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Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

Ebooks plus soccer equals literacy

A headline in last Thursday’s Publishers Weekly daily Round Up immediately caught my eye: “One million ebooks headed to Africa: With FC Barcelona’s and Worldreader’s help.” Naturally I was intrigued by the Mashable article, which highlighted the marriage of my two favorite pastimes: soccer and reading.

Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona

Source: Commons.Wikimedia.org

No, there isn’t a new gadget that allows you to simultaneously dribble and indulge in Fifty Shades of Grey. Worldreader, an American and European non-profit, is actually enlisting the help of FC Barcelona players in making ebooks more attractive to children in disadvantaged countries. Worldreader has pledged to raise the money needed to send ereaders and one million ebooks to students who currently have little or no access to books. If this isn’t your feel-good publishing news of the week, I don’t know what else could be!

In the interview with Mashable, the CEO and co-founder of Worldreader, David Risher, said:

We’re trying to get them to do something radically different… When a student sees the image of a player he idolizes, it brings a whole new culture and habit, associating reading with a hero. Using these tricks we can get kids to read more, making it more fun and a bigger part of their lives.

According to the article, recipients of the primarily Kindle ereaders are treated to personalized messages and words of encouragement from their FC Barcelona idols, such as Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Eric Abidal, and Seydou Keita.

Already Worldreader has accomplished 10 percent of its one million book goal: 100,000 books have been donated to students in Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana, Mashable reported. Surprisingly, plans to complete the one million book initiative include ebooks only—print books are not being sent to students. On the Worldreader FAQ page, officials offer a compelling explanation for that decision:

First, it’s less expensive to publish and distribute e-books than paper books. Widespread mobile phone connectivity, the declining price of hardware devices and increasingly affordable digital content has made ebook delivery a viable low-cost solution for many developing regions. The cost of shipping ebooks is nearly zero, even to very remote areas, compared to the $1.00 or more per book it costs to load a shipping container and send it by boat, based on our research and experience. Also, handheld devices like  the Amazon Kindle provide almost immediate access to hundreds of thousands of books, from textbooks to bestsellers. Since ereaders can store thousands of books, they eliminate the need for physical storage and give children, parents and schools access to a much wider selection books than what may be physically available in their communities.

Another reason Worldreader seems destined to succeed in this goal is its unique marketing pitch to potential donators. It encourages people to “send an ebook: With just $5, you’ll change a child’s life forever.” Five dollars? Sure, why not? That’s less than you might spend on a coffee and a bagel on your way in to work each morning.

For fellow book lovers and worshipers of the little Argentine, it’s an irresistible offer. If you’d like to join the effort, here’s a link to the Worldreader donations page.

And yes, I must reluctantly salute my arch-nemesis, Amazon, for its cooperation with Worldreader on this important project. Also noteworthy are several familiar names on the list of publishers who contribute titles at discounted prices or no cost, including Bantam Classics, Puffin, Macmillan, Random House, and St. Martin’s Press.

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2012 by in Culture, Technology and tagged , , .

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