Sugar Labs @ NDSU

Building a smarter computing culture in Fargo, ND

E-readers and E-books for Africa


A few recent events have got me thinking about e-books for Sudan and Africa again (you could search for earlier posts if you are so inclined). I saw a very nice presentation on the short history of e-books; I saw that the team at iAct took Kindles to some of the Chad refugee camps; I heard a story about some impressive e-book apps; I have been wondering about e-book alternatives for building a library now that the XO seems to be backing away from Mesh networking.

A quick search for “ebooks + africa” lead me to Michael Trucano’s ICT blog for the World Bank. He just wrote about e-reading on March 11; an earlier post did an even better job of laying out the key concerns:

  1. Power
  2. Text size
  3. Local content
  4. Aesthetics
  5. Functionality

The local content seems like a particularly interesting and challenging problem. When I have tried to tackle this issue before, I would be lead to some big repositories of e-books, but they seemed to lack localization and they seemed to require internet access.  An effective e-book project for a specific school in a specific location is going to need teaching and learning materials, it is going to require the right books, not just lots of books, and the device is going to have to be able to store the books, not just access them via the Internet, at least in most cases.

I really love what OLPC Canada did for their book collection–asking contemporary indigenous authors to make their books available in e-format for that deployment.  That seems like the right path to follow.  OLE in Nepal is working on a local content creation project–also a great idea.  I have a list of books about the Sudanese refugee experience in my head that I would like to include in an OLPC Sudan deployment–I guess I need to start trying to work with those publishers.

Disclaimer: The XO cannot yet be shipped to Sudan and I have no intention of brining XOs to Sudan until that process is legal and not fraught with red tape.

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This entry was posted on April 4, 2011 by in ebooks, OLPC, XO.

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