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Would the Developing World Use E-Readers More Than Laptops?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the keep-it-simple-stupid dept.

Books 155

Barence writes "Stuart Turton writes about how the local children reacted to his Kindle on a recent visit to the Nagpur region of India. 'About 20 kids stood in a big group, just watching me: big eyes, curious expressions, ridiculously cute and all intent on the Kindle,' he writes. 'Just turning the page caused them to drag their friends over, and there's no reality where changing the font size of your book should make you cooler than a Jimmy Hendrix guitar solo. That was just the warm-up act though; it was the text-to-speech feature that pretty much made me the best friend of the entire village. A charity could do a lot worse than to load a few up with dictionaries, school books and novels and send them to some remote schools in developing nations,' he observes."

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text to speech: librivox (4, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270072)

Better than text-to-speech: http://librivox.org/ [librivox.org]

It's a project where volunteers make audio books of public domain works. So you get a real reading rather than a robotic best effort.

I hope free software projects combine this with the public domain texts to make cool materials for people (kids and adults) learning languages.

Re:text to speech: librivox (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270118)

Maybe it's better, but can you package it up and send it to the developing world so the kids can read along, for cheap?

Re:text to speech: librivox (5, Funny)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270180)

And twenty years from now everyone in Africa will speak with a Stephen Hawking accent---

Re:text to speech: librivox (2)

trollertron3000 (1940942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270558)

I speak Ste-phen Haw-king you in-sen-si-tive clod.

Re:text to speech: librivox (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270738)

Can you speed up the results? I use TTS at about 400 wpm, like an auctioneer on crank.

Re:text to speech: librivox (1)

trollertron3000 (1940942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270792)

Good point. If Hawking was from NYC would he speak twice as fast?

Re:text to speech: librivox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270838)

Just overclock his voice box.

Re:text to speech: librivox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270804)

That's ignorant. Librivox prides itself on user-submitted recordings of user-readings. Little (if any) is machine text-to-speech.

Re:text to speech: librivox (4, Funny)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270986)

That's ignorant.

I read your post in Michael Jackson's voice, is that what you wanted?

Yes, they have data in India (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270242)

> can you package it up and send it to the developing world so the kids can read along, for cheap?

Obviously, yes. It's data, audio data with no copyright restrictions. If you can get a computer (such as an Amazon Swindle) to a village, you can get data there too.

Sending data is either just as easy (put the data on the computer), or much easier (via the nearest Internet-enabled building/village rather than having to travel from another country).

Re:Yes, they have data in India (1, Troll)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270512)

Better yet put it in a super cheap $5.95 mp3 player and you could air drop 60 of them for every kindle you delivered. I think the audio book idea is a major win while the kindle idea is a epic fail.

Re:Yes, they have data in India (1)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270844)

Better yet put it in a super cheap $5.95 mp3 player and you could air drop 60 of them for every kindle you delivered. I think the audio book idea is a major win while the kindle idea is a epic fail.

Isn't learning to read more of a win than being able to listen to a story?

Plus, how long before those MP3 players are just wiped and repurposed to play the latest popular music?

Re:text to speech: librivox (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270528)

Text to speech is better than a human reader.
I'm visually impaired, so have a lot of experience of audiobooks, as well as TTS read books. While TTS can take some time to get used to, you get a much less filtered impression of the text, nobody is reading it, and interpreting it for you. Using TTS is much more akin to reading text by sight (I can do that, too!) than listening to a reader who is, in very subtle ways, spinning what they're reading.

In my opinion, this is, without doubt, the case for fiction - I'm less convinced when it comes to non-fiction.

Re:text to speech: librivox (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271764)

Hmm I'll look into that.

Is there a system for rating readers? I once got a copy of an audiobook for "There will be Dragons" and it was bad the guy lost his place quite a bit.

Text to speech (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270088)

Can anybody with one of these say whether you find the text-to-speech to be good enough to use? It's hard to come by audio editions of many books, and reading while driving isn't a great combo.

Re:Text to speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270252)

Sounds just like the text to speech that is default on your computer- robot like. You can understand all the words, even if they are mispronounced at times. One cool thing is that on my ebook reader text to speech works with .txt as well as pdf files.

Re:Text to speech (3, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270294)

It does a good job of reading the text in an intelligible manner - it does a pretty good job of correctly pronouncing English words (names and other unusual words are sometimes mispronounced).

However, i wouldn't count on it as a replacement for books on tape. Human readers use pauses, tone of voice, reading speed, etc to help convey what was written. The Text to Speech reader is monotone and always reads at the same pace (which is configurable for fast/medium/slow).

Here's an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsnCwQTqbzM [youtube.com]

Re:Text to speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270534)

It does a good job of reading the text in an intelligible manner - it does a pretty good job of correctly pronouncing English words

So not much use in India, then?

Re:Text to speech (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271826)

It does a fairly decent job but when I use it on my Kindle I'm reading along with it (does wonders for my reading comprehension), so I can filter out most of the weirdness. One of the books I read used a few new lines then centered *** followed by a few more new lines for "scene changes" and it would say AsteriskAsteriskAsterisk.

If you can put up with the weirdness it works just fine.

