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Got an eReader Sitting in a Drawer? Why Not Donate it to Project Hart

4346071814_d145ef0980_bA new charity crossed my desk this morning, and it could use your help.

Project Hart is a non-profit created in the legacy of Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg. It has a simple mission, which is make ebooks accessible for everyone.

Between Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, Google Books, and many other sites, there are many free ebooks available on the web. Unfortunately, far too many people lack the computers or internet required to access the cornucopia, and Project Hart wants to do something about this problem.

This non-profit is picking up where Worldreader left off. Project Hart wants to solve the ebook access issue by giving ereaders full of ebooks to people in need, and today Project Hart is asking for your help to raise funds to buy those ereaders. They’re also willing to accept donations of ereaders which can be refurbished and given away to those in need.

You can find out more over on the Project Hart website.


While this is a laudable goal, it’s worth remembering that this is not the first non-profit to try this idea. Worldreader started with exactly the same goal, only to discover that it was more effective to promote ebook apps which could run on the smartphones (and cheap feature phones).

A smartphone like the Lucky LG16 or the ZTE Valet costs far less than an ereader and can do so much more than just read ebooks. And that is why any literacy project that wants to get ebooks into the hands of the needy should seriously consider whether an $80 ereader is really a better value than a $20 smartphone (or a $50 Android tablet like the Fire tablet or the Digiland DL718M, for that matter).

Which would give the biggest bang for the buck, do you think?

PG News

image by Johan Larsson

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Basem January 22, 2016 um 12:33 pm

No comparison the e-reader – you have to consider outdoor usage and long battery life; also, anything distraction free is a necessity for children. Many refurbished/used e-readers, e.g. Nook Simple Touch, can be found at lower than $50 too.

Liz January 22, 2016 um 5:05 pm

A friend of mine is a librarian at a small school so I donate my old devices to her. It helps her get kids to read and I feel good knowing my old devices are doing some good out in the world.

KS "Kaz" Augustin January 22, 2016 um 8:29 pm

I have an old ereader in my drawer. It’s eink and has aged quite a bit. But I can send it to some poor sod, feel pretty superior about myself, and hand the problems with a display past its prime to someone else. But I did good, right? Sorry, bollocks.

The emerging economies across Asia and Africa rely on their mobile phones. A. Lot. They use it for communication and as a micro-payment platform with a second SIM. That’s why dual-SIM phones are so popular here…it’s not just for border-hopping. I can go down to a local shop and pick up a brand-new, full-colour dual-sim mobile for less than US$40. I can call, text, pay and read with it (there are free reading apps, you know, and I use them if I like reading. I’m not stupid). Why should I bother with yet another device? Do "civilised" people think a prospective "recipient" walks around town with a Timbuktu backpack casually slung over her/his shoulder, filled with a BPA-free flask, iPad, mobile, ereader, spare cables, Wacom duo stylus and moleskin notebook?

Project Hart is (yet) another example of clueless people not knowing the environment they want to help. An ereader app would be much cheaper and more versatile…but then what would you crow about in your annual reports?

Can you tell I’m tetchy today, Nate? 😉

Nate Hoffelder January 23, 2016 um 9:35 am

@Kaz I agree completely, and do you want to know another reason why this project should go for smartphones?

There’s probably ten times as many smartphones sitting in drawers as ereaders, and many of those phones are still usable. So if Project Hart opened itself up to the idea of smartphones it would have for more resources.

Amber January 22, 2016 um 9:23 pm

I would think both would be needed to be truly successful. Promoting ereading apps is going to hit a wider margin of people simply because it is cheaper and like the poster above pointed out more convenient for a lot of people. But ereaders for the older people that aren’t going to be able to read on smaller "cheap" phones and parents with kids they want their children focusing on reading and not the other stuff you can use a phone for is important. I would also point out cheap phones are cheap but they don’t last long. I use to replace mine every six months to a year when I used tracphone simply because something would break on it. I still have one kindle I bought 4 years ago.

Nate Hoffelder January 23, 2016 um 9:36 am


It is best to work with both kinds of devices, yes.

Robert Nagle January 24, 2016 um 11:46 am

Public schools (and especially middle schools) could easily use these sorts of ereaders which could be filled with class material — and be easily replaced if the device breaks. It is very hard to obtain class sets and hard to expect students to download certain books on their phones (if they even had a phone).

You could put 20 ebooks per e-ink device; of course, you’re limiting yourself to public domain and creative commons content….

Chris Meadows, Editor of Teleread January 28, 2016 um 7:07 am

Note that it’s not really clear whether or not Project Hart does accept smartphones. They’re not really clear about what kind of devices they do or don’t want; they just talk about e-readers and "similar devices." It was founded by college students, so it’s not terribly surprising they might be a little vague on real-world applications.

I’ve gone ahead and put together a primer on ideas for what to do with used smartphones, tablets, or e-readers, including links to as many charities as I could find that take each type of device.

How to Dispose of a Broken or Dead Kindle, And Earn a Few Dollars | The Digital Reader April 3, 2016 um 1:29 pm

[…] to use it anymore, once you upgraded to a newer model, you might donate it to a literacy program like Project Hart (although you might want to refurb it first). Or you could use Amazon’s trade-in program to […]

Mark Isero December 26, 2018 um 5:28 pm

I agree that phones are better than e-readers if your goals are simplicity and international reach. That is why I believe Worldreader went in the direction of reading apps. But I agree with Robert that many educators (like me) prefer dedicated reading devices. After all, phones aren’t allowed in many schools. Also, young people (and maybe also adults?) read with fewer distractions on e-readers than they do on phones. I appreciate what Project Hart is doing to promote reading and do similar work myself. Maybe it’s true that e-readers aren’t the ultimate answer if is the goal is to eliminate all barriers to access. But I think it’s a great way for an old e-reader to gain new life.

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