Kindling Literacy

Kindle electronic readers are capable of kindling some pretty fiery emotions among literature lovers. The technologically inclined love the Kindle’s compact paper-free design and countless download choices. The technologically challenged, on the other hand, maintain a passionate devotion to the printed page, citing the irreplaceable pleasure of whispering pages and the …

… familiar fragrance of a real live book’s binding.

Are you taking sides on this one?

No matter where you stand, you’ll probably be pleased to hear that Kindles are helping to … yep, kindle … literacy around the world.

A non-profit organization called Worldreader is partnering with companies like Random House and, and government institutions like USAID, in an effort to make digital books available to children and families throughout the developing world. Beginning in Africa, Worldreader is taking advantage of the fact that newfangled e-reader technology can significantly reduce the cost and complexity of delivering reading material on a global scale, so millions more people will be able to benefit from the educational bounty of books.

“In much of the world, children have access to a vanishingly small range of reading material,” reports “Transportation issues, logistical problems, payment difficulties—all reduce the availability of books and written material in the developing world. Yet imagine what children miss if they never discover an encyclopedia, an explanation of our solar system, or a favorite book about dinosaurs.”

Because electronic readers use mobile-phone technology and solar power, they can track down hundreds of thousands of full-length books, newspapers, and magazines at very high speed and at a very low cost. To this end, is raising money to bridge the gap between the cost of the devices and the price local governments are willing to pay.

“In addition, we are giving African authors a global platform to publish their work,” Worldreader’s David Risher told The Huffington Post. “I hope this encourages more local writing, publishing, reading, and all the social goods that come with these things.”

Can’t argue with that.

You can keep up with Worldreader’s work via their blog.  It’s safe to say that we haven’t heard the last of these benevolent folks (or of Kindles, either, for that matter).

The times they are a-changin’. Me? I still have a physical library lined with tactile reads. I’m slowly softening—not caving, just softening, but the edges for me are definitely beginning to blur.

Can Kindle change the world? Photo courtesy of, NotFromUtrecht

  1. Elizabeth Fields says:

    I am also an avid book lover! Old books, new books-they call to me on a daily basis. When life sometimes can be a little overwhelming, a good book transports me on a mini vacation to someone elses world. Personally, I can’t imagine reading with a Kindle (no offense to the manufacturers) because the touch and feel of the binding, the turning of each page to find out what happens next, the scent that wafts up from my old books from the 1920’s; well those things can’t be replaced! I do appreciate the efforts of Worldreader’s however. Because to me the only thing worse than not having my books, would be having nothing to read at all. Everyone deserves that!

  2. Cameron says:

    Hi MaryJane,

    I didn’t think I would like having a Kindle until my parents gave me one for Christmas, and I must admit to loving it. And I’m one of those people who still doesn’t have an iPod, much less an iPad! For books with images or interesting typography or cool binding or something like that, of course the real thing is irreplaceable, but when the text is all that matters, I’m a true Kindle convert. What Worldreader is doing sounds fabulous and much easier than shipping tons of books overseas.

    By the way, I just started a blog, somewhat inspired by your take on the good life, and posted today raving about how great you and your magazine are. :o) Thanks for all that you do!

  3. Lisa H says:

    I work for an organization that has people in many areas of Africa, mainly Uganda and Ghana, as well as Bangladesh and India. While the technology and accessibility for these things is absolutely wonderful, I wonder about things like how do they keep them charged when electricity is intermittent at best? What happens when the technology becomes old (in a day) and it needs to be upgraded in order to continue to be used. I know electricity is a very BIG problem in the countries I have mentioned because I work with people in those countries all the time. So while this idea is inspiring I am just wondering how effective this will really be. I really like the idea behind the kindle, but I’m so tired of having to keep up with technology. I know that twenty years from now I’ll still be able to read the book on my shelf. Will I be able to say the same with the Kindle?

  4. Give me a live book anyday. I do not want a machine that can be broken, malfunction etc. Besides reading is an excellent remedy for loneliness without distractions. I live in an area where my computer goes out and there is only one service in the area! Books are my best friends.

  5. Kimberly says:

    Our home is filled with books, tons of books! We LOVE books!!!! I have shelf after shelf of 100+ year old books and read them. That said…I love the fact that I can get so many books for free from Gutenberg Press especially since my favorite stories are all so old they no longer have copyrights. I also love being able to down load books for homeschooling. Our town library here in Nowhere, Idaho is…pathetic. The micro collection of books combined with the pathetic hours, would mean buying a lot of books for our Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooling. Having e-books is wonderful.

  6. Tomi says:

    I resisted, “I love checking out free books at the library, do NOT get me a Kindle”, I said. Yep, he bought me a Kindle for Christmas. Yes, I love it. Just wish I could “share” books MORE.

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