[A2k] FW: Lynn Neary on E-readers and developing world

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Mon Dec 9 09:36:13 PST 2013

Delayed but informative response from Charlie Kerpelman re E-readers and
the developing world

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <ckerpelman at geneva-link.ch>
Date: Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 6:26 AM
Subject: Re: [ciresearchers] FW: [A2k] Lynn Neary on E-readers and
developing world
To: ciresearchers at vancouvercommunity.net, michael gurstein <
gurstein at gmail.com>, ci-research-sa at vancouvercommunity.net
Cc: Manon Ress <manon.ress at keionline.org>

Hi, Mike,

Sorry about the delayed response - I'm in India for professional and
personal reasons. Here are my comment on the Worldreader project, as

Wonderful idea, but it seems to me Worldreader has chosen a path far too
expensive for the vast majority of potential users of a Kindle-like device
or a smart cell phone for such a purpose. Surprising, since far less
expensive - and far more performant - devices exist in the marketplace. For
example, several tablets exist, without the hype of the "big boys", which
are surprisingly performant and surprisingly inexpensive (in the range of
$40- $100). Thus, I am doubly surprised to read that USAID has found the
project to be cost-effective. Be that as it may, a less costly device
would, *a fortiori, *be even more so*. *

One tablet in particular, which I heard about recently in a lecture by its
developer, is produced specifically for use in childrens' education in poor
or developing countries. It is an Android device pre-loaded with a range of
educational software as well as many other useful programs, and its
developer has seen great success in this device being distributed to poor
children in several countries around the world. In addition, it is WiFi
Internet capable and, with a SIM card, becomes a smart phone.

However, this is not a recommendation for a particular device; I have no
bone to pick with any such tablet. I simply mention it as perhaps a more
cost-effective alternative to the E-readers Worldreader has selected for
use in its very admirable initiative.

My interest in such tablets is professional; as an international consultant
in disaster management, I can see great utility for such a device which
could prove invaluable in times of disaster. Such a tablet has several
useful characteristicsother than its educational potential. When a natural
disaster strikes, often the first thing in the infrastructure to be lost is
communications. Tablets such as the ones I have in mind have the potential
to be establish communications with the outside world immediately, in
addition to other, but equally important uses such as in the education of
children, especially poor children in developing countries.

Best regards,

Charles Kerpelman

  ----- Original message -----  *From:* "michael gurstein" <
gurstein at gmail.com>  *Date:* Mon, 2 Dec 2013 17:51:41 -0800
*Subject:*[ciresearchers] FW: [A2k] Lynn Neary on E-readers and
developing world
*To:* <ciresearchers at vancouvercommunity.net>, <
ci-research-sa at vancouvercommunity.net>  *Cc:* "'Manon Ress'" <
manon.ress at keionline.org>  Comments?


-----Original Message-----
From: A2k [mailto:a2k-bounces at lists.keionline.org] On Behalf Of Manon Ress
Sent: Monday, December 02, 2013 4:09 PM
To: a2k discuss list
Subject: [A2k] Lynn Neary on E-readers and developing world

Heard on NPR today. Interesting and disturbing story?

E-Readers Mark A New Chapter In The Developing World by LYNN NEARY December
02, 2013 4:09 PM


A former Amazon executive who helped Jeff Bezos turn shopping into a
experience has set out to end illiteracy. David Risher is now the head of
Worldreader, a nonprofit organization that brings e-books to kids in
developing countries through Kindles and cellphones.

Risher was traveling around the world with his family when he ! got the
for Worldreader. They were doing volunteer work at an orphanage in Ecuador
when he saw a building with a big padlock on the door. He asked a woman who
worked there what was inside, and she said, "It's the library."

Deborah, a participant in Worldreader's iREAD project in Ghana, reads her
favorite e-book with her mother. Worldreader has delivered more than
700,000 e-books via its e-reader programs.Enlarge image Deborah, a
participant in Worldreader's iREAD project in Ghana, reads her favorite
e-book with her mother. Worldreader has delivered more than
700,000 e-books via its e-reader programs.

"I asked, 'Why is it locked up?' And she said it took too long for books to
get there," says Risher. "[The books] came by boat and by the time they got
there, they were uninteresting to the kids. And I said, 'Well, can we take
look inside? I'd like ! to see this.' And she said, 'I think I've lost the
key.' "

This, Risher thought, can be fixed. If it's so hard to give kids access to
physical books, why not give them e-books and the digital devices they
need to read them? Risher had joined Amazon at its beginning, helping it
grow into the dominant online retailer it is today. He felt he could apply
some of the lessons he had learned at Amazon to the problem of illiteracy.

"We were really trying to change people's behavior, but once that started
happen, of course it took off because it was convenient and because the
prices were lower," says Risher. "In a way, we are trying to do something
very similar here. ... Here's a culture where reading has never really
gotten a chance to take off because the access to books is so limited. So
make it easy for people to get access to books and we try to put books on
the e-readers that are appealing to kids and interesting to teachers so
tha! t
we can, over time, help people shift a little in their behavior and their

Working through schools and local governments, Worldreader launched its
first program in Ghana and is now in nine African countries. As of last
month, Worldreader says, it has put more than 700,000 e-books in the hands
of some 12,000 children.

Donations from corporate partners and individuals help pay for the Kindles.
E-books are donated by authors and publishers in both Western countries and
the countries where the schools are located. Risher says it may seem
counterintuitive to use e-readers in schools in poor, developing countries,
but it actually makes a lot of sense.

Jon McCormack
"[E-readers] turn out to be remarkably well-adapted to the developing
in part because they don't take very much power, they are very portable.
It's almost like having an entire! library in your hand and, like all
technology, they get less and less expensive over time," Risher says.

A study of the Worldreaders pilot program in Ghana was funded by the U.S.
Agency for International Development. Tony Bloome, a senior education
technology specialist with USAID, says the initial results were mostly

"We definitely found that it provided more access to materials. That wasn't
surprising at all," says Bloome. "I think kids' appreciation and use of
technology is somewhat universal in terms of the excitement - so much so
[that] the kids would sit on their devices because they were concerned they
would be stolen. And that led to one of the challenges we had in terms of

Worldreader has responded to the breakage problem with tougher e-readers
training for students and teachers in how to handle them. Even with the
breakage problem, though, the USAID study found the program to be cost
! effective. It also found that kids who had never used a computer before
learned to use e-readers quickly and it didn't take them long to find games
and music. But Bloome says that their excitement was contagious.

"Especially with the group that was able to take the e-readers home,
basically the young people became rock stars in regards to being able to
introduce their parents or other kids in the community to e-readers," he
says. "But really focused on content, which is really exciting. It's about
the provision of reading materials."

Bloome says USAID is still assessing how the access to books is affecting
learning in primary grades. In the meantime, Worldreader is moving on to
smaller devices with a program that created an e-reader app for cellphones
used in developing countries. Risher says the potential for getting access
to books on cellphones is huge.

"It rea! lly is the best way to get books into people's hands where the
physical infrastructure isn't very good, the roads are bad, gas costs too
much ... but you can beam books through the cellphone network just like you
can make a phone call - and that's really the thing that changes kids'

Risher says he knows Worldreader alone won't solve illiteracy, but he hopes
it can be a catalyst for change.

Manon Ress, Ph.D.
Knowledge Ecology International, KEI
manon.ress at keionline.org, tel.: +1 202 332 2670 www.keionline.org
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Manon Ress, Ph.D.
Knowledge Ecology International, KEI
manon.ress at keionline.org, tel.: +1 202 332 2670

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