces the library's official name: Government Oriental Manuscript Library. “The collection has a fascinating history,” says curator Dr. S. Vasanthi, thrusting an aged brochure into my hand. The paper says the manuscripts, copper plates and palm leaves came from private collections of Colonel Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821), Dr. Leyden and C.P. Brown, and adds sketches of how they came upon the treasures.

Fascinated by oriental languages, Mackenzie, an engineering cadet of the East India Company collected everything oriental — maps, coins, manuscripts and inscriptions. He was Surveyor-General of India (explains how he kept adding to his treasures) and when he died in Calcutta in 1821, the East India Company bought the collection, grouped it into three, sent one to London, one to Calcutta and the third to Madras. These were manuscripts of works in literature, history, philosophy and science — written in south Indian and Oriental languages and of Kaifiyats and inscriptions belonging to different periods, evidently unearthed in little-known places.

The GOML sitting quietly among tall avenue trees now has more than 70,000 manuscripts in Indian/Arabic/Persian languages filling the shelves on either side of the narrow aisles, some spilling out on to the floor. What is remarkable – apart from what the library holds in terms of knowledge – is the fact that scholars are on hand to disseminate what the manuscripts contain. A trained group works to preserve the palm-leaf and paper manuscripts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Read to Your Kids

Chris Evans argues that sharing the magic of books is as enriching for parents as it is for children.

And then, finally, we came to The Way Back Home, back to where it all began. Immediately I found myself choking up.

“Brilliant, Dad, brilliant. That’s my favourite book ever.”

“Shall I read it to you one more time,” I suggested, “just for fun?”

“No Dad, no! I’ll read it to you.”

And so he did:

“Once – there – was – a boy – and – one – day – as he – was – put – ting – his – things – back – in – his – cup … cup … cup – board …”

I melted into a sobbing wreck and had to stifle my tears so he wouldn’t notice – just as I am now, writing this. But there was no need to hide because Noah was already in another world, the world of words: gone, transported to a place only he knows – his interpretation of whatever it is those words were giving him. His voice was the narrator, his mind was the producer, his eyes were the cameraman; he was the costume designer, the lighting technician and all the actors rolled into one.

So please, parents – read to your children. Ideally at night, just before they drift off into the glorious, deep sleep of the innocent. Cuddle up and breathe together by the comforting glow of the bedside light in the darkness of winter, or while trying to hide your eyes from the blinding light of a late spring or early autumn setting sun. It will help them understand how an “ee” at the end of a word turns a hard “aa” into an “ay”, or how a “t” and “h” mysteriously morph into a “th”, sounding completely different.

If nothing else, you should do it because eventually they will read to you, not only because they’re told to or it’s their reading book from school, but because they want to. And you will not believe how extraordinarily beautiful and life-affirming that feels.

How Morgan Library & Museum is Digitizing Its Collection

Via explore-blog:
Fascinating short video of how the Morgan Library & Museum, one of the world’s most exquisite, is digitizing its remarkable collection, which includes such treasures as Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s original watercolors for The Little Prince and these Islamic manuscript paintings of Rumi’s life.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Reviews : Muchkund and His Sweet Tooth

Sandhya Renukamba reviews our books 'Muchkund and His Sweet Tooth' on GoodBooks.

Deep in the Edjar forest, of Mendha Lekha in Gadchiroli, in Maharashtra, lives the sloth bear Jambvan with his sleuth of bears. The dense subtropical forest is thick with the stately trees of arjun, silk cotton, peepal and kosimb. On the majestic trunks of these trees are colossal hives of the rock bees, full of honey. The bears, of course, love to feast on this honey. Every time they devour it, bees die in thousands, stinging to protect their homes and young. The stings are, however, ineffectual, as they get buried in the thick fur of the bears – unless, of course, they sting on the snout – a rare occurrence as the wily bear would promptly roll up!

Enter Muchkund, a munjya, who visits Jambvan and his nephews Neel, Angad and Sushen for a Diwali vacation. A munjya (as explained in an information box), is a shape shifting ghost who can speak any language – animal or human. Now Muchkund is a good-hearted munjya, who notices the decimation of the bees, and wonders if something could be done about it. Maybe have an agreement between the bears and the bees for mutual benefit? He speaks to the bears about this. Maybe they could take only the honey, and leave the eggs and larvae unharmed? In turn, the bees would not attack them – further decreasing bee deaths due to loss of the sting. Every bear agrees, except for Vali, the trouble maker. Being a shape-shifter, Muchkund takes the form of a male bee, and presents the bears’ proposal to the Queen bee – Madhurani – who accepts it for the sake of her swarms.

What happens next? Does the agreement work out? What about the trouble-maker, Vali? Read the book to find out.

The author, Madhav Gadgil, who is an illustrious ecologist, weaves into the story a message about the ecosystem. There is some interesting information about honeybees worldwide, and about non-violent (Nisarg) honey, harvested by the Sewagram Natural Technique developed at the Center of Bee Development, Wardha. Illustrations by Maya Ramaswamy, known for nature drawings, are the perfect foil – the cover page makes one want to pick up the book and find out more.