Both (1, Troll)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270098)

They would buy both if they were paid fairly for their work and therefore had the money to afford expensive, first-world gimmicks. Meanwhile, school books and malaria medicine would also do.

Re:Both (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270138)

*donates $50 to video game hacker*
*has the mind of a child and a body like a bean bag chair*

Re:Both (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270272)

It's a "teach a man to fish" situation - you say yourself that school books are important, and if it's cheaper/easier to provide hardware to read those books digitally than it is to provide physical books then the tech is not just a gimmick.

Laptops also aid communication and content creation and allow, for example, farmers to keep up to date on the market value of their crops, but ereaders are cheaper and more robust. Dead tree books are cheaper still and significantly more robust, but their cost (in terms of manufacture and distribution) is directly proportional to the amount of information contained, and they do not lend themselves well to information which dates rapidly.

If the charities want to teach people reading, writing and arithmetic then I think paper is still definitely the way to go. If they want to provide large libraries of information to each village, eReaders seem a good choice, but at increased cost and fragility.

Re:Both (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270402)

Well said. I think two things would also have to be in place for something like the Kindle to be useful (i.e. - not a gimmick). A cell tower close enough for an Internet connection (or a WiFi hot spot) and a way to charge the things. Good thing with the Kindle is that it will go weeks between charges, even with heavy use (unless you use the active content, then you get about a week) so you won't need to have access to electricity all the time. You can't do that with a laptop or tablet.

Re:Both (1, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270556)

The thing is, teaching them agriculture and Western information is a losing battle. Honestly, you are fighting a culture and belief system harder than a lack of education system.

simple books can be printed far cheaper and those don't need power. sending a person over to teach 20-30 people is far cheaper than sending 20-30 kindles that will probably die within 2 weeks from the rugged outdoors environment their homes have in them. Africa's problems are not a lack of education. It's corrupt governments trying like hell to make sure everyone stays poor and a old believe and tradition system that fights against change.

Re:Both (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270824)

A quick Google search revealed that (statistically) every 30 seconds a child in Africa dies because of Malaria. Other causes of death are pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, and malnutrition. Most of these deaths are preventable.

I just can't believe I've been modded troll for pointing this out.

Re:Both (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271018)

Mod parent "-1 Bono" :P

Support missing (5, Insightful)

maliamnon (1848524) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270124)

It's a good idea, and I'm sure they'd get used... until they break.. If you send high tech electronics to the middle of Africa to help schools, what will happen when they break? There is no local Apple Store, Best Buy, or Kindle repair hut to help get them back up and running...

Re:Support missing (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270216)

It's an interesting chicken-and-egg problem. How do you develop the support infrastructure in parallel to the distribution program? I don't think you can. I think you have to jump and assume that the first generation or two of devices will be disposable. Eventually, you may reach a tipping point where support and repair services are provided where they are needed.

If I were to buy an e-reader like a Kindle, what would I do if it breaks? There's no Kindle repair hut near me either. I would have to send it somewhere. I don't know if that same answer works in the middle of Africa.

Re:Support missing (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270442)

The smart choice would be to provide extras for the breakage and such and work out some deal for repairs ahead of time. Not to mention, you could easily pair kids up to read off a single reader if needed, the reading angle on those screens is amazing.

Re:Support missing (2)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270516)

Give 'em a soldering gun and some multimeters, and I think they might surprise you. Given a large enough supply of kindles, you'd be able to scavenge more than enough parts to keep a decent percentage running for a long time. For us it's cheaper to toss the broken one and buy something new; for someone in the middle of Africa, the economics involved are completely different.

Re:Support missing (1)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271146)

This is assuming that the device you sends can be repaired by a human. As long as the device you're sending down there is repair-friendly, you're good to go. If it is a maze of wave soldered bits and pieces and hard-wired do-dads, it is essentially disposable.

Re:Support missing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271674)

I would be surprised indeed if there were anything even remotely repairable in a Kindle, especially with a soldering "gun". Are you posting from 1965 by any chance?

You realize modern electronics with size and weight constraints don't use metal boxes full of 12AU6s wired together with harnesses? More likely CSP with very fine pitch.

Re:Support missing (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271776)

I fixed my Sansa e200 using a soldering gun. Last I checked, they didn't make those in 1965, but I could be wrong.

Re:Support missing (2)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271076)

It's a good idea, and I'm sure they'd get used... until they break.. If you send high tech electronics to the middle of Africa to help schools, what will happen when they break? There is no local Apple Store, Best Buy, or Kindle repair hut to help get them back up and running...

Hello from the developing world. Two quick points:

  1. Most of the developing world is NOT in Africa, so please stop using it as shorthand.
  2. The cost of lock-in is higher in developing countries, because they often lack basic market forces. If an NGO were to drop 100 Kindles into a village, they would effectively suck all the oxygen from other development/literacy initiatives, including future ones. Proceed carefully if your idea implies expenditures (no matter how small) from the beneficiaries..

battery (2)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270134)

If you turn off the wireless, a Kindle can go for over a month without a charge. If you want to get information to people who lack reliable power, eink displays really do make a huge difference.

