An Amazing 2012

December 28, 2012 By

It’s the time of year when we reflect and celebrate what’s come to pass, and with gleeful anticipation, plan ahead.

2012 was, in many ways, a breakout year for Worldreader, and 2013 promises even more Books For All greatness.

Students at the Upendo School in Tanzania, our latest project, falling in love with reading.

 

Not to brag or anything (well, OK, we are bragging because it’s pretty amazing), but here are a few key achievements from this year:

  • We’re in more countries. We kicked off the year by building on our Ghana and Kenya bases. In February, we officially launched in Uganda at the HUMBLE school. Shortly afterwards, there were expansions at existing e-reader programs run by The Kilgoris Project and Dr. Robert John Ouko Memorial Community Library/GordonFamily ConnectAfrica. By the end of the year, our reach spread to other parts of Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania (stay tuned…we’ll have more about December’s Tanzania launch in early January).
  • E-books from more publishers and authors. To date, we have about 1,200 digital books in our growing Worldreader collection, representing donations from roughly 20 African publishers and 12 publishers in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia and valued at more than $250,000. That’s four times more than the 300 books we had in 2011! And, we’re not just delivering books in Engligh; we added new languages–including Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, and soon Twi– to our digital library available to kids in our programs. Also, in 2012, big-name authors including Seth Godin and Caine Prize Winners joined the Worldreader mission, as did the publishers of the famous Ripley’s Believe it or Not series. A few months back, The New York Times, ran this article about the outpouring of publishing support we’ve gotten this year, and as of November, we’re thrilled to say we have delivered a total of 245,762 e-books to students in Africa.
  • Reading on the mobile phone app. In February, we did a beta launch of a mobile reading app for feature phones. Developed with our partner, biNu, the app allows mobile phone users around the world (many of whom do not own smartphones) to access books. The app, which primarily targets young adult readers and features classics, best sellers, short stories, health information and CK 12 textbooks, has drawn about 500,000 users, who, on average, are reading a about 20 million pages per month, based on ad-hoc research we conducted. We have a lot of things in store for the app next year, some of which are mentioned below.
  • New ways for partners to engage. To help us more effectively reach a million kids by 2015, we’re looking at different partnership models. Late in 2012, for instance, we launched a library model in Rwanda and Kenya; under this kind of program, the broader community — not just students and teachers at selected schools — have access to Kindles and e-books. We also launched in December our first sponsorship model at the Upendo School in Tanzania with sponsoring partners Thanks Be To God Foundation and Afric Aid Inc.; we’ll have an update about the how the sponsorship model works in a separate, upcoming blog, but the general idea is to match schools that want to bring e-readers and digital books into their classrooms with appropriate sponsors who could fund the cost of the program.
  • With help from our friends, we can accomplish great things. In the spring, we announced our long-term goal to be the first to bring a million e-books to Africa, and we did this with the support of Worldreader friends Amazon Web Services, Hulu and the world-famous FC Barcelona soccer club. By beaming our kids’ heroes unto their e-readers, we’re showing kids how cool reading can be, and, with the help of organizations like 10×10, promoting the idea that books will empower generations of boys and girls.
  • Every dollar adds up. Being a nonprofit, we depend on contributions from donors. While we have been busy encouraging people to get involved, host a fundraising event or honor people they love with “book love” e-cards, we also leveraged our relationship with Amazon and won the company’s support in an enormous way. In November, we achieved something never done before by any nonprofit and have blazed a trail for others to follow: Amazon put a blurb about us on their homepage — right near the top! Can you imagine going into the holiday gift-buying season with the world’s largest bookseller promoting our cause? It had us dancing with joy in the office and inspired many bookworms to share their love of reading with kids who have incredibly limited access to books.

    Amazon made a splash about us and promoted “Books for all” on its website.

  • Our name is out far and wide: Major international publications — including Al Jazeera, BBC, Business Week, CNN, The Economist, El Pais, Financial Times, Fox, GigaOm, Huffington Post, The New York Times, MSNBC and The Wall Street Journal — ran stories about the work we’re doing (you can see a full listing of press articles here). And, while competing for the Chase Giving Awards a few weeks ago, we gained 30,000 new Facebook fans, won love from some amazingly high-profile supporters including Bill Gates and authors Margaret Atwood and John Grisham, and were backed by fantastic organizations including biNu, Easypromos, eDreams, E Ink, Kopo Kopo, M-Edge, New York Public Library, Penguin Random House and Room to Read.
  • San Francisco here we come: In addition to our European headquarters in Barcelona, we’ve established U.S. operations in San Francisco. Besides putting us close to Silicon Valley’s vibrant technology hub, the West Coast location puts us in a good position to jump into other developing countries, namely in Central and South America. The San Francisco office will also serve as our main logistics center, with the SF team receiving Kindle shipments, prepping them for field deployment and shipping them to program sites worldwide. Things are already moving at lightning speed there, too. The SF team is processing 100 Kindles a day on average, getting Worldreader ready for our 2013 ramp up. Thank goodness we forged a strong relationship with DHL this fall — we’ll need their delivery and customs expertise to bring devices to many different places around the world!

    877 Kindles ready to be shipped to Africa.

Looking Ahead

While we have reached many milestones, we know we have many more things to look forward to in the coming year. Here’s a sneak peak into what’s already on the calendar for the next couple of months:

  • Getting more Kindles to more schools. Expansion into even more places is a major objective for 2013. Come January, we’ll be expanding in Ghana, thanks in part to the $300,000 ”All Children Reading: Grand Challenge for Development” Award we won in September. Elsewhere, we will also start new programs in South Africa and Nairobi, Kenya in the weeks ahead, and have our eyes on Malawi, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, too.
  • Learn more about how people are using the mobile phone reading app. During the first quarter, we’ll officially launch the mobile phone with an improved user interface and some other key features. We’ll also be working with Nokia and UNESCO to research how users use the app and track app-related reading trends.
  • On-boarding more publishers. This is always top of mind. More books from more sources means kids have more books to choose from and more opportunities to fall in love with reading. Additionally, we’re working with governments and various other organizations to get more school textbooks and health information vital to students and their families. 

 

Parents discovering the joys of reading on a Kindle during the community event in Koru, Kenya.

 

Thanks for helping making 2012 an incredible year! We’re looking forward to seeing what 2013 has in store.

The Worldreader teams wishes you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013. Happy New Year!