The narrative is much like a grandparent telling it to a grandchild all wide-eyed with curiosity, eager to find out what happens next. The flavor of the tale is quintessentially of a Marathi folk-tale, especially with the various ghosts in the gang of Vetal Baba – the pisach, munjya, zoting, khavis, samandha – that populated the ‘giant peepal tree on the campus of Pune University’. There is an interesting mix-up of mythologies, too: the sloth bears bear names of well-known vanaras (monkeys) from the Ramayana – behaving much in the same way that their namesakes would, giving readers an a-ha! moment.

Dive into the Wallbook at HT's No TV Day

Is it a book or a wall? It’s a Wallbook! A beautiful folding book by Christopher Lloyd – What on Earth? – is not only a wealth of tit-bits of information from across the eras but it also is a window for curious little minds to delve deeper into the history of the world.

The Writer’s Bug is partnering with HT's No TV Day campaign to host a children's program in which they can explore this book creatively and imaginatively. 

 Storyteller, Nilum Jijodia, gets on a time machine with a bunch of young, enthusiastic and inquisitive children to dive into the wallbook. The kids learn how to use this amazing book through fun-filled quizzes and games. 

Event : HT No TV Day
Date and Time: 31st May (Saturday), 12:30 to 1:30 pm
Venue: Kitab Khana, Fort

Find more details about the event.

Friday, May 23, 2014

2 Days Left to Send in Your Stories

This year's edition of the 'Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest' is almost drawing to an end. We've been having a blast reading all the entries and soon the judges will also get to read all the stories. If you still haven't sent us your story, hurry! The deadline for the contest is 25th May!!!

Off you go... craft us your best TENTASTIC story and send it along.

Why Reading Should be Embedded in a Country’s Culture

Meeta Gupta writes about the importance of fostering an environment of reading.

A Happy SurpriseThe UNESCO in a 2012 report found that 774 million people worldwide, including 123 million youth, could not read or write. Even those at school are lagging behind in reading age relative to their chronological age. UNESCO’s ‘Education For All Report’ puts the number of functionally illiterate children in primary schools at 250 million. They will always remain behind others unless they are able to step up and read for comprehension, analysis and building better arguments. 
Without strong reading skills they will continue to operate sub-optimally. While observers of communication do speak of this brave new world that is beyond scripts, it remains to be seen if it can be of any economic use. People with smartphones do communicate in emoticons, videos, recordings and more—they tend to use little language, and very little of what is considered traditional reading skills. Yet, these are social applications, not work. And people do manage to navigate smartphones with low levels of literacy. They are used to store phone numbers, to access the internet, to download ringtones and other multimedia stuff. Not efficiently, but sufficiently. Maybe it is time to take another look at our definitions of functional reading. 
Support and community engagement always improves reading levels. Community support for reading could include neighbourhood reading sessions, shared tutors, libraries and other shared resources, and even peer pressure. When reading becomes embedded in the culture of a community, competencies follow.

A large chunk of the work towards reading has been done by Pratham Books in India, taking off from where the National Book Trust left off—both are making excellent books for children at reasonable prices. 
The NBT books and the Pratham Books style and distribution models are different, yet both carry a serious commitment to reading. Katha too invests in stories and has extended their model to schools where children go through a stepped process to achieve independent reading levels via stories. There are may others investing in reading either directly or indirectly. And there are many innovations that need to be captured and replicated. 
It may be time to raise the game and bring about a reading revolution.
Read the entire article.

Image Source : @zenrainman

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Being a #PBChamp is addictive!

So, Aarti Srinivasan signed up to be a #PBChamp. She conducted her first storytelling session last year (read all about it) and she then got addicted!

In Aarti's own words....

The first time I entered BJ home( an NGO in Mumbai) on International Literacy Day last year and saw some hundred odd kids waiting to listen to a story I was going to narrate, I was both thrilled and anxious. But the moment I opened the book( Paplu, the Giant) I didn't have much to worry about. Little Paplu took over and he was enthralling the kids with all the fascinating things he did. I walked into the place as someone who was just 'giving it a shot' at storytelling but walked out quite amazed with myself. The experience made me realize that there's a storyteller hidden in each one of us. All one needs is an engaging story and a group of kids the story can engage with. Because, quite honestly, we're just the medium to bring the two together. Nothing more than that. 

The first 'PB Champs' experience I had was so fulfilling, that I became greedy for more and started going there every Sunday with a new story. Marathi, Hindi,English, I read out many books and many stories and became their Didi who got 'Wahi' they simply loved ('Wahi' means books in marathi) 

The imaginative questions they ask, the undivided attention they can give you, their reassuring nods, their sweet impatience in knowing the ending of every story, the honesty in which they accept their goof-ups, their love for pictures more than words- every behaviour of theirs only goes to say that the way kids can absorb a story, an adult would never be able to. When I read the story through their eyes, it always seems more endearing and more enjoyable.

This got me thinking how fantastic it would be if each of us could take some time out and spend an hour or so in the company of children and books. That would mean so many beautiful stories enjoyed by so many more children. Wouldn't that be great? Well, at the risk of sounding sermonizing, I would like to urge many more of you to become #PBChamps and be part of the fantastic 'Tentastic' initiative. Rest assured, you’ll get a lot more than you will give.

Thank you Aarti for sharing this story and more importantly for sharing so many stories with the kids at BJ Home. We can't wait to hear more of your stories from this year's TENTASTIC campaign. More power to you and all the #PBChamps we know!

If you want to become a TENTASTIC Champion, register here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ruskin's Bond with Books

Ruskin on Phone

Today is Ruskin Bond's birthday and we came across this lovely interview of him by Swati Daftuar.