A charity could do a lot better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270140)

to just send a few dictionaries, school books and novels and send them to some remote schools in developing nations... Not to knock technology but why load up a single electronic device when the same amount of money could by 20 books and they could be used by 20 kids simultaneously without being charged... I think the Kindle is a great device for me when I want to carry 30 books around with me, but it really doesn't make ANY sense to give them to developing nations except for the PR value to Amazon.

Re:A charity could do a lot better (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270304)

to just send a few dictionaries, school books and novels and send them to some remote schools in developing nations... Not to knock technology but why load up a single electronic device when the same amount of money could by 20 books and they could be used by 20 kids simultaneously without being charged... I think the Kindle is a great device for me when I want to carry 30 books around with me, but it really doesn't make ANY sense to give them to developing nations except for the PR value to Amazon.

20 books? Can you buy a new non-used non-fiction hardcover textbook for less than $7? Also why can you only load 30 books on your kindle? My ipod touch kindle reader has more. Project gutenberg claims 33000 works...

Re:A charity could do a lot better (1)

khr (708262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270676)

20 books? Can you buy a new non-used non-fiction hardcover textbook for less than $7?

Sure, in lots of places there's cheaper editions of many of the same books we have... They're printed on cheaper paper, cheaper ink, cheaper binding, and have lots of pages of ads for other books by the same publisher in the back, but they cost a lot less... They're usually printed with stuff like "for sale in Indian subcontinent and Africa only".

Cheap bastard (1)

andymar (690982) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270156)

He wouldn't leave the Kindle with the kids.

May I point out the obvious, please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270210)

FTFA:

There was no internet access, my mobile phone worked sporadically, and the nearest village was so poor there was a hint of Hollywood to it.

So, with these Kindles, they would download content from where exactly?

For the price of a Kindle, you could pass out ... oh fuck it.

This Slashdot. Technology is the best solution for every problem.

I'll shut-up and go away now.

Re:May I point out the obvious, please? (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270320)

And you think the internet access and mobile phones are the problem? Try electricity. Last I checked regular books didn't need batteries, then again e-readers are cool and all, but why make a poor village expend on electricity when they have bigger problems, such as perhaps housing and clean water?

Re:May I point out the obvious, please? (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271280)

A kindle like e-paper deivce could be recharged by a small $25 solar panel no bigger than a sheet of paper, better yet it would probably provide enough charge capacity to be shared between several readers.

Re:May I point out the obvious, please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270680)

It's rather silly to think the Kindle is the solution, here, but don't discount e-book readers in general as a solution. A simple reader, built ruggedly, without the 3g wireless features, but with the battery-saving e-ink display, could be very useful. When it might replace hundreds of textbooks, reference books, and maps, the savings begins to be substantial.

I think in, say, ten year's time, there'll be e-readers that can do that for $20 from cheapo Chinese manufacturers. eInk display + ram + battery + usb port + four buttons.

Why would anyone want to use a kindle? (2)

ChilyWily (162187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270226)

I find it interesting that the Kindle is seen as this great magical device for the developing world, when it in fact: 1. Limits the ability to share a book 2. Has a way to delete the entire book without recourse. Why would anyone want such a device in the developed world? Why would they not resist such a device in a developing world? Me thinks this is just kindle product placement.

Re:Why would anyone want to use a kindle? (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270332)

I doubt they'd be grabbing books from the Amazon store over their local 3G connection. Freely licensed content pre-loaded in a DRM free format would be the way to go, whether on Kindle or on another similar reader, and I doubt that the connectivity would be turned on anyway - it'd be an unnecessary drain on the battery.

Re:Why would anyone want to use a kindle? (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271240)

I doubt they'd be grabbing books from the Amazon store over their local 3G connection. Freely licensed content pre-loaded in a DRM free format would be the way to go, whether on Kindle or on another similar reader, and I doubt that the connectivity would be turned on anyway - it'd be an unnecessary drain on the battery.

Better yet, find a way to put reading material on a phone. Everyone's got one already.

Seriously, there are more drawbacks to using such devices (smaller screen, higher power consumption, etc.), but at least the infrastructure exists to support them, and it's more useful in the short term that people be able to talk together. Besides, they will typically choose different sources of information than you or I might choose from them.

3G and Wi-Fi aren't that far away for those who don't have it already. But paying for and caring for two devices instead of one is often more than a struggling family can manage.

Re:Why would anyone want to use a kindle? (1)

mcguirez (524534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270354)

And you better be able to recharge it. Power is not universally available.

If not, you can't even burn it for fuel...

Re:Why would anyone want to use a kindle? (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270394)

I think the submitter had that point in mind. The author of the TFA happened to have a Kindle, so that's what he showed off. I imagine that any charity organization that would send e-readers would be sending an open format.

Re:Why would anyone want to use a kindle? (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271352)

I think the submitter had that point in mind. The author of the TFA happened to have a Kindle, so that's what he showed off. I imagine that any charity organization that would send e-readers would be sending an open format.

You might think so, but you'd be wrong, as often as not.

International Development is a pretty corrupt game, often dominated long-time civil servants positioning themselves to become high-paid consultants in the field. It's hardly unknown for donors to recommend 'solutions' that don't reflect the recipients' priorities nearly as well as their own.

