In celebration of Creative Commons’ tenth anniversary, we asked various friends of CC to write about their favorite CC-licensed content. Today, social entrepreneur and Pratham Books new projects manager Gautam John writes about two children’s books that took on lives of their own, thanks to CC licensing.
On the 17th of November, 2008, we took one small and very tentative step into the world of the commons and released six of our books under a very restrictive CC BY-NC-SA license. And that point, the entire Creative Commons universe was exciting and held much possibility but was, simultaneously, a vast unknown for us. Initially, our books were used by the One Laptop Per Child project in Nepal and that in itself was a wonderful outcome for us.
Over the course of the next year, we engaged with our community and with the wider world of open content and Creative Commons licenses and realised that the license we chose was far too restrictive for the content to have any real community-driven impact and we settled on the CC BY and CC BY-SA licenses as our new defaults. While we were sure that making these our default licenses was a good choice, we weren’t entirely sure what the outcomes of such a decision would be. In hindsight, we are very very glad we made the choices we did.
Looking at two of our more popular books, Annual Haircut Day and The Moon and the Cap, we were amazed that they have been read, in just two languages, via one single online channel (Scribd), more than 35,000 times. While these numbers were stunning, they were only the start of an amazing journey that they took all thanks to Creative Commons licenses.
Soon, we started to receive community translations of these books in languages that we would never have published in (German, French, Spanish and Lojban), and in languages that we would have wanted to publish in but could not (Assamese, for example). It didn’t stop there. We were amazed when a national radio station decided to make studio quality audiobooks out of these two books and a few others in many many Indian languages and make them available under an open (if slightly more restrictive) license, and specifically make them available to the visually impaired community in India. We began to wonder where this would go and soon we heard from Bookshare who had converted these books (and others) to formats specifically for the visually impaired – DAISY and Braille books.
At which point, we thought that this was fantastic that we had achieved a degree of inclusivity that would not have been otherwise possible and thought it to be a closed chapter. But as things go, the community was just beginning. Next up was a series of applications based on these books for the iPhone and iPad, for Android devices, for Intel devices, and even for Windows Phone 7! It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible for us using a traditional licensing model and it was Creative Commons licenses that made it all possible.