He started writing in school, and today, Bond remembers a time long ago, when things were very different for authors. “There has been a lot of change, of course. For one thing, 50 years ago, a writer wasn’t a face. You were known by your writing, by your by-line, or by your books. There was no television those days; the visual medium didn’t exist. You weren’t even interviewed.” In fact, Bond's first interview took place almost 20 years after his first novel, The Room on the Roof, was published in 1956. “It had been serialised in the Illustrated Weekly and I got a couple of reviews here and there, but that's all.” Laughingly, he adds that it was even later that he became a face as well as a name for readers. “I wish it had been then, when I had had a better face.” 
While Bond started writing when books were not being published in India, he was still determined to make a living as an author. “And I was basically a fiction writer. Fortunately in those days, lots of magazines and newspapers carried fiction, so I would bombard them with my writing.” The Hindu, he says, was one such paper. “I wrote a lot of articles and stories for Sport and Pastime, Hindu's weekly sports magazine, way back in the 1950s and ’60s. I don’t know if they are still preserved in your archives.” For each story, Bond would be paid around Rs.50. Apart from the money he made from his work, he also built up quite a collection of ready work. “When books started being published in India, in the ’80s, I had all that material I could go into collections with.” 
It was his love for reading that led Bond towards writing. “My early writing might have been very literary. I was trying to emulate my favourite authors. As I grew older, it changed, and living in the mountains, I came closer to nature. The more people I met, the more experiences I had, the bigger my canvas grew.”
Read the entire article. Which is your favourite book by Ruskin Bond?

Additional reading : A Rainy Day with Ruskin Bond - by Mayank Austen Soofi

Related children's book : Advaita the Writer - by Ken Spillman (for Tulika Books)

Image Source : Gautam Dhar

Why We Love Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons BBB

Recently, we came across a post on the Learning Hindi blog and it reinforces our resolve to put more of our books out under Creative Commons licenses. Thank you George for sharing our work with your readers. We also love that our friends from ICDL have been featured on the same post :)
If you’re learning any language then one thing that’s super important is reading, you should read, read read! A brilliant way to do this is to read children’s books - they should have much more accessible vocab and grammar, especially for a beginner. But for a language like Hindi getting hold of children’s books can be basically impossible if you’re not in India. Well panic not - today I’m going to share with you a brilliant website that has dozens of free online digital Hindi books! Ready?

The ICDL is wonderful site that would be helpful for any language learner (and of course it’s perfect for actual children wanting to read too!). It has thousands of completely free online digital books in 61 languages. The books are genuinely entertaining and well illustrated too!
Specifically for Hindi it currently has 30 books - click here to see a list of them all. These Hindi books are excellent practice for those of you who are beginning to come to terms with Hindi. There’s a great range as well; of the 30 or so books some of them, like Where is my Bat? are very basic… 
Now this is where Pratham Books comes in; the ICDL is only a library - it doesn’t create the books. The majority of the Hindi books they host are published by a brilliant company calledPratham Books. They are another non-profit organisation and are based in India. They work to help child literacy rates by providing cheap books - living by the motto “we believe that every child has the right to enjoy good books”. How could you not love them.
 Read the entire post.

Read/download/share all our CC-licensed books (Hindi and other languages).

View the different derivatives that have resulted from our CC-licensed books.

Image Source : Steren Giannini

Book Review : My Family

R's Mom reviews our book 'My Family' on Indian Moms Connect.
My Family written by Arshiu Naaz, Kuldeep Sandhu and Sushila, illustrated by Rajeev Verma (Banjara) and published by Pratham Books is a very nice sweet book. 
Targeted for toddlers and above, the book is a story of a girl whose name is Tuk Tuk. She introduces us to her family which is a typical Indian family with uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents and even a cute like dog called Bujo. 
What we loved about the book was
1. The name Tuk Tuk. R and I used to dissolve into giggles every time we read the book
2. The excellent illustrations by Banjara. He has managed to get every expression of every family member so wonderfully
3. The fact that the book teaches children that family is not only your own brother,sister, father and mother. It’s about the extended family. While we are moving towards a nuclear family set up at least in urban India, here is a book that teaches children about extended family
4. Loved the cute ending. R and I always laugh when we finish reading the book.
Here is a book that celebrates family. Go on and buy it. It’s worth it!
Read the entire post.

Buy the book

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dispelling Stigma Through a Comic

Via The Hindu

This June, young girls in the State will have a fun resource to learn about an important biological function.

Menstrupedia, an Ahmedabad-based initiative, is planning to release a comic book that will provide essential information about menstruation, in an easy and accessible manner.

The book will first be released in English, and then translated into other languages, said Aditi Gupta, co-founder of the initiative.

The aim of the comic book, Ms. Gupta said, is to help young girls manage their periods effectively and to help parents and educators teach them about menstruation.

“Often, schoolteachers simply skip the subject. In many cases, menstruating girls are branded impure. Another objective of the comic book is to dispel this notion of impurity and the many taboos and myths associated with it,” she said.

“Any initiative that creates awareness about this is good, as there is a huge amount of ignorance on this subject,” said Aruna Rathnam, education specialist, UNICEF, Chennai.

Ms. Rathnam said trouble managing their periods is a contributing factor to girls dropping out of schools. “In many cases, mothers too don’t know much about it and won’t talk about it due to socio-cultural restrictions. Girls grow up ignorant and afraid, and this leads to a host of issues,” she said.

