In many African countries, 80 percent of the population owns a cell phone. Up to now, Worldreader has focused on distributing Kindles to classrooms (the organization’s founder is former Amazon exec , but by making e-books available via cell phones the organization can reach a much wider group of readers.
Worldreader’s app, now in beta, was developed by Sydney-based startup biNu. The Bookseller explains that the app uses “cloud-based data compression technology to enable any Java-enabled ‘feature’ phone (non-smartphone) to download e-books and access news websites and Facebook over an ordinary mobile signal.”
In this video, Worldreader director of digital publishing Elizabeth Wood explains how the app works.
Worldreader partners with international and local African publishers to make e-books available for its e-reader program and for the app. It also offers public-domain books. In some cases, Worldreader digitizes African publishers’ books for the first time. Here’s a list of the books the company offers for free or at a very low cost.
The ultimate goal is to have “thousands” of e-books available on the app, Worldreader’s director of digital publishing Elizabeth Wood told The Bookseller: “Yes, this is a leap of faith for publishers, giving away some of their content for free. But once you give these kids in the developing world the tools and hook these kids on books, they will become book buyers.”
A new classroom tablet from Intel?
Separately, Digitimes reports today that Intel will release an educational 10-inch tablet, the “StudyBook,” into emerging markets and regular retail channels this fall. The company has already released a basic laptop, the Classmate PC. The report says the StudyBook would target China and Brazil — countries more prosperous than those in Africa.