When Worldreader, a nonprofit organization, sent 600 Kindles to Ghana, USAID found that the devices gave kids there more access to books, better reading scores, and access to international news. The only drawback, it seems, is that a little under half of those e-readers broke.
Gigaom's Lauren Hazard Owen has gleaned the findings from the USAID study, which looked at the effect of Worldreader's year-long initiative to supply Ghanan schoolchildren with Kindles. "Kids learned to use e-readers quickly even though 43 percent of them had never used a computer before," writes Hazard Owen, adding that "With the e-reader program, kids had access to an average of 107 books, including books Worldreader 'pushed' onto the Kindles as well as free e-books that kids downloaded themselves." The study also found that the program could be a cost-effective alternative to textbooks, and reading scores in young children "increased from 12.9 percent to 15.7" percent.
All in all, the program sounds like a success, right? And you're probably asking yourself what the catch is ... and Hazard Owen is here to tell us why it's hard to have nice things:
Kindles break too easily. Worldreader had not predicted how many Kindles would break: 243 out of 600, or 40.5 percent. Each time an e-reader broke, Worldreader sent it back to Amazon to conduct “a post-mortem analysis.” Turns out “fragile screens are the main weakness” and Amazon is working on Kindles with reinforced screens (at the same cost), which started shipping to Ghana in October 2011 ...