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Publishers Back African Literacy Effort With E-books

by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Kids in a village near Cape Coast Ghana, 2001, copyright Bryan Thomas Schmidt

In its “Bits” column, the New York Times reports that former Amazon executive David Risher is changing literacy efforts in Africa through his nonprofit, Worldreader. Founded on the idea of giving free Kindles to children in the developing world to increase literacy, the program is now getting a big books from book publishers that could help extend its reach.  Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Egmont UK, Rosetta Books, Hardie Grant Egmont and Ripley Publishing have all agreed to donate e-books to Worldreader, allowing the nonprofit to triple the size of its available digital library.

Around 500 of those titles are African textbooks and storybooks, while another 425 originate from publishers in the United States, Britain and elsewhere. For the roughly 1,000 children in Ghana and Kenya who received Kindles from Worldreader, all of them are free. And so far, Worldreader reports distributing more than 20,000 ebooks to children.

Amazon has donated Kindles, which can run for nearly a month on one charge. Many of the kids just charge them at school,  where power is often more readily available than in their villages and homes. With wireless internet also on the rise in such communities,  and better Kindle cases and user education on Kindle care have reduced incidents of broken ereaders which plagued the effort early on.

According to Risher, Worldreader expects to distribute 3,500 e-readers by the end of the year, with a goal of reaching 10,000 by the end of 2013. Plans are in the works to expand to Rwanda next.

For more on this innovative, admirable program, see the original Times article here:

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and To Be Read, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at Connect With Bryan On Google+

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