Read the entire article. You can also pre order the book here.

Image Source : Menstrupedia

Amar Chitra Katha Comics Enter the World of Apps

Via The Hindu

Recently launched, the ACK Comics app is just another, and perhaps a quicker way to access the over 300 titles of the comics many of us grew up on. The app is free, and while it was already available for Windows 8, it can now be downloaded on the iOS and Android platforms. Launched on the second edition of Free Comic Book Day, ACK also celebrated the event by enabling the app's users to download 10 free titles over the two day celebration.

Redesigned and renewed to ensure that their digital format is both easy to read and well-formatted, the comics can be accessed in both the flip-book mode as well as the panel by panel mode. The reading experience, complete with the touch screen facility, is bound to change, and for the better.

Of course, this is a move that seeks to bring a new crop of readers to ACK, and targets a generation that is comfortable with Kindles, Smart-phones and tablets. With more and more books being printed across platforms and mediums, ACK has entered the fray slightly late, but with the titles both affordable and easily accessible, should be making up for lost time soon enough.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the app comes in the form of accessibility, and makes these legendary comics available for a global readership. ACK has been, over the years, widening its reach by publishing the comics in a number of regional languages including Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali and Tamil. This push into the digital medium serves as yet another way to increase readership.

Image Source : ACK Comics

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

15 Books Recommended by Children's Book Editors in India

Hippocampus School Library Services asked editors from Tulika Books, Pratham Books, Duckbill and Karadi Tales to share their list of favourite books by Indian publishers. 

Here's what our editors (Mala Kumar and Manisha Chaudhry) had to say... 

Tulika Books, Duckbill, Pratham Books and Karadi Tales are some of the publishing houses that have contributed significantly to improving the quality of children’s books in India. 
1. Which are 2 books from other Indian publishers that you absolutely love?
2. Could you name a book from your own publishing house that fills you with pride every time you look at it? 
Pratham Books
Counting on Moru by Rukmini Banerji (Pratham Books)
I like this book because the protagonist is like many of the kids you’d find in every school in every classroom. It should definitely be part of every school library, and hopefully some teachers will read it too. 
Other Publishers
Cobra in my Kitchen by Zai Whitaker (Rupa & Co)
The humorous way of bringing in animals and humans makes one think of Gerald Durrell. Such books do more for sensitizing children to the animals and birds around them than textbooks and moralistic articles on how to save our environment. 
The World of Anahi and Vir by Kalpana Subramanian, Illustrated by Prashant Miranda (Little Latitude)
This set of three books is delightful for little readers.

Pratham Books
Kallu Series by Subhadra Sengupta, Illustrated by Tapas Guha (Pratham Books)
I really like the Kallu series titles: In Big Trouble Again and Monkey Business on Stage. These books introduce a bunch of children from a village in a fast, urbanising India in a most credible way. The children are instantly identifiable, likeable and their adventures are engaging. These books give a face to the ‘demographic dividend’ that is being bandied about by economists and tug at our heart to say that every child everywhere in India is important. Because they are so Indian, they are a delight to translate into Indian languages and their usage of English is also very Indian. 

Other Publishers
The Mountain of the Moon by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay (Katha)
I absolutely love The Mountain of the Moon. It is a translation of ‘Chander Pahad’ by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay from Bangla. Set in Africa, it is a feat of imagination and the translation is lovely. 
Ekki Dokki by Sandhya Rao, Illustrated by Ranjan De (Tulika)
This is also a perennial favourite. I used to read it out to my kids and I recently read it out to another kid from the next generation and she loved its quirkiness. The illustrations are arresting visually and the timelessness of the folk style narration has a power of its own.

Janaki Lenin and 'The King Cobra's Summer'

New Asian Writing features an interview Janaki Lenin and our book 'The King Cobra's Summer' finds a mention too.
Janaki Lenin’s first book ‘A King Cobra’s Summer’ for children was published by Pratham Books in 2011. It ranked among the top 12 publications for children for that year.  
NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?
There was no definite moment or age when I discovered I wanted to write. My mother says I went through a childhood phase when I said I wanted to be a writer. But I also wanted to be a painter, a pilot, and many other things. I wrote various stories and essays right through school as part of class work and for my own pleasure. But when I graduated from school, I didn’t think of writing as a career option. I chose to become a film editor instead. A few years later, at age 34, I quit filmmaking. But I was at a loss – I didn’t have any other skills. I enjoyed writing scripts and I had written articles about our filmmaking experiences, so I thought I’d explore writing as a career. I’m still in the business of story-telling, I merely changed my medium of expression. 
NAW- Was it difficult to write A King Cobra’s Summer which is meant for children? Not many authors tend to write for children in India.
To be honest, it wasn’t my initiative. Pratham Books wanted a story about king cobras and I wanted to support their mission to put a book in every kid’s hands. They have great publishing values and still manage to keep the price of their books low. So it was a satisfying collaboration. 
One of my childhood fears was of getting lost and never seeing my family again. That was the starting point and the rest flowed. I didn’t write the book with the thought – this is a children’s book – in mind. I didn’t want to be condescending or keep the story simple. 
Since I didn’t have any experience writing for children, I sent it to three children of friends. I tweaked it based on their feedback. I didn’t know how to deal with reptile sex. I was circumspect in the draft, and one of my three critiquers challenged me to write about it openly.
The other worry was the timeline – I switch from the present to the immediate past to the distant past and back again. I wanted it to be simple to understand and yet not have to narrate the story linearly. And children didn’t have any problem in understanding. 
To answer your question, the book wasn’t difficult to write but it seemed difficult because of my worries. The lesson I learnt was not to underestimate children.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Thanks for Voting 'Aaloo Maaloo Kaaloo' to the Top

The results of  the 'Parents and Kids Choice Award' are out and we are happy to announce that 'Aloo Maloo Kaloo' is among the top 3 books in the 'Indian books' category. Thank you all for voting for your favourite book and taking Aaloo Maaloo Kaaloo to the top! 

