|Image Credit : Akshara Foundation|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.