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The Literacy Ledger Reflections, findings, stories and the lowdown

Worldreader Mobile: More Than 500,000 Readers Globally

April 9, 2013 By

Worldreader has gone global! We happily announce today that we are reaching more than 500,000 avid readers a month on a device that’s already in their pockets: their phone.

That’s right! A half million people per month worldwide are accessing and reading story books, textbooks, award winning short stories, novels and vital health information on Worldreader Mobile, an app for their feature phones, devices commonly found throughout Africa and the rest of the developing world.

Reading on mobile phones in Africa

A young girl from Kilgoris, Kenya, reads books on Worldreader Mobile using her mother’s 2G mobile phone.

 

And, they’re reading with a capital R. Our users spend 60,000 hours reading on their mobile phones per month. Approximately 100,000 of these readers read more than 20 times per month; they’re what we call “power readers.” In January, Worldreader Mobile users read the equivalent of 17,000 books on their feature phones.

They certainly have plenty of reading options to choose from, too. Worldreader offers 1,200 free e-books and stories covering a wide range of interests with content provided by Caine Prize for African writers, CK-12, Harlequin, Pearson, the U.S. State Department and the World Health Organization, to name a few.

You may be wondering, “Hey wait a second. I thought Worldreader focused on bringing e-readers and e-books to schools. Why jump to feature phones?” The short answer is that because these phones are everywhere in the world, and with a mission to bring “Books for all,” a mobile phone strategy allows us to impact potentially millions of people in a short period of time.

“There are more mobile phones than toothbrushes on this planet,” said David Risher, our co