Challenges for the future

April 29, 2010 By

We just posted a new video in which we discuss the challenges that we face moving forward — specifically, the need for electricity, the durability of e-readers, creating a mechanism of paying for content (without credit cards), and the ever important human component of developing a culture of reading.

Big thanks go to our videographer, Elizabeth Wood!

We are not letting these challenges hold us back from conducting the trials that are giving us the valuable feedback that we will need to solve them. Our partners have been very supportive — take, for example, what happened when one of our Kindles broke.

Amusingly, the malfunctioning Kindle was mine! Much as we worried (and continue to worry) about the heat, humidity and dust that the Kindles in Ghana are exposed to, the kids using them are either luckier than I am, or they’ve been taking better care of their devices.

Amazon was great about replacing my device. I called their toll-free number for free using Skype, they sent me a replacement via International Courier Service, and it arrived within 3 days. Replacing my content was a bit of a pain but easy enough to do (boy, are we glad to have Richard the tech guy on the ground in Ghana). I put the broken Kindle in the box the new one arrived in, then mailed it back registered and insured. A quick Skype call to Kindle Support and they refunded my return shipping fees.

In a sense, it’s nice to have had our first device malfunction here. Now we know how to set Richard up with instructions on what to do should something happen to one of theirs. We also know that until we can develop more long-term solutions, we’ll need to figure out things like how much return shipping would cost from Ghana, and look at extended warranties.

Along similar lines, we quite enjoyed this article in the New York Times about unauthorized iPhone repair shops popping up all over the United States. Ghana, like most developing countries, has many small businesses that repair all manner of mobile phones. Because phones cost more relative to income, they have yet to develop a throwaway culture, and even the most basic phone models can be repaired rather than replaced. When we think of a future in which e-readers are as commonplace in the developing world as mobile phones are now, it is exciting to imagine small repair businesses flourishing as part of a robust and vibrant ecosystem surrounding this new culture of reading.