Sometimes paper is better than a Kindle

WordReader.org have just announced completion of a pilot program. From ReadWriteWeb:

Worldreader.org has just finished a proof of concept for ereader 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 ereaders in the village of Ayenyah, Ghana. Results were good.

"During this trial, we found that the Kindle ereader 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."

I had heard about this some time back and I held off on reporting on it. It took me a while to decide that i think this was a waste of money.

I love digital content. I love my ereaders. But I also know that there are times that electronics do not win out over paper. This is one of those times.

The pilot program used 20 Kindles, which means the hardware cost was ~$6k. With all that money, they only helped 20 people at one time. If they had used paper books, then they could have given that village a library with 3,000 titles. How many people could they have helped at once?

I bet someone will point out all the defects of paper. This is true, On the other hand, the Kindle is dependent on electricity which is unreliable in many third world countries. The Kindle also has a fragile screen.

Sorry, folks, paper wins here.

About Nate Hoffelder (11578 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

1 Comment on Sometimes paper is better than a Kindle

  1. Interesting post! I thought your point about the 3,000 paper books was thought provoking.

    While it is easy to find from the links in your article I did want to point out that reading the Worldreader.org faq – – and skimming the trial report – http://worldreader.org/trials.php (link to the video and pdf mid-page) – gave me a slightly different impression of the program than the excerpts quoted above.

    While it might not change your opinion the faq does address the electricity and repair concerns you mention, also mentions theft, and makes some interesting points about the breadth of material and accessibility that the ereaders provide. Skimming the Trial Report also had some interesting information about the program (charging, usability, details about the school).

    I certianly do not have experience in Ghana or with literacy programs to draw from, but it seems we may be missing a key piece of information -> what would the study participants choose if presented a choice between the ereaders and a 3000 title library of paper books? Or, more importantly why would they make that choice – after reading the faq/trial document I am not sure I am so confident I know the answer.

    Good Post –
    Charles Miles

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