Considering the uphill struggle we've faced over the last five years to get very basic things like the OLPC into the common dialogue (too much resistance from vested interests) or to properly liberalise the telecoms market (competing strategic interests - nobody wants China invested in the infrastructure, for example), I'd say if something like this were to be proposed, the odds are better than even that a proprietary, inefficient and sub-par solution would be the result. locking the people (and more importantly, the donors and the consultants) into long-term commitment to something that will make a lot of money for the vendor.

This development blog [blogspot.com] may be a satire, but it's bitterly bitterly true.

Re:Why would anyone want to use a kindle? (4, Informative)

Chalex (71702) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270396)

You are confusing the hardware device with the Amazon service. Amazon has gone to great pains to make it super-easy to buy things from their bookstore directly on the device, and manage those purchases on your device through the Amazon website.

But the device itself is a regular e-reader, you can put files on it via USB and manage them via the filesystem or an app like Calibre. And Amazon does not manage books on the device except the ones that you buy through the Amazon service.

Most people who complain about the Kindle have never even used one.

So to address these complaints directly: 1. "sharing" a book is a feature of Amazon's DRMed service. It doesn't apply to regular e-books. 2. They promised they'd never delete a book from a person's account again again. And again, that only applies to DRMed books purchased through Amazon.

I tend to get my books from Project Gutenberg or manybooks.net and then manage them via USB with Calibre. You could load most of Project Gutenberg on a Kindle and send it to a place without network (but with electricity) and it would be much better than sending them trunkfuls of books.

Re:Why would anyone want to use a kindle? (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270618)

Yeah, it's as if children in rural India have no concept of the evils of DRM, sheesh.

Instead of gawking at the magic page-replacing text reading device they should have been like "GTFO, that thing doesn't even read EPUB"

Why consume when you can create (2)

xzvf (924443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271108)

Why use a device (Kindle, iPad) that is optimized for consumption, when the most benefit comes from creating content. A computer is a far better educational tool, and eventually a better economic driver. While we picture the developing world as a bunch of mud huts, there is a significant population that live in urban settings, with internet access and electricity. They can use real computers to create web sites, download sophisticated open source software to run businesses, and take online courses in multiple subjects.

Re:Why would anyone want to use a kindle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271232)

3. It's a top-down consumer device, like a console, rather than a peer-to-peer device, like a PC. That alone is a scary aspect of trying to push it on the developing world.

eBook Readers are great for people who ALREADY have PCs, but not for people who need equal access to the digital world.

"I find it interesting that the Kindle is seen as this great magical device"

My friends and I all gathered around one the same way when we first saw it "live". Nothing new about that.

Books better? (1)

neonv (803374) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270264)

"A charity could do a lot worse than to load a few up with dictionaries, school books and novels and send them to some remote schools in developing nations,"

Or they could send a few dictionaries, school books and novels. Much cheaper and much more accessible (any book accessible instead of a single kindle with many books). I know it's a sin to say on Slashdot, but technology isn't always the best way.

Re:Books better? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270440)

You forgot the text-to-speech feature that kids were so excited about. You can teach yourself to read with a Kindle, and using nearly any book; that's much harder with a regular text unless it's designed to introduce the reader to the basics of language first. RTFS.

Re:Books better? (2)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270494)

Not always the best choice, I'd agree. But with your modern ereaders you can fit hundreds, if not thousands, of books on a single device. And you can easily get thousands of books for free for these devices. You'd be hard pressed to find a publisher willing to donate thousands of print books for free. For a few books the paper route is cheaper, for sure, but once you get to tens or hundreds the argument for technology becomes much more enticing. I would think it would also be easier to convince a publisher to donate 1000 copies of an ebook than it would be for 1000 print books.

Re:Books better? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270500)

A device like a Kindle can hold an entire library of books, not just a scant few.

The problem with a device like this in general is that with new book prices, you can quickly break the bank trying to fill one.

A couple of textbooks and you've already spent the price of a Kindle.

However, there is plenty of useful stuff out there that's free to copy and redistribute and sneakernet is a lot cheaper than trying to print and ship entire libraries.

Durabiltiy (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270660)

Paper...

Or vellum for the win, but not if you're a vegie.

In my experience over the last few decades, the problem with anything electronic is durability. It's all designed to break or be obsolete within three years and thereby provide revenue for the corporations and banks.

Can you still read 10 year old word documents?
What happens when Amazon go out of business?
Can you replace the battery when it wears out?

etc etc.

Re:Durabiltiy (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271036)

The problem you describe is real for things like Kindle, but in general being electronic is not bad for durability. Plain-text ASCII doesn't rot, and neither do standard bitmap images or pcm sound files. Backup is easy with no DRM. I agree that shipping dead-tree books is better than shipping Kindles (even if more expensive because of weight), but shipping old x86 laptops jammed with Free software and Free art is better still.

If they reacted so strongly to the Kindle... (0)

vortex2.71 (802986) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270376)

They would have gone absolutely crazy about the iPad! I'm only kind of joking. After checking out my inlaw's Kindle, I'm unimpressed.

