Opera may get most of its press for its web browser, data compression tech, and business services, but that’s not all it does.
Earlier this month Worldreader announced a partnership with Opera, Wordlreader is a nonprofit dedicated to boosting literacy in the third world, and it has been working with Opera to develop a browser-based reading app for smartphones and feature phones.
The app, Worldreader Mobile Web (WRM-Web), offers free access to a catalog of 15,500 titles which spans 43 languages and a dozen genres, and includes ebooks from US and international publishers including Penguin Random House, Mills & Boo, Publerati, and Open Road Media.
The app lets users read both online and off, enabling users faced with low or poor connectivity to continue to enjoy ebooks. The app will also let readers share what they’re reading on social networks, but it doesn’t have much else in the way of features.
Update: At the request of Worldreader, I tried the app on my Android smartphone. Strangely enough, it works a lot better on the smaller screen.
It also doesn’t do a very good job of displaying text. I spent a few minutes playing with the app (you can find it at read.worldreader.org) this morning. I’m still not sure that it loaded the entire story (I can’t advance to the next chapter), but what I could see was missing the last few characters from each line . The right side of the page was cropped somehow, which is strange given that I was testing it on a 7″ tablet. The text also appeared to be fixed width, and that means the text won’t be all that readable on a feature phone with a 2″ or 3″ screen. In short, this app looks completely useless, but even so I still applaud Worldreader’s decision to go in this direction rather focus on distributing Kindles.
Worldreader got its start in 2009 distributing Kindles to rural villages in Africa, and they have distributed around 8,000 Kindles to 104 schools and libraries over the past six years.
Worldreader helps 185 thousand people read each month – mostly through reading apps. The nonprofit released its first reading app in 2011, and it has continued to support apps as well as ereaders.
Yes, Kindles are wonderful, but the simple fact is phones are far more prevalent in many countries and it is far cheaper to distribute ebooks to a reader’s phone than it is to buy them a Kindle.
The goal is literacy, and not gadgetry, so Worldreader is working with the devices everyone has as well as the ones we would like them to have.