Home E-Readers Bring The World’s Library to Rural Africa

E-Readers Bring The World’s Library to Rural Africa

Worldreader.org has just finished a proof of concept for e-reader use in the African country of Ghana. Verdict? Yeah, it works. It helps increase literacy. So they’re going to do a lot more of it.

“Books to All” is the motto of this non-profit spearheaded by David Risher, who led Amazon’s Product Development for five years.

In March, Worldreader finished their Phase 1 trial, using 20 Kindle-brand e-readers in the village of Ayenyah, Ghana. Results were good.

“During this trial, we found that the Kindle e-reader and digital books helped new readers learn to read, got the kids reading more, and gave access to hundreds of thousands of books, in less time and at lower cost than printed books.”

Project Gutenberg alone offers 30,000 free e-book titles. So, with each e-reader the group brings to a student, it may well be justified in claiming it also brings that student “the world’s library.”

The highly wired nature of Africa (which has much less in the way of the infrastructure that includes landlines) mean e-readers can connect. The wireless telephony that characterizes much of the content means, the group discovered, that students who’ve never used a computer can nonetheless quickly master the e-reader.

“The infrastructure already in place for mobile phones supports e-readers: Low-power Kindles successfully charged from solar-powered car batteries in an hour, we were able to download books via the satellite internet link in 45 seconds, and there was cell phone coverage in the village.”

Worldreader.org’s Susan Moody Prieto wrote to tell us the organization’s next steps.

“We have approval from the Ghana Ministry of Education to do a larger trial in October (336 Kindles) in 4 schools. We will be measuring the results very closely: seeing how e-readers affect reading habits and ultimately to what degree they can improve literacy. And then we will roll out on a larger scale from then on: moving into more countries in Africa and Latin America. We are also working with local publishers to digitize books that otherwise would get left behind as more books go digital.”

She said the organization, despite their connection to Amazon, is “e-reader agnostic…we are ultimately looking for the best e-reader to bring books into the developing world (and) will be actively working with manufacturers to do so.”

What about that? Any employees of Apple, Borders or B&N reading this? You know what to do.

You can download the full 39-page report on the first phase of Worldreader.org’s Ghana project here.

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