Re:If they reacted so strongly to the Kindle... (1)

Mike Mentalist (544984) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270462)

They would have gone absolutely crazy about the iPad! I'm only kind of joking. After checking out my inlaw's Kindle, I'm unimpressed.

Unimpressed in what way? The screen looks just like a paper book and it is far more convenient than normal books.

Re:If they reacted so strongly to the Kindle... (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271736)

Though is there some way I can change the font of a PDF I got onto the device? You can download the PDF of "The Macintosh Way" from the author's web site, but it's very hard to read on the Kindle. You don't seem to be able to change the fonts in a PDF like you can with the regular books. And/or an easy "conversion" of the book to then send the result to the Kindle.

(BTW, this is a serious question, I'm not joking because of the iPad/Apple/Macintosh Way vs Kindle issue.)

Re:If they reacted so strongly to the Kindle... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270502)

Oh, until the 3rd world place has to charge the iPad every few hours. Really the main benefit is the e-ink and it's great battery life.

Re:If they reacted so strongly to the Kindle... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270546)

They would have gone absolutely crazy about the iPad! I'm only kind of joking. After checking out my inlaw's Kindle, I'm unimpressed.

They would probably go crazy over an iPad, it's cool kit, but it's unfair to compare the Kindle to it. The Kindle is simply an e-Reader with an easy to access bookstore. Honestly, what does the Kindle not do you that you really expect an e-Reader to do?

e-readers are fragile, expensive, & hard to sh (1)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270474)

E-readers are fragile, expensive, & hard to share compared to books. In a "developing" country I would wonder how you would service the e-reader.
You cannot use an e-reader easily with two people. So, if one person wants to read something, everyone reads the same page. Books can be shared among several people. If you have two books, you can have two people reading at the same time.
Let's see what a kindle costs: right now it's $139.00 in the US. ( What will it cost when you get to the "developing" country?) Some refubished netbooks cost this much.
How do you get content onto the e-reader? Most need another computer or WLAN/WiFi internet connections. In a "developing" country, how easy is this to have access to?
Also, in general, an e-reader isn't as flexible as a netbook in what you can achieve. E-readers make lousy netbooks. Netbooks make decent e-readers.

Re:e-readers are fragile, expensive, & hard to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271446)

> E-readers are fragile, expensive, & hard to share compared to books.
Fragile: I keep my SmartQ in my pocket, and I have to replace it about once a year. That's much better damage resistance than my checkbook.
Expensive: Moore's law will fix the expensive part. "Design today for tomorrow's silicon."
Hard to share: For the same shipping weight, you can have 100 ebook readers with chargers (each holding 10,000+ books today) or you can have 300 paper books. Now, let's take a class of 30 kids studying Adam Smith's works. Which is "hard to share"?

> In a "developing" country I would wonder how you would service the e-reader.
You either have a kid with a screw driver that combines 2 (or 3) broken readers into one working reader, or you scrap it, kinda like the way you service damaged paper books.
Q: How do you service a laptop in the US?
A: You either have a kid with a screw driver that combines 2 (or 3) broken laptops into one working laptop, or you scrap it.

> You cannot use an e-reader easily with two people. So, if one person wants to read something, everyone reads the same page.
> Books can be shared among several people. If you have two books, you can have two people reading at the same time.
The limiting factor is weight. One hundred ereaders with chargers weigh less than 300 paper books. Which makes a better library?

> Let's see what a kindle costs: right now it's $139.00 in the US. ( What will it cost when you get to the "developing" country?)
$139 is today's price. Moore's Law will change that. Ebook readers will cost just a few dollars in a few years.

> How do you get content onto the e-reader?
(Option 1) You pre-load it with a basic selection, like the Harvard Classics [http://bartleby.com/hc/] or Project Gutenberg [http://www.Gutenberg.org]
(Option 2) You have a central system (think tablet computer kiosk) that lets you dump books onto the ebook reader.

> Most need another computer or WLAN/WiFi internet connections. In a "developing" country, how easy is this to have access to?
(1) Books DO NOT need to be connected.
(2) If you use a WLAN enabled ebook reader, you are being spied on by the publsihers. I keep my WiFi off.
(3) To put it another way, you can say that every library has a mailing address, but that does not mean that a book shipped to the 3rd world needs regular postal service.

> Also, in general, an e-reader isn't as flexible as a netbook in what you can achieve. E-readers make lousy netbooks. Netbooks make decent e-readers.
The original idea behind the XO machine was a dual-purpose machine. The two will eventually merge.

Re:e-readers are fragile, expensive, & hard to (1)

Libertarian001 (453712) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271788)

um, bullshit. You cannot claim that a single e-reader is difficult to share with two people, then turn around and claim that two books can be shared with two people. Epic fail. You share one kindle the same way you share one book: either give it to them or you both read the same page at the same time.

How many books can be placed on a Kindle? That is, how many free works can be pre-loaded onto the device? Now every Kindle recipient has a huge library. Contrast that with getting multiple dead-tree copies of all of those works (which take up a lot more space and cost a lot more to ship). At some point, dead-tree books are the way to go. But there is a cross-over point where Kindles are better.

