Former Amazon.com executive David Risher has loved books for as long as he can remember. They were his only way to explore the world as a child, they were what he studied in college, and they were what attracted him to Amazon in the first place. So when he volunteered at an orphanage in Ecuador and saw a padlocked building with books piled up above the windows, he had to ask what was going on. “That’s our library,” replied the orphanage’s leader. “But I think I’ve lost the key.” The girls had lost interest in the library’s books, and new books would take months to arrive– if they ever arrived at all.
It was a defining moment for David. E-readers like the Kindle were just coming to market– in fact, he had been using the earliest version as he traveled to help with his own young daughters’ reading. Recalling a conversation about e-books with ESADE Business School’s marketing director, Colin McElwee, an idea took seed: Widespread mobile phone technology availability, the falling costs of e-readers and the power of letting children choose books to read could transform lives throughout the world. With that, Worldreader was born.
Click here to read David’s first blog post about Worldreader– he shares his thoughts about day 1 of Worldreader’s work in Ghana. He writes: “So what did we learn? As background: we spent the day with 20 students from age six to twenty-six, teaching them about e-readers and then letting them loose on a bunch of pre-loaded Kindles. In a way, we simply wanted to see how these children were going to react to this very new technology. We came away more convinced than ever that e-readers will change the face of reading in the developing world.” (March 14, 2010)
Photo: David Risher & Colin McElwee on their first trip to Ghana to launch the Worldreader program.