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Pilot program finds Kindles are popular with Ghanaian students, but they break far too often

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An ebook trial in Ghana shows that the majority of students took quickly to Kindles, but also found that the devices were far too fragile.

Worldreader iRead
Worldreader iRead

Worldreader's goal is to bring ebooks to people in the developing world, and from October 2010 to July 2011 it ran a trial in Ghana to see how well students would adapt to the technology. The pilot project, known as iREAD (Impact on Reading of E-Readers And Digital content), provided Kindles and ebooks to 481 students in nine different Ghanaian cities, and found that for the most part they took to the new devices quite well. The majority of the students were able to learn how to use the Kindles very quickly, in spite of the fact that 43 percent had never used a computer before. And because Worldreader created digital versions of 82 different Ghanaian books, they also had increased exposure to local authors.

There were also fewer lost and stolen e-readers than had been anticipated, but not all of the findings were positive. While the students had a relatively easy time learning how to use the technology, they did run into some problems, including accidentally deleting books and getting distracted by non-reading functions like music. And a surprisingly large amount of the devices ended up breaking — according to Worldreader 243 of the 600 Kindles used were reported damaged. The group says it's working with Amazon and other manufacturers to design rugged e-readers with more accessible software, and is also hoping to expand the project into new areas and start introducing the technology into local teacher's colleges. Meanwhile, a mobile app for feature phones has also been developed to bring e-reading to an even wider audience.