*Kindle = Kleenex = generic => insert your e-reader of choice.

No and even thinking this is idiotic (3, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270488)

Kindles are for consumers, laptops for creators.

You can't write on a Kindle, you can't code on a Kindle. It is okay as a book replacement but it does NOT allow the same freedom as a laptop.

I do not oppose the use of tech in teaching but let us remember that some of the brightest mind that ever lived did their work long before the PC or any of its parts where ever invented. You can do amazing things with some paper and ink.

Westerners also forget that places like India got one difference. You need to beat the kids to get out of school instead of in. They WANT to learn. They don't need gadgets or special programs to motivate them. Al they need is teachers. Less gadgets, more teachers. And really, if a paper mathbook is ten years out of date, so what? That only matters if you wish to overhaul the entire education system every 2 years so teachers spend more time on administration then teaching. 1+1=2, it has done so for a long time and will continue to do so and teachers have educated children with slates better then most kids get educated with PC's.

If you really wish to help as a westerner, fund open books, so school books costs only the printing costs (trivial) and not the copyright costs. In some places in the world you can have an education for the price of a Kindle. Send a child to school, not have him become a Amazon consumer.

Re:No and even thinking this is idiotic (1)

CaptBubba (696284) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271034)

For the cost of a dozen books you can buy and load a kindle or other e-reader with enough books to keep someone busy reading for years. You could include 2000 free out of copyright books from Project Gutenberg for example. Then you have a device with an entire library on it, which is capable of teaching people to read (via text to speech), and can last weeks on a charge.

The real possibilities arise if you have a specially designed e-reader (think one laptop style). It could be made virtually indestructible, stripped of wireless to make it cheap (or specially equipped to communicate over the target country's cell network), and enhanced to have long battery life and large storage capacity along with easy charging (hell put a solar panel on the cover of it and you will likely never have to deal with charging). Include books designed to teach reading and it becomes a substitute for when a good teacher is not available. Much of education is just consuming information, which is what an e-reader does marvelously.

Re:No and even thinking this is idiotic (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271548)

Kindles are for consumers, laptops for creators.

Bingo. This is why a lot of geeks on /. are wondering why devices like the kindle and iPad are getting extremely popular with the masses since such devices don't have 50 ports abilities to upgrade etc.. It's because most people consume and only do light creating (emails). I'm buying my dad an iPad for his birthday. He's retired and travels a lot. All he does is read the wall street journal online, check his email, play solitaire. He doesn't need a computer for that. And he is also traveling a lot while he still can (he'll be 70). For the once a year he needs to do taxes, he can stop by my place and use my computer for turbotax.

Living off $2 a day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270508)

Yeah, I'm sure a kindle or whatever is top of their priorities

keeping them charged with solar (1)

eagl (86459) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270542)

A kindle or equivalent book reader would also be a lot easier to keep charged with a small solar panel than most other tiny computers or tablets. Charge both a small light and the kindle with solar during the day, read/study a bit after sunset until the light batteries start to fade. I've read about lots of remote villages becoming much more productive due to having a few hours of light before sunrise and after sunset because of relatively cheap solar charged lights, and a kindle (or a ruggedized stripped down equivalent) wouldn't take much power to keep charged. Keep the whispernet and wifi options though. That could be the only way to get new content since remote locations may not have any network other than cellphones.

Re:keeping them charged with solar (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270946)

Those remote villages would still be better off using regular books and using the power needed to charge a Kindle (however little it may be) to charge something else, like maybe water filtration systems. Plus, the cost needed to purchase the e-reader, get the content, and get it out to the remote villages can be used much more effectively by buying more essential quality of life necessities.

Re:keeping them charged with solar (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271460)

You could probably charge a thousand kindles for the amount of electricity it takes for a powered filtration system to process drinking water for one family. A first generation Kindle quick charger draws 2 amps at 5 volts (10 watts), and will charge a kindle in a couple of hours providing enough power for it to run on for weeks.. A 10 watt solar panel is about the size of a large sheet of paper and costs around $30.

Because kindle access is more important than water (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271668)

I think most families would prefer clean drinking water before kindle power charging.

If you gave them the hundred dollars or whatever a kindle is worth I think a kindle might be well down the list from my very limited experience of rural communities in India. Clean water systems, vaccination against the worst childhood diseases, guaranteeing their children one decent meal a day for the next year, those kind of things. Maybe shoes, school uniforms, pencil and paper for their kids next, etc....

"A 10 watt solar panel is about the size of a large sheet of paper and costs around $30" - what would you do given 30 days wages? (because that's what 30 dollars represents to some families in India). Probably not buy a charger for an electronic device...

niether (3, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270600)

Having been to the heart of Ethiopia, I can tell you what they really need are jobs. Yea, food, education, clean water... that's all good, but none of it will remain there without money and they only way to keep money there is to build factories to employee the people. "Nothing but nets" nearly put every net manufacturer in Africa out of business. Food aid in Hattie drove most of the local food growers, distribution networks and street vendors out of business.

