On 17th of April, the Polish Ministry of Education has published the first part of a digital version of the new „Elementarz” – a primer textbook for pupils of the 1st grade of elementary school. The full, printed version will be provided for free to all students in September, at the start of the school year. The textbook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.
The open licensing of the 1st grade textbook program confirms the commitment of the Polish Ministry of Education to support the development of publicly funded Open Educational Resources. In parallel, a set of open core curriculum e-textbooks for K-12 schooling is being developed since 2012, as part of the „Cyfrowa szkoła” (Digital school) program.
The new program is another step in the transformation of the textbook provision model in Poland, which includes a shift from printed to also digital resources; from purely commercial production to a model where textbooks are also produced by public institutions; and from closed to open educational resources.
THe 1st grade textbook has always played a symbolic role, as the first „serious” book that a child going to school for the first time receives. With the free primer textbook, the Ministry wants to address the issue of rising textbook prices (average textbook expenditures by families have risen by almost 50% percent since 2007) as well as end a range of unfair practices by publishers (that forced, for example, parents to purchase new textbooks each year by bundling them into a single volume with exercise books). Together with the new textbook, a legislative reform will introduce regulations that will change the way textbooks are chosen in schools and enforce that textbooks are used for longer than a year.
The Ministry estimates that parents will save 100 million Złoty (approximately 25m Euro) on textbook expenses in the first year, and up to 700 million złoty (approximately 168m Euro) in 2020. The costs of the free textbooks will be covered from budget funds previously reserved for subsidies to textbook purchases for poor families. The Ministry will also subsidise, along the free primer textbook, a range of supplementary materials, including exercise books and a foreign language textbook. In following years, the program will be extended so that it will cover grades from 1 to 9. The program will also be integrated with open e-textbooks from the „Digital school” program.
Hopefully, in the next step we will see commercial publishers of the subsidised textbooks (foreign language textbooks, for instance), release their publications under a free license, following the Siyavula model. As important is the introduction into law of an Open Educational Resources policy, which will confirm current commitments of the Polish government.
My name is Subhashish Panigrahi. I am an educator currently working in the community and communication front at The Centre for Internet and Society’s Access To Knowledge program (CIS-A2K), an India-based catalyst program to grow Indic language communities for Wikipedia and its sister projects. Prior to my work at CIS, I worked for the Wikimedia Foundation’s India Program, a predecessor to the current CIS-A2K project.
While building ties with higher education and research organizations, I also try to get educational and encyclopedic resources licensed under Creative Commons licenses so that communities can use them to enrich Wikimedia projects. Currently, there is a low level of content available across all the Indic languages and the need for Unicode-based content is extremely crucial.
While negotiating with authors for relicensing their books in Creative Commons license, I started identifying certain motivation areas for any author for such free content donation. Some of the authors, publishers, and copyright holders have started learning about open access to scholarly publications. However, the readers who are likely to buy a hard copy of a book are likely to buy it even when a free, virtual version is available – that’s the idea authors who are skeptical about CC licenses need to understand.
Open source book publishing in India has gained much interest and focus, primarily because of the lack of foresight of the possibilities that are tied to the release of books. It was Pratham Books that first came up with the brilliant idea of “One book book in every child’s hand.” The subsequent release of multilingual books under free licenses was the beginning of a new era in Indian publication.
Book publishers should also think of the target readers of print and web media. Releasing content in free licenses doesn’t affect the mainstream print publications. When it comes to books, there is always a scope for reprinting and making money. After negotiations with two authors and getting 13 books about children’s literature, travelogues, popular science, and linguistic and historical research, I am sure the publishing community has not been educated in the right way about providing free access to content.
It generally takes a long time and effort to negotiate with the copyright holders to get the books out with a CC-BY-SA tag. But it is a permanent and a significant value addition for the open knowledge movement. I believe with more online readers and reviewers getting complete access to books, authors gain more respect in the society and popularity which in turn helps them to sell more of the reprints. Two prime fears are keeping many publishers away from releasing their books online for free: the fear of going out of business and the fear of losing ownership of content. But at the same time, some of the publishers are becoming aware of the mass media outreach and winning hearts of many readers by releasing content for free without copyright restrictions.Case studies: Release of a four-volume encyclopedia in Konkani
In 2013, Goa University released Konkani Vishwakosh, a Konkani-language encyclopedia in CC-BY-SA 3.0 license that they had published. This is the largest encyclopedia compiled in the language. The book is being digitized on Konkani WikiSource and content from it is being used to enrich the Konkani version of Wikipedia. The project additionally brought about 20 active contributors for digitization.2. Release of 11 Odia language books
11 books from Odia author and academic Dr. Jagannath Mohanty were re-released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license by the “Manik-Biswanath Smrutinyasa,” a trust founded by Dr. Mohanty for literary discussions and upbringing new writers. His wife and trust’s current chairman Allhadmohini Mohanty formally gave written permission to release and digitize these books. The Odia Wikimedia community is planning to involve undergraduate students of an indigenous educational institution, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, to digitize these books. The trust is also reaching out to publishers who published more than 150 of the author’s books to give permission for re-releasing them under a CC license.3. Relicensing “Classical Odia” under a free license
The book is heavy and expensive for any normal reader. Enormous copies were sold after Odia was declared as the sixth Indian classical language; however, this did not stop the authors Dr. Debiprasanna Pattanayak and Subrat Prusty from changing the license term from All Rights Reserved to CC-BY-SA 3.0. 600-plus pages full of historical documents and manuscripts along with many undiscovered areas of Odia language’s literary heritage of more than 2500 years are now going to go on WikiSource and enrich Wikipedia articles apart from being great resource for language researchers.4. Relicensing books and conversion of ISCII to Unicode font
Two Odia language books by linguist Subrat Prusty, “Jati, Jagruti O Pragati” and “Bhasa O Jatiyata,” have been relicensed. These are few of those thousand books in those the text are typed with fonts with ISCII standard and not Unicode. ISCII standard fonts have glyphs with Indic characters that are actually replacements of the Latin characters by Indic characters. So, a computer with one particular font not installed will display absurd characters. The publication and printing industries still use these fonts as the desktop publishing software package they use for typeset do not have Unicode engine to render the fonts properly. The conversion from these ISCII fonts to Unicode is a way that is going to be used for digitizaing these books to convert the entire book with searchable Unicode content.
Here at CC, we’re big fans of the Blender Foundation, which supports the open-source Blender 3D animation suite and produces beautiful animated films. The films are built entirely with open technologies and are licensed under CC BY. Big Buck Bunny, one of the early Blender films, raised a lot of awareness about Creative Commons licenses among animators and helped fuel the Creative Commons film movement.
Today, Blender is crowdfunding its most ambitious project yet, a full-length animated film codenamed Project Gooseberry. The enigmatic trailer definitely sparked my curiosity:
In this blog post, Blender Foundation chair Ton Roosendaal lays out his ambitious goal for Gooseberry and projects like it:
There’s a real growing unrest out there about how a few greedy people control this business – making their billions – while others lose jobs in the same week their company has won an Oscar. Yep, Mark Z. buys another toy for billions, which he makes by selling our digital lives. And we nerds just line up for yet another Marvel super hero movie again. Meanwhile the powers that be prepare for a separated internet – with fast and “free” commercial channels – and a slow, expensive one for the remains of the open internet we love.
I’m not fit for politics, nor do I feel much like protesting or mud slinging. I’m a maker – I’m interested in finding solutions together and doing experiments with taking back control over our digital lives, our media, and especially get back ownership as creative people again – and make a decent living with it.
The crowdfunding campaign ends this week. Check it out!