About the Parents and Kids Choice Awards
Parents and Kids Choice Awards (PKCA) is a platform to let your choice be heard, not governed by sales, popularity, or the message hidden in it, but simply determined by them making a special place in your hearts and your lives.

View the entire list of winners in all categories -Books - Indian and International Authors, Toys & Games, Websites & YouTube Videos and Mobile Apps.

Sales of Second-Hand Books Pick Up Online

Second hand books

Anusha Soni writes about the increase in sales of second-hand books online.

Via The Business Standard

While finding an old title across these streets still holds its own magic, competition from online chains betting big on second hand books is on the rise. That, experts point out, can change the dynamics of the unorganised industry selling used books.

Estimated at over $2 billion, the books industry in India is growing at about 20%. Of the total industry, more than 10% makes for second hand books, estimates suggest.

Many websites have come up solely dedicated to selling second hand books. Among the popular names are, Even websites such, have started pilot projects and free applications that help people buy and sell second hand books.

“It’s a fairly flourishing industry in metros, but two most important aspects of it are pricing and delivery, ” says Milan Sheth, Partner & Advisory, Ernst & Young. He adds one can bargain on the street but on the internet there is no room for that.

Countering experts on high delivery cost, Goyal of says many of the sellers use book post or India Post which does not cost more than Rs 30. Also the price of delivery is included in the cost of the book displayed,” according to Goel.

Image Credit : Konrad Förstner

Teen Fiction in India


However, if one were to look at the market for teen fiction or juvenile fiction as it is also called, it is obvious that there is a thriving demand for books of this age-group.

The market for teen fiction in India is huge. Ameya Nagarajan of Penguin says, ‘The reason is simply that there are more and more urban educated kids with parents who can and do buy them books. The problem is that it’s very tricky to get it right, because you’re also looking at a market that’s seen a lot of imported writing, and is generally slightly prejudiced against homegrown stuff.’ 

There are many writers using English in exciting ways, as it lives and breathes in the Indian milieu. But ‘beautiful’ writing is not enough. These writers should claim the space that these genres offer for vibrant narratives/stories of the unheard and the unseen.’ Stating that this is an ‘extremely favourable time to be writing for this age-group’, Priya points out that the landscape for teen fiction has changed over the years. Several writers – Indian and from the diaspora - are exploring new themes that ‘reflect the child’s need for an identifiable context’. Authors like Ranjit Lal, Paro Anand and Urmila Mahajan have taken on challenging issues like female infanticide, incest, drug abuse, communal violence and more. Priya says that several children who are voracious readers tend to move into reading regular adult fiction, so writing for this age-group is challenging.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Why Our Future Depends On Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming

If you've been following our blog for a long time, you've probably noticed that we've posted quite a few articles that share Neil Gaiman's thoughts on a variety of topics. And this post adds to that list. The edited version of Neil Gaiman's lecture for the Reading Agency appear in The Guardian and is an article which must be revisited from time and time.
The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them. 
I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children's books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. 
It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.
89/365: Children 
I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access toebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.
Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.
Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. "If you want your children to be intelligent," he said, "read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.
 Read the entire article.

Image credit : Jeremy Kunz

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

And Together We Did It Again!

Another bright, promising Sunday drew the bright little ones to the 'Together We Can' Sunday Camp held at their Government Higher Primary School in M.R.S Palya. This week's camp was hosted by Akshara Foundation with ample help from the Jeevanotsava team (run by AVAS and DRRT). Though Sunday started unusually early for me, I had the ultimate kickstart to my day. 

The small playground just inside the main gate was deceptively quiet. But as soon as I crossed it and entered the main quadrangle, I stepped straight into a whirlpool of action. Amidst much singing, shouting and laughter, I was greeted with shouts of "Hi, akka!" which was a pleasant surprise as some kids remembered me from the previous Sunday camp. Thus began an action-packed day.

Though the turnout this Sunday on the 4th of May, '14, was slightly less than that of the previous Camp, we did not lack in energy and enthusiasm. The hundred odd kids more than made up for their absentee friends.

Our host NGO, Akshara Foundation, ensured that the kids participated in the various activities that were being held by the different NGOs. Baale Mane had games organised, Jeevanotsava had children dancing to the beats of the tabla, Akshara brought out the engineer in kids and adults alike with legos, Sunaadh had children singing and Pratham Books fueled their imagination with stories. I had chosen a few of my personal favourite titles; 'Samira's Awful Lunch', 'Chulbul's Tail' and the evergreen 'Annual Haircut Day'.

