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Can the E-Reader Help PR?
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “An E-Reader Revolution for Africa?” spoke of how students in a school in Uganda were using their Kindle e-reader devices to help them with their learning and literacy skills.

Written by WSJ’s Geoffrey Fowler and Nicholas Bariyo, the article spoke of an ambitious experiment being undertaken in two countries in Africa. The Humble Primary School, in Mukono, Uganda, “which serves needy children in a part of Africa ravaged by poverty and HIV, is on the front lines of an effort to reinvent developing world literacy programs with technology. The premise is that the new economics of digital publishing might make more and better books available in classrooms ... ‘Instead of just having 1,000 books, they have 10 times or 100 times that,’ says David Risher, co-founder of a San Francisco-based nonprofit called Worldreader that is leading the experiment in Uganda and two other African countries.... A vision of 'one Kindle per child' for developing countries faces considerable challenges, including the cost of e-readers and making sure that kids actually learn better on the devices than with old-fashioned books..."

How successful is the pilot program? “Early results at Worldreader are promising, says Mr. Risher, 46, a former Amazon executive who has raised about $1.5 million for his two-year-old program from foundations, individual donors like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, publishers and Amazon itself. It has distributed 1,100 Kindles and 180,000 e-books to kids and teachers in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.

"E-readers have some advantages over laptops in far-flung places. Kindles are lightweight and rugged, and can last weeks on a single charge. With built-in Internet connections, they are basically big mobile phones—a technology that has proved successful throughout Africa.

“Kindles are still relatively expensive; some pilot schools lock them up overnight for safekeeping. Worldreader often teaches kids how to care for their devices by demonstrating with an egg: Drop it from a foot up, it will break; drop it from 8 inches, it survives.

“Compared with traditional books, e-readers make it easy to distribute works from African authors that can be hard to get in print. Previously, Humble School's library contained mostly books donated from America. 'The first books we got were mainly about the U.S., with kids playing in ice—which our pupils would not understand,' says Ester Nabwire, the school's head teacher. 'With the Kindles, there are African authors, African names which are exciting the kids.'"

This project certainly is a laudable one and got me thinking a bit about the Kindle and similar e-Readers being able to be used in PR applications. Kindle has a free downloadable program that makes it possible for someone like myself (I own a basic version Kindle) to send Word documents, spreadsheets, and the like to my Kindle directly from the application. The program first converts the document into a pdf file via a special “Send to Kindle” link that is installed in your printer dialog box and then, once you have turned on your device, wirelessly sends the resulting file. The program claims it is a way to save paper and printer ink. I think you can see the possible applications here for PR, especially when making presentations. You simply print and download your presentation to your Kindle or e-Reader and go from there.... no need to print out extensive files and worry if your presentation is going to look right. And, since the Kindle can be conneced to a laptop projector via a special USB cable, you might even be able to use it to show presentations and campaign ideas.

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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