After two successful trials in Ghana, Worldreader, the nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a reading culture in the developing world via e-books and e-readers (PW, Oct. 10), has announced that it will expand its efforts into Kilgoris, Kenya, beginning in May. The expansion will bring hundreds of Kindles and thousands of e-books into classrooms at the Intimigon Nursery and Primary School. "Thanks to simple innovation, we can send tens of thousands of books to children thousands of miles away from us, separated by oceans and very difficult roads," noted Worldreader's director of communications, Susan Moody Prieto.
Worldreader was launched in 2009 by former Amazon executive David Risher together with partners Colin McElwee and Mike Sundermeyer as a "market-based" not-for-profit organization aiming to put "a library of books within reach of every family on the planet, using electronic book technology." With a successful second trial in Ghana concluded last fall, Worldreader is picking up more support. In addition to the success with the iREAD program in Ghana and its pending expansion into Kenya, the organization has now caught the attention of some major players—governmental agencies and international organizations, including the World Bank; international publishers like Random House; African publishers like Afram Publications and Sub-Saharan; and authors like Justina Chen, Daniel Pinkwater, Janet Wong, and Cory Doctorow, all of whom have recently signed on to make a selection of their books and stories available to students and families at no cost.
Overall, Worldreader has made nearly 40,000 books available to Ghanaians in the past four months, and officials said they hear "almost daily" from authors who want to help support the organization. Participating in Worldreader is "a no-brainer," said Cory Doctorow, bestselling author and Boing Boing blogger. "It's the first inkling of the real promise of electronic publishing, the realization of the ancient and noble drive to deliver universal access to all human knowledge." He added that it's "a situation in which a writer can do good at no cost to himself, no cost to his publisher."
There are, of course, costs, and World-reader, is always looking for more involvement—including financial support. Each fully loaded Kindle costs about $250, so while the group welcomes donations of e-books and is open to ideas from publishers and authors, financial support is critical to support its mission. Fully 100% of contributions go to support reading efforts, and contributions are tax deductible. Further, by supporting Worldreader, Risher noted, publishers and authors are not only helping the developing world, they are helping themselves, by investing in a reading culture—and building a potential market—where none currently exists.