The kids sided with Dr. Bombo and thought Chulbul rather silly. In the second story, they could relate with Samira as most kids said they had the same dislike for some foods. And at the end of the third story, they felt extremely sorry for Sringeri Srinivas. One child actually enquired after the elephant who had fever! ('Elephant's Fever' was read at the previous Sunday Camp.)

A skit on 'Annual Haircut Day' had a hilarious climax as the kid playing the tiger chickened out at the last minute and refused to roar. Sringeri Srinivas had to first prompt then coax him to roar which had the other children roaring with laughter. Srinivas then got a fright of his life when the audience roared collectively on behalf of the tiger! Long live the tiger :)

A fun-filled, children-filled (hence needless to say) action-packed Sunday was a day well spent, when 'Together We Can' became 'Together We Did'.

People-Powered Publishing

Amy-Mae Elliott writes a detailed report on how people-powered publishing is changing all the rules of publishing.

Via Mashable

Self-publishing used to be synonymous with unprestigious "vanity publishing," where well-off authors who couldn't get their books into print by traditional means paid small, independent presses to publish them. But with the advent of e-books, social reading sites and simple digital self-publishing software and platforms, all that has changed. An increasing proportion of authors now actively choose to self-publish their work, giving them better control over their books' rights, marketing, distribution and pricing.

Other authors, like Kelly, self-publish as a way to bypass the seemingly endless rounds of rejection, particularly when sending books to publishing houses, hoping to get "spotted" once their work rises on the e-book charts.

Although out of fashion for many years, the rise of the mobile and social web has brought serialization back in vogue. Using the strategy, authors can keep readers excited about a story, gather feedback in real time and generate buzz. The piecemeal approach also suits modern reading patterns, as people increasingly consume shorter content on mobile devices, often on the go.

And self-published authors have the most freedom to experiment with such a convention.

In today’s digital and social age, self-published writers are forcing traditional publishers to sit up and take note. As self-published titles notch up more and more reads and establish a strong, vocal fan base, the traditional shift of power moves from publisher to author.

That shift in power could move authors even further away from the traditional publishers, with the advent of people-powered publishing. Rather than wait for your manuscript to land on the right desk, simply get enough of a fan base behind you and you can create your own hard copy book, with funds generated from the fans.

Old Delhi’s Hazrat Shah Waliullah Public Library

Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty writes about an impressive community effort that preserves rare books in Urdu, Persian and Arabic

Via The Hindu

Quraishi comes to the library every day at 10 a.m. other than Sundays. “But if you really want to see the crowd here, come at night, between 10 and 11 p.m. This is the only library in Delhi that is open so late,” he says, a streak of pride sneaking into the tone.

So who are its users? “Because we have some of the rarest books in Urdu, Persian and Arabic, we get a lot of research scholars from universities across the world. They usually come during the day. At night, most people come from around the area to read old books, also newspapers and magazines,” he fills in.

Naem takes you to 1987 to relate the idea behind the effort, when communal disturbances in Old Delhi led to a curfew for four days. Once the curfew was lifted, we met as usual at my place and told each other, ‘Lets do something that people will remember us for’.” They zeroed in on collecting old books, creating a community space where people could come to read a book, a newspaper, meet each other. They named it after Shah Waliullah, the Islamic scholar who first translated the Quran to Urdu.

This enthusiastic bunch of 16 young people first brought books from their homes. “We then went around asking people to donate old books, even visited U.P. towns looking for them. On Sundays, we would go to Nai Sarak, rummage through the old books,” he fills in. The pile got bigger and better. Today, this one-room library hosts about 20,000 rare and out-of-print books in Urdu, Arabic, Persian, besides some in Hindi and English.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Japanese Manga Finds a Devoted Following in India

Via Hindustan Times

Overall, membership of the Mumbai club has grown from the original handful to a total of 3,000 registered members, most of whom rarely meet offline, collaborating online instead to share manga comics or tips on sketching characters, and to offer feedback on a growing collection of independent works of Indian manga. At the official monthly meet-ups, attendance is now frequently upwards of 300 people.

This thriving club is part of a pattern across India’s metro cities, with dedicated fan clubs, manga libraries and Indian manga publications emerging in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai over the past five years.

The Bangalore anime and manga fan club, for instance, has grown from 500 members two years ago to more than 2,000 members today. In Delhi, there is a dedicated manga section in the Japan Foundation library, with more than 1,000 titles available in English and Japanese. The Delhi comic convention or comic-con also hosted its first manga-only stall in 2013, and sold all issues of the 40-plus titles on display.

Now, publishers have begun looking to cash in too. A manga work published in India in 2012, Stupid Guy Goes to India, became one of Blaft’s bestselling titles, selling more than 6,000 copies.

“The Indian market is ripe for a manga takeover and we will be facilitating the entry of over 125 manga series into the Indian market over the coming months,” says Kevin Hamric, senior director of sales and marketing at Viz. “The Indian audience has already been initiated into manga via cartoon channels. Some of our titles have been brought into the country by parallel importers and they have done very well.”

Image Source : Blaft Publications

On the Usage of Creative Commons Licenses in Publishing

Sharing two recent mentions of our use of Creative Commons licenses :

On, Subhashish Panigrahi talks about relicensing of books to Creative Commons licenses :

It generally takes a long time and much effort to negotiate with copyright holders for relicensing material as Creative Commons. But, when we do negotiate it, and win, the content is a permanent and valuable addition to open knowledge and the movement. 