Instead of giving them free laptops, how about we invest in real books... put the publishing company IN the community where the books are needed and hire the populace to produce them. Then sell those books to charities at a discount rate to be given to school children. You employ hundreds of adults, educate thousands of kids and leave an industry in place that could last for decades.

you want Heifer International (2)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271208)

for foodstuffs at any rate:

http://www.heifer.org/ [heifer.org]

Putting in a printing plant is an interesting idea, but needs a _lot_ of infrastructure (where do you get paper and ink from? printing plates? glue?).

The problem is, any sort of competitive printing press would quickly saturate and over-whelm the local market --- where do they sell to after the local school has a full set of textbooks (less than a month's production effort).

William

Nothing special (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270642)

Bring anything new and shiny to a village of impoverished "third world" people, the likes of which they have never seen, and of course they'll crowd around it in amazement. Come on.

Re:Nothing special (1)

netsharc (195805) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270894)

Indeed... these kids have probably seen a laptop or 2, but not a Kindle, which may explain the "OMG!" response he said he got..

worldreader.org is doing it right now (3, Informative)

Qubit (100461) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270704)

worldreader.org [worldreader.org] has this mission:

Our mission is to put a library of books into the hands of children and families in the developing world with e-reader technology.

(disclosure: A friend of mine from College is on the team)

Excited kids = good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35270716)

Um. I didn't read TFA, but the point of the summary seems to be that kids in a 3rd world country got excited when they saw a Kindle, therefore it's a good idea of charities to send Kindles to Africa. To summary: huh? If charities were making decisions about what's a good idea based on how excited kids get, why aren't they sending scores of teenagers with soccer balls to play with the kids?

Oh, I know--maybe because a mess of teenagers with soccer balls isn't a particularly effective way to help a society with limited access to clean water.

Everybody's Doing It! (1)

tunapez (1161697) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270764)

Buying toys...er, appliances...and batteries with their disposable income in the heart of the 3rd world. I mean, welfare is secondary to becoming an emerging consumer market. Right?

Amazing the illiterate natives (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35270900)

Here is the Great White Man, here to exploit the resources of the region while returning nothing to the community. In this particular case the resource is tigers, at least he's shooting them for pictures not pelts so that's a step forward of sorts. Ordinarily, he would never have stooped to socialize with "these people" but he was waiting for a ride (to get the hell out of there). He basks in the attention of these stupid natives - they're amazed by the text to speech functionality, what morons! He revels in the wonderful privilege not only to be White but also to be able to leave this squalor. Does anyone else find this racially offensive? How is this any different from the Victorian attitude that it was the White Man's Burden to civilize India?

He's also a sucker for "the narrative" which says that Whites were good, Bob Geldof was good, and raising money helped to alleviate the Ethiopian famine. It did no such thing. [wakeupfrom...lumber.com] The journalist-heroes of the BBC exposed the fraud some time ago (Geldof's response? Attacking the credibility of the BBC. Yeah, you heard me - like the BBC has an agenda, it is objective reporting of facts without any regard for interpretation.)

Re:Amazing the illiterate natives (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271010)

I don't think if you can really call it racism. I think is is more a case of bourgeouis culturally insensitive clodism. The accusation of racism gets thrown around too much. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with 'white' people or any other color of people.

Re:Amazing the illiterate natives (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271414)

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with 'white' people.
Uhhh...yes there is buddy. Where, might I ask, exactly did you study racial theory? The concept of Whiteness is innately bound with racism. [theroot.com] Maybe you weren't educated in an institute of higher learning but fortunately others were (Windows admin classes at ITT Tech don't count, unfortunately). "Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Balanchine ballets, et al. don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history." --Susan Sontag[1]. Sontag was a highly respected intellectual and her attitudes are widely accepted today at the highest levels. Ask around at the department of racial studies at your friendly neighborhood university. You might learn something. But then again, maybe not.

[1] Sontag later apologized for this statement, saying it slandered cancer victims.

Re:Amazing the illiterate natives (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271660)

You sir are an ass.

Re:Amazing the illiterate natives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271270)

Wow, you are pretty dumb. I absolutely hate when people try to turn everything into some racial thing. The new Ford Mustang is not coming out in the color black. Oh, it is racist against black people. Stop being a tard and blaming everything on racism. Maybe you are just mad because some people have so much money, that they are willing to spend some on giving stuff out to people who can't afford it. To make an excuse for people wanting to donate Kindles, you say it is racist. Maybe you should stop browsing /. and do your damn job and you could afford to donate to 3rd world countries as well.

You were doing 70 in a 60 zone. I guess they profiled you and pulled you over for being black, and not for the fact that you were going 10 over.

Listen, before you try to pull the racist card on me, I am a white man married to a beautiful African goddess, so save it.

You, sir, are racist and simply trying to project your own judgments onto other people. You don't want them to get kindles since you don't like the fact that you work and can't afford a kindle, but some people in a 3rd world country are getting some for free. You are wrong and racist dude.

Re:Amazing the illiterate natives (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271296)

You're the only person who brought race into the picture. He stopped to read, had a chat with some people who were interested in his reader, and concluded that since they liked it so much and could probably benefit from the technology, providing them might be a good idea. What the hell does that have to do with the colour of his skin? How would it be any different if someone of any other race who had grown up in a first world country was making the same comments?

