Monday, August 2, 2010

Re Kindle-ing the Youth

If you don’t already know what a kindle or e-readers in general are, here’s the run down. These devices are basically similar to an iPad but designed with reading more in mind (that’s why it’s useless to compare the kindle and iPad because they’re each best at what they were designed for – the kindle is not a multimedia device and the iPad sucks at reading e-books). It’s the size of a regular school notebook, as thin as a pencil, weighs less than a paperback and can accommodate up to 3,500 e-books. It’s got a special screen called E-Ink that makes reading on it for hours easy on the eyes and which doesn’t glare in the sun. The battery lasts for a month (yes, that right a month!) on a single charge if you have 3G and WiFi turned off. Last and most importantly the prices of these devices seem to be on a nose dive to dirt bottom. Right now the price for the basic model of the kindle (without 3G) is set at $139 which is about the price of most mid-ranged cell phones. And here is why I think e-readers in general will make a profound impact on literacy in the developing world.

It solves the problem of distribution. Since e-readers can store thousands of e-books this solves the problem of figuring out what books to give to people to make them engaged in reading. Time spent in school tells me that a person who doesn’t find material in front of him interesting will likely not put in the time and effort into reading it. With so much material possibly stored in e-readers everyone is bound to find something of interest. And in case they don’t find anything interesting in the 3,500 e-books already on their devices the 3G capability means that people in remote areas of the country can still have access to other e-books in places where their cell phone works. There is no need to hook up to expensive computers or the infrastructure to support them. Furthermore there are thousands of out of copyright books out there and books published before 1923, free for download so that you don’t even have to pay a single centavo to get them. But really the most inspiring thought in my mind of the potential of these devices is that in some remote barrio somewhere in our country a bright but poor kid willing to learn and educate himself has available to him the best materials in the world through an e-reader he holds in his hands. That, to my mind, more than justifies the cost of any device.

By the way did a small scale project along these lines with 20 kindles and 30,000 free e-book titles in the village of Ayenyah, Ghana (Africa). It’s proved so successful that they’re increasing the project to 336 Kindles in 4 schools.

Linus Madamba

1 comment:

adrian arugay said...

I've always wanted a kindle, but if they don't lower their prices some more, the ipad (and its gadget children) is going to push them to extinction.