So far, authors might be avoiding open licensing because:
  • They think it might put them out of business because others could plagiarize and republish their work without attribution.
  • They think if they will lose ownership of the content due to the nature of open licenses, which allow reuse.
Open licensing should be important to authors because as more readers and reviewers get access to their books and other online content, the visibility of their work increases, allowing them to gain more respect and popularity. This can, in turn, help authors sell more of the reprints.

The "one book in every child's hand" campaign by Pratham Books was an initiative by a large publisher to license Indian langage books with a CC BY-SA license. The campaign's mission was to provide access to knowledge and good quality education of native Indian languages to students whose families cannot bear educational costs. Pratham Books gained a lot of attention globally and the campaign proved to be a sustainable model for publishers and free licenses.


The Times of India also carried an article giving examples of the usage of Creative Commons licenses by different organizations and professionals.

"Sharing", under a CC Licence, resonates with the free knowledge movement. A growing tribe of publishers, musicians, photographers and academics is choosing to share their work for free.

Every CC licence ensures that creators get the credit for their work. But it need not be a free-for-all situation - there are six variations of licensing permutations possible such as 'share-alike', 'non-commercial', and 'no derivatives'. 

Pratham Books, a Bangalore-based publisher, continues to use CC licences for its children books. "Traditional publishers thought we were crazy," says Gautam John, adviser, Pratham Books. But use of CC licences has surpassed Pratham's expectations of reaching out to children. "We are getting new readers with every book in the public domain," says John. The 500 titles with CC licences, in fact, outsell the rest.


Take a look at our CC Tracker to see how CC licenses have allowed for the creation of several derivatives across mediums.

Image Source : Dennis Skley

Digital Publishing and the Indian Publishing Industry

An article in the Hindu sheds light on the new opportunities opening up in the publishing industry , thanks to the digital revolution.

When Nishant travels to college, he finds a comfortable spot for himself in the bus and reads books on his smart phone. 
The publishing industry in India is waking up to this new reader. It is transitioning into a new platform, where there is a possibility of reaching out to a wider audience at a relatively lower cost and creating new revenue streams. 
Bangalore-based publisher Pratham Books was among the first Indian children’s book publishers to make their title “Muchkund and His Sweet Tooth” available in the digital medium.
The title has got more than 6,000 views on Scribd till date. 
However, simply “knowing” the technology won’t be sufficient. Suzanne Singh, Chairperson at Pratham Books, says, “Digital publishing requires people who can help create new engagement models with readers. We require people who understand analytics, social media and are digital innovators. These are early days in digital publishing... [but] we look for out-of-the-box thinkers who believe in the transformative power of technology...” 
Parthibhan Amudhan at BookBox, an organisation that helps publishers digitise their books, says, “There has been a marked rise in publishers looking for companies to digitise their books. At Bookbox, we produce animated stories to help improve reading skills and language learning using Same Language Subtitling. We make sure the content is easily accessible across all existing and upcoming digital platforms such as YouTube, Google Play, Apple Store, Kindle and DTH.” 
However, with rising awareness, digital products are being taken more seriously by book publishers. For example, Penguin India launched the Penguin App for smart phones in 2011 and rolled out its e-book publishing venture in 2012.
Read the entire article to learn more details on how to enter the field of digital publishing.

Image credit : John Blyberg

Monday, May 5, 2014

Celebrating Our 10th Anniversary

Storytelling at Akshara Foundation
Image Credit : Akshara Foundation
The lovely folks at featured us on their site.

Popular children's books publisher Pratham Books is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. We caught up with them to congratulate the team on this milestone and discuss good books and more!

1. ‘Our vision is to reach 200 million children in India, and we hope to someday put 'a book in every child's hand'. How close is Pratham Books in reaching this milestone?
Pratham Books has published over 1700 books in English in 12 languages over the past decade and our estimated readership is 52 million. We are still far away from fulfilling our mission, but it is the goal that guides all our work and hopefully we will get closer to it as more and more people join in to fulfill what we believe is a societal mission and not just Pratham Books’ mission.

4. As a not-for-profit publisher, what are the challenges you face in the children’s books business? And what are the advantages?
Challenges –
• India produces a woefully inadequate number of books for its children in their languages. The book distribution systems are under developed especially in regional languages.
• No regular or sustained reading programs in schools. 
Advantages –
• High quality books at affordable prices.
• Unique content and stories that are set in contexts that children can relate to.
• We have broken the constraints of minor language publishing and have created content in languages such as Assamese and Ladakhi.
• Large numbers of our books are openly licensed under Creative Commons Licenses, allowing users to read the book for free or adapt the books in new languages and formats.
Vision :"A Book in Every Child's Hand"

5. Your books are priced at very low rates – how do you manage this?
Pratham Books has adopted a unique hybrid model of operation to attain sustainability. This innovative business and service model is part philanthropy based and part market based. Funds are raised through philanthropy to cover book development expenses alone. Other expenses of book production and distribution are met by the revenue generated from selling our books.

6. How has Pratham Books used technology to widen its reach?
Technology is a great enabler to reach more children without the constraints of a physical distribution system. Several of our e books are available for free on Scribd and the International Children’s Digital Library. These books have been read over 600,000 times. Through various apps and up loads, Pratham Books’ openly licensed books have so far recorded over a million downloads/reads. These books have also been translated into several new languages like Sanskrit, Assamese, Spanish, Ladakhi etc. 
We are currently working to develop an open source platform which will be a repository of openly licensed children’s content in multiple languages.

