Worldreader has now an app on the Firefox OS marketplace, we met the marketing and mobile team to dive into this world where literacy for all is the mantra…
Firefox OS Africa – Can you tell us what Worldreader is about?
Worldreader – Worldreader is a global literacy nonprofit enabling reading everywhere in the world. With the mission of providing digital books via existing technology to every child and her family, Worldreader has reached nearly 6 million readers since 2010. Worldreader’s digital library has more than 28,000 local and international e-books available via e-readers in schools and libraries in Africa and mobile phones everywhere.
F – Why did you decide to develop Worldreader Mobile?
W – Cell phones are widely prevalent everywhere in the world and that’s why, in 2012, we decided to create a reading application called Worldreader Mobile. This reading app enables anyone, anywhere to access a digital library of books from their internet-enabled mobile phones, including the simplest of feature phones. Worldreader’s publishing team works to optimize all Worldreader titles for these small screen sizes as well.
Worldreader Mobile allows readers to discover, read and collect free e-books in a variety of languages around the world–from storybooks to read to children, textbooks to help with students’ assignments to important health information for mothers and parents. And people are reading! Every month, around 1 million readers worldwide are using Worldreader Mobile on their mobile phones and tablets to read and learn.
F – Tell us a bit more about your projects in Africa
W – In Africa, Worldreader reaches readers with mobile phones and enables reading in African schools and libraries through the use of digital books on e-readers. As of May 2015, Worldreader has delivered nearly 1.5 million e-books via 9,363 e-readers to 133 schools and libraries in 12 sub-Saharan African countries.
All of Worldreader’s school and library projects start with a Worldreader BLUE (Building Literacy Using E-Books)
Box. Every BLUE Box contains everything needed to bring digital reading to a school or library: e-readers, e-books (100 per device) and training guidelines. Implementation models vary from individual, where every child has a device and the school permits students to take their e-readers home, to shared, where students share the e-readers in a classroom. The community model, delivered through BLUE Boxes for Libraries, is designed to serve members of all ages, from children to adults.
F – What are the advantages for an (African) Worldreader user?
W- The effects of digital reading in schools and libraries in Africa and on mobile phones everywhere are enormous.
Worldreader believes that literacy is a foundational skill essential to anyone’s success in life.
Through our digital reading programs and efforts, Worldreader helps children, families and entire communities become more literate and educated.
We take pride in the fact that we are a research-based organization. We partner with like-minded organizations to enable digital reading in the developing world but we also measure the impact of what we do.
Additionally, Worldreader’s digital library is comprised of over 28,000 e-books, the majority of those being books that have been carefully curated from publishers from all around the world, including Africa, to be relevant to our readers.
F – You are curating books from African authors and publishers, what were your last discoveries? What are the trending books in your African library?
W – It’s hard to define what makes a library “African” – is it that the books are published by African authors and publishers or that the characters and setting are African? These are not always the same and often the most well known African authors are part of the diaspora which often publishes with Western publishers and occasionally sets their books outside of Africa in a context that might not be familiar to our readers. Conversely, a foreign author can publish a book set in Africa populated with African characters. They may even publish with a sub-Saharan publisher.
We like to think of our African library as our total library which we make an effort to fill with content that could be defined, in many ways, as relevant to our readers. Perhaps it is content that will help them master their Biology class or perhaps it is a book by an Ethiopian author published out of Ghana that will help them understand life in rural Ethiopia more. But it might also encompass a book published in India with themes and ideas familiar and interesting to our readers but a setting and character set that is entirely foreign.
In general our readers really like romance; however you’ll also often see books like UNICEF’s “Facts for Life” on the top ten and notice that people are reading the chapter about Timing Births. People also search for biology, the Bible and physics material constantly.
Some of our most notable recent additions include a book called Milk & Honey by Rosalyn Hardy Holcomb – though it’s set in the US our readers can’t seem to get enough of it. It’s a romance novel. Our most popular recent addition is from Ghana and called “Some Popular Ananse Stories”. It’s published by Sam Woode. We also have a series in our top books now called the Eshuns that was written by Okanta Kate, a girl who started reading as a student in one of our schools in Ghana.
F – Could you tell us a bit more about the selection process?
W – We work with established authors and publishers in sub-Saharan Africa who themselves do a great deal of vetting before going to print. However, we also think about the needs of our readers. For instance we look for carefully leveled books in local languages for our school programs where early readers are just beginning to learn to read whereas for an older group we might consider whether or not they need material to study for exams or to help with job skills. As well, we look for content that is well written, and where possible, professionally edited and designed. In general we believe in making a wide range of content available to our users and work toward ensuring it is of the highest quality.
F – In which African local languages are your books available in? How many books do you have for African readers?
W – To date, we have books in more than 30 African languages including: Swahili, Luo, Luganda, Twi, Ewe, Ga, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Kinyarwanda, Shona, isiXhosa.
More than 2,200 books are published by African publishers; 24,541 books in English, French and Portuguese– three languages spoken in Africa and available for African readers.
F – Why did you choose the Firefox Marketplace to host your app?
W – Being an NGO with the ‘books for all’ mission, we share Mozilla’s passion for making Internet accessible and available to everyone. Our strategy of using mobile technology and reading to improve the lives of millions lead into building a browser based application that works on any Internet-enabled device regardless of whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or a ten-year old feature phone. With the focus on opening up the mobile ecosystem for everyone, Firefox Marketplace represents a perfect place for the web version of Worldreader Mobile. Thanks to our partnership with Mozilla, Firefox Marketplace enabled us to put the Worldreader library at the fingertips of millions of Firefox OS users across the World.
F – Finally what is your big goal in the continent? We should celebrate it along the way!
W – Simple: empower every child, family, community in Africa to read books, and not just any books, but books that they need and want to read. We believe that this can be achieved with technology (and time!) and that the results will be life-changing for all of us: more literate societies, better health outcomes, less poverty and a better world for all of us!
Special thanks to Julia and Perisa for their answers and you, Firefox OS Africa readers, tell us what you think about this app and ask your questions! Comment below!