Weblog

2010 April

Flat World Knowledge partners with Barnes & Noble and NACS Media Solutions

Jane Park, April 9th, 2010

On April 1, Flat World Knowledge announced its partnerships with Barnes & Noble and NACS Media Solutions (an independent business subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores). The partnerships enable FWK’s open textbooks to be distributed in low-cost print form at up to 3,000 college bookstores across the U.S. for the 2010 fall semester. To make sure this wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, I followed up with some of the folks at FWK about this and other plans.

Basically, all FWK’s textbooks are open under the CC BY-NC-SA license. The web version is accessible by anyone—which means you can copy, adapt, and reproduce the content for free (as long as you do so non-commercially and share alike). If you want to adapt it via FWK’s platform and easily produce and obtain hard copies of professor or student-customized chapters, then you pay a low-cost fee to download the customized PDF or have the professionally bound textbook mailed to you (about $1.99 per chapter download or $29.99 for the hard textbook). You can also access the physical textbooks at some college bookstores.

This new agreement with B&N and NACS expands the number where the physical texts are available, up to 3,000—wherever local professors have decided to participate. (This includes 639 Barnes & Noble college bookstores.) In addition, a print-on-demand (POD) model is being piloted at a few bookstores in August, with the long term goal to have POD in all. From the press release,

“Flat World Knowledge will provide bookstores with digital files of its growing catalog of professionally-developed, peer-reviewed college textbooks. Since Flat World textbooks are openly-licensed, instructors can remix, reorder, add and remove content, and then the bookstore can print and bind high-quality paperback books, often within minutes or hours.

University Book Store, Inc. at the University of Washington in Seattle, and the San Diego State University Bookstore, among others, will be the first to pilot this new process. Students will have the convenience of same-day pick up. POD technology also allows professors to continue to customize and update a Flat World textbook within days instead of weeks of the fall semester starting.”

The license (CC BY-NC-SA) applies to their print textbooks as well as the print-on-demand versions. In addition, FWK’s platform is built on open source software and they have plans to eventually make their XML exportable at no cost, which would allow a user to remix FWK content on their own site.

For more information, see the full press release. You can also learn more about their open business model by watching this talk given by Eric Frank (Chief Marketing Officer) from the latest CC Salon NYC.

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Creative Commons & Education Landing Page And Wiki Project

Mike Linksvayer, April 7th, 2010

Today we launched two important resources for anyone interested in Creative Commons and education.

First, there’s an education landing page prominently linked from our home page. Its goal is to quickly introduce our site visitors to the vast number and range of Open Educational Resources (OER) available for use as well as the role of Creative Commons licenses in enabling OER to reach its potential. We’ll be testing various iterations of this page in the coming months as well as add further assets (e.g., video) to make it an effective introduction to OER for the general public.

The landing page also features a number of links for anyone who wants to learn more about OER & CC and/or wants to contribute their own knowledge. Most of those links point to the OER Portal/Project on our wiki. Our goal for this section is for our community to add useful information about OER as well as help curate this information. Ultimately, we hope processes for curating such information (e.g., a rating system for OER case studies) will develop, looking at the Wikipedia WikiProjects as an inspiration. Please dive in and help, from small corrective edits to designing and documenting curation processes.

These new resources are in-line with the education plans we posted about at the end of January. Watch here for more!

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Teaching Open Source Software

Jane Park, April 7th, 2010

If you’re like me, then you don’t know much about software; if you’re not like me, then you know about software but not much about open source software (OSS). Regardless of which camp you fall into, there’s good news—you can learn about open source software (and help others learn about it) through open educational resources on OSS online. Practical Open Source Software Exploration: How to be Productively Lost, the Open Source Way is teachingopensource.org‘s new textbook to help professors, or anyone for that matter, teach or learn about open source software. “It’s a book that works like an open source software project. In other words: patches welcome.

For those needing something quick and simple to hand out to their classes, educators can contribute to or adapt this textbook (it’s licensed under CC BY-SA so you can share, translate, remix as long as you share alike) or search for other OER online. One K-12 educator developed this resource under CC BY, A K-12 Educator’s Guide to Open Source Software.