8. What is your take-away from the last 10 years in this industry?
Pratham Books has created a new paradigm in children’s publishing by creating good quality books at affordable prices in multiple Indian languages. We have spread the joy of reading among millions of children and we have tapped into the voluntary spirit of our community champions who have taken story telling to children. We have also pioneered an open content policy by licensing a lot of our content of Creative Commons, and have broken the shackles of restrictive copyright laws of publishing.

9. What, in your opinion, is a good children’s book?
A good book is one that engages the child, makes them think and opens up a whole new world that enlarges their horizons. A good book helps in the child’s emotional development enabling them to look at their world empathetically and go beyond their own perspective. Good books also make children want to read more.
Read the entire article.

Also, we are currently running two campaigns to celebrate our 10th Anniversary:
1. Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest - on till 25th May, 2014
2. Register to be a TENTASTIC Champion

Last Two Days to Vote : Parents and Kids Choice Awards

The nominations are in and our book 'Aloo Maloo Kaloo' has made it to the finals of the Parents and Kids Choice Awards. Thank you for letting us know that you love this book so much.

Help your favourite book win by voting for it in the finals. Click here to vote (look for 'Aloo Maloo Kaloo' under the Books(Indian) category).

About the RivoKids Parents and Kids Choice Awards

RivoKids & Hindustan Times Student Edition bring to you Parents and Kids Choice Awards 2014 in 3 Age Groups (0-5, 5-10 and 10-15 years), across 5 Categories (Books - Indian and International Authors, Toys & Games, Websites & YouTube Videos and Mobile Apps).

Theme-based Book Kits by Little Reader's Nook

Holidays are just round the corner, and here’s how to bring back the storytelling era with a new-age twist — read-aloud books. The Little Readers’ Nook offers such books for kids aged up to six. It was set up recently by Mumbai-based Devaki Bhujang Gajare, an engineer from New York when she realised the dearth of good books for very young kids in the Indian market. She sourced books from abroad for her son and his friends who were hooked. Little Reader’s Nook sells theme-based book kits delivered across the country. Each all-inclusive kit has three age-appropriate books on a theme, in addition to reading tips, vocabulary builders, activity ideas, a worksheet and a video guide.

“We work as a partner with parents in engaging their child with our books with our reading enrichment tools” says Devaki. The books are open-ended with subtle messages that provide scope for imagination and encourage children to think for themselves. The books aim to nurture the joy of reading and not come across as preachy.

As books for very young children are still considered somewhat of a novelty in India, the project initially faced resistance. Now, the readers are growing in number with overwhelming responses from parents. The project’s team of storytellers conducts weekly interactive story sessions for three- to six-year-olds in Mumbai with role-plays and conversations.

Book Review : The Elephant Bird

One of our newest books 'The Elephant Bird' (written by Arefa Tehsin and illlustrated by Sumit Sakhuja) received two reviews over the weekend.

The first review we spotted was on
This is a book written for children who are ready to read on their own. It is penned by Arefa Tehsin, who is a wildlife warden at Udaipur and who writes both for children and adults. The book is illustrated by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakuja who together run a design studio.  
I just finished reading the book and it left me with a great feeling-that of hoping against hope. I had just heard that 500 acres of Mangar forest in Aravali is being handed over to developers. The book helped dull the pain and anger I was experiencing. The book did not take me into a flight of fancy - far from it. The violet coloured, one feathered giant bird may be a product of imagination. The little limping girl who made friends with the bird learnt to trust a friend early in life. Learnt to fight for a friend against all odds early in life. Somewhere out there are children and youngsters like that. And that gave me hope. 
Child is the father of man. Who said that? 
When the villagers were all set to kill the last remaining species of the Elephant bird, their thoughts were just about taking revenge, they assumed the Bird had swallowed their horse. Little did they know the Bird ate only grass! 
When our developers are swallowing the last of the pristine forest in Aravali range, is anyone bothered to look at facts? I wish a bold and curious girl will alter the fate of Mangar too, like Arefa has so poignantly told in her story.


Shana Susan Ninan also reviewed 'The Elephant Bird' on  Indian Books Reviews.
A level 3 book from Pratham Books, a Bangalore-based organisation that strives to make sure that there’s a book in each child’s hand. Authored by Arefa Tehsin, honorary Wildlife Warden of Udaipur, and illustrated by Sonal Goyal and Sumit Sakhuja, this book is meant for three-year-olds and upwards. But the fact that my one-and-a-half-year-old son was mesmerised by the colourful and vibrant illustrations is fact enough that all kids will enjoy this feast. 
Munia’s limp forbids her from making any real companions. And the Elephant Bird is her only true friend. When one of the horses in the village disappears, the headmen and elders are quick to point fingers at the giant animal. Munia knows that the elephant bird is a harmless herbivore, and has definitely not eaten the horse! She voices her protest at the village council, gets shooed away and even her parents are mad at her. But knowing that the village folk plan to search for the elephant bird and harm it the next morning, Munia goes out at night to find the truth about the missing horse. Values such as friendship, honesty and caring are stamped in the foreground of this story. 
This children’s picture book is inspired by the real Elephant Bird, one that became extinct in Madagascar, its home.

Click here to buy 'The Elephant Bird'.