Re:Amazing the illiterate natives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271580)

> Here is the Great White Man, here to exploit the resources of the region while returning nothing to the community.
> In this particular case the resource is tigers, at least he's shooting them for pictures not pelts so that's a step forward of sorts.

Those tigers eat the children of the locals. Only someone who group up far from predators would complain about killing a few predators.
Jim Corbett is one of my heros.

> Bob Geldof was good, and raising money helped to alleviate the Ethiopian famine. It did no such thing.
90% of "aid" concerts don't make money. That's not the point. The point is to make the stars look good. I detest Hollywood liberals.

> How is this any different from the Victorian attitude that it was the White Man's Burden to civilize India?
The myth of the noble savage who is polluted by the white man's intervention is just as rediculous as the myth that all contacts with europeans help the natives. Some of our technology is well suited to help them. Ebook readers will eventually change billions of live, if we can get them "just right."

I was fired for proposing such a thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271002)

At a famous ereader maker I prosed a stripped down ereader device. To only be sold in bulk quantities to fix public school libraries for elementary and middle school students in the US. (Have you seen the state of an elementary school's library? it's terrible) with the hope that we could also partner with agencies interested in distributing the device internationally. Specs, arm11, 32MB ram, 600x800 eInk or reflective LCD (didn't decide which, but we like that high resolution), USB "dock" for syncing (checking out books), no wifi for cost cutting reasons (less certification requirements, easier to manufacturer, smaller battery, one less part). Could be sold at a profit initially for about $80 we estimated, and half that in serious volume. Several people, including VPs were excited. But the next week I was called in and accused of "wasting time" and "going over my boss's head". It essentially resulted in my resignation.

Wouldn't it be prudent to keep it simple? (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271046)

Something like the Kindle actually sounds like a good idea for several reasons: Once an ebook is loaded, it's loaded, so you don't need to worry about syncing or network connectivity. You don't need a network or an Internet connection to use one. You don't need a power source other than some batteries or a hand-crank charger. etc.

In developed nations, we take for granted such simple things that we often want to impose complexities in areas where they really aren't needed. Getting the populous to learn to read, to read for both education and entertainment, and to learn to apply that knowledge to practical, real world applications. Maybe frmo a political perspective, Twitter might be useful, but how about learning the basics first?

My Kindle arrived! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271136)

Yay, my Kindle arrived! I'll just charge it by plugging it into my...

Fuck.

OLPC (2)

itamblyn (867415) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271234)

This is really what OLPC was supposed to be. A $100 (or $200, whatever) ereader and laptop. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line people got more interested in trying to deploy untested educational software rather than make the ebook part work properly. It still doesn't.

Mehh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271344)

Either way, they'll just burn them for the metal inside and sell it for scrap.

Whee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271368)

Only the upreenth thing suggested for sending off "loaded" to "developing" nations.

What happened to the $200 smart terminal? Of i recall a bunch of startups got tax writeoffs for sayong they would develope The thing to send to Africa/India/Israel/other places where the standard of living for the majority has not increased in 3,000 years.

None of these plans ever go anywhere and its probably a logical flaw in the concept, not a logistical problem.

Bunches of jerkoffs think the third world needs their particular brand x consumer product. Commercialism has been trying tontap the perpetually starved lifestyle demographic since it was discovered in the eighties.

Well tell me did the little indians eat the kindle? What good did it do? Does it grant wishes like "please allow me into a higher caste"? Will their lives be enriched through glaring wide eyed at the font changes when the batteries run out?

Why stop at India? You ought to test th market in the kalahari, there might be some untapped acorns or wildebeest skulls you could make peddling your cyber trash there.

Misread the title (1)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271458)

When I first read the title of this article, I though it was asking if [software] developers would prefer to use e-readers instead of laptops. I thought... duh! I barely have enough screen real estate with two screens on my desktop, much less a laptop... and you want me to work on a 5 - 9 inch e-reader screen? Then I read a couple of comments and realized what it was really about.

E-readers instead of laptops in developing countries? Makes sense, since in general the laptop will have a lot of unused capability.

"Developing World" - yeah, right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271554)

So the 'Developing World' is hundreds of years behind the rest of the world for WHAT reason?

Probably 'racism', which is apparently the cause of all the problems that the THIRD WORLD faces.

Could it possibly have anything to do with lower IQs?

Say it ain't so!

Still, you'll all soon see the proof of what I say, as your own, once safe and successful WHITE countries are turned into third world hellholes, all while you steadfastly deny it's happening.

A bit too ambitious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271560)

Perhaps we should start with pencils for the developing world [thepencilproject.com] .

Creation is the key (1)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271726)

While readers are good for teaching people to read, laptops have the massive advantage that people can learn to create stuff. Doesn't matter whether it is code, blogs, videos, art, spreadsheets, science, whatever. Far better for users to have the opportunity to be 'creators' and not just 'consumers'. Even though the vast majority of sheeple in the West consume only (which is ok, not everyone can or wants to create) it is the creators who drive innovation and progress (even if it is only a little website for their hobby). IMHOm it is far better for the developing world to also have this opportunity via cheap laptops, than be stuck in a read-only world.
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