Via CC licenses, both resources enable a community of educators and learners to contribute to, edit, and improve them, especially Practical Open Source Software Exploration which invites people to edit the wiki directly. But fostering a community around open resources to keep them up-to-date and relevant isn’t something that just magically happens, which is why Red Hat, a successful business built around OSS, developed this meta-resource: The Open Source Way: Creating and nurturing communities of contributors. The book is available in wiki-form also under CC BY-SA, and “it contains knowledge distilled from years of Red Hat experience, which itself comes from the many years of experience of individual upstream contributors who have worked for Red Hat.” Basically, it’s a guide “for helping people to understand how to and how not to engage with community over projects such as software, content, marketing, art, infrastructure, standards, and so forth.” Of course none of this is set in stone (literally), since what works for some might not for others, but it’s worth taking a look and adapting to your own needs.

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Nina Simon’s “The Participatory Museum”

Cameron Parkins, April 6th, 2010


Cover design by Jennifer Rae Atkins

The Participatory Museum, a new book from Nina Simon on ways to increase audience participation in cultural institutions, is now available in full under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license:

I want everyone to be able to use the content and make derivative works. I didn’t choose Share Alike because I know that many museums, universities, and organizations are not able to use CC licenses (and thus would not be able to redistribute the content). But I did choose Noncommercial because I don’t want a publisher to snap up the book or a chapter, credit me as author, and sell the content.

The book contains an incredible amount of useful and thought-provoking information for those working in museums and other cultural institutions. Outside of the book itself, Simon posted on the process of self-publishing – including a deeper look at her license choice – on her Museum 2.0 blog.

In addition to its free release online, The Participatory Museum is available for purchase as both paperback and PDF download.

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Pratham Books uses CC to make children’s books accessible

Jane Park, April 5th, 2010

Nearly two years ago, I blogged about Pratham Books, a nonprofit children’s book publisher in India. “It was set up to fill a gap in the market for good quality, reasonably priced children’s books in a variety of Indian languages. [Its] mission is to make books affordable for every child in India.” At the time, Pratham Books had released six children’s books under a CC BY-NC-SA license, available on their Scribd page. Since then, they have changed the licenses on those books to Attribution Only (CC BY) and have expanded their offerings to books in the public domain. They have also been blogging extensively and encouraging remix of their CC licensed illustrations on Flickr.

Last month, the CC licenses enabled audio versions of Pratham children’s books for India’s National Association of the Blind. Three audio versions were recorded by Radio Mirchi, two in English and one in Urdu, with more in the works.

I asked Guatam John of Pratham Books why they moved towards more open licensing (from the books’ original CC BY-NC-SA license), and what else he saw for the future of Pratham’s CC licensed books.

“Pratham Books has taken the position that all our content will either be under a CC-BY or CC-BY-SA license because, to us, these are the only two truly open licenses that fit our needs. Radio Mirchi gave us the content with no terms attached but since it was done pro bono, we felt that putting it out under the CC-BY-SA license was the best available choice for both the community, Radio Mirchi and us. Also, the SA component serves to limit commercial use unless it is re-shared, as the license, and our philosophy, mandates.

We continue to release content under open licenses, for example: http://blog.prathambooks.org/2010/03/retell-remix-rejoice-with-chuskit-world.html. And we will continue to do so over time. We have been working with the Connexions project to build a platform for the re-use, remix and distribution of our content too. Our basic goal is a net increase in the available content for children to read from and we think we can catalyse this two ways: Seeding the domain with our content and building a platform to make it easy to re-use and re-purpose content.”

For more on CC licensed OER being adapted to accessible versions, see “U.S. Dept of Ed funds Bookshare to make open textbooks accessible.”

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Launching Public Discussion of CC Patent Tools

Kaitlin Thaney, April 2nd, 2010

Thinh Nguyen writes over at the Science Commons blog

“We’re happy to announce that we’re launching the public comment and discussion period for our new patent tools: the Research Non-Assertion Pledge and the Public Patent License. We invite you to join the discussion at our public wiki. There you can read about these tools, catch up on hot topics of interest to the community, or join our public discussion list to contribute your thoughts and suggestions.

These tools were conceived as part of our collaboration with The GreenXchange (GX), a network of companies interested in making publicly available unpatented know-how and patented inventions that have the potential to promote innovation, sustainability, resource management, and other socially responsible uses of ideas and inventions. The Research Non-Assertion Pledge and Public Patent License are just pieces of the underlying infrastructure for how to share and transform that kind of knowledge—just like CC licenses have become part of the infrastructure for exchanging and transforming creative works. While these tools were initially conceived in collaboration with GX, we envision them as generic tools maintained by CC for anyone to use, and we hope they will prove to be useful in other projects in the future as well. That’s why it’s important to us to get comprehensive comments and feedback from the community and the public. [...]

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