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Non-profit gives Kindles to kids in developing countries
by Kathryn Robbins on August 6, 2010
The popularity of e-readers is due in large part to their speedy content delivery. Instead of waiting for a book be shipped or standing at the cash register in a bookstore, e-readers can download the hottest titles in seconds. That factor led a former Amazon employee to start Worldreader, a non-profit that’s distributing e-readers in order to “put a library of books within reach of every family on the planet.”
Overnight shipping may be a reality in the US but it’s not in countries like Ghana. Schools and organizations have to wait weeks or even months to get their hands on titles due to issues like the lack of roads in rural areas. Even when communities do get books, they are handed down through the years and suffer a lot of damage. If areas do get physical access to booksellers, it’s on a limited basis. The African country of Botswana may be bigger than Spain or Poland, but there are only six to eight bookstores in the entire country.
David Risher, a former Amazon executive, had the idea that getting books in the hands of families and their children should be as easy as making a phone call. Developing nations may not have great highway systems, but they are some of the fastest growing cell phone markets in the world which would make content delivery fairly easy.
Worldreader had their first trial run at the Orphan Aid Primary School in the village of Ayenyah, Ghana. Twenty students were given free Kindles that they were able to use at home and in the classroom. According to Worldreader, the Kindles were loaded with the following titles:
”Folktales from Ghana (short stories), The Magic Flyswatter (short stories from Africa), Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know (30 classic children’s stories like Princess and the Pea, requested by the school), Curious George, Magic Treehouse, and Africa Nations Cup sports news and scores.”
Due to the lack of electricity, the Kindles were charged up through solar powered car batteries and an internet connection was powered through wind energy. The students were already familiar with cell phones, but it took them a few days to become familiar with the e-reader.
One student named Naomi not only got her sister hooked on the books that she had loaded on the device, but also her mom. The dictionary feature was especially popular among the students and erased the shame factor when they didn’t know the definition of a word. Instead of asking for help, they took action and looked up the
Worldreader freely admits that their e-reader program will face problems such as the issue of hardware durability, e-book pricing, and even theft. However, they are planning on another trial this year in Ghana on a much larger scale. They will look at 300 middle and high school students to see if the Kindle increases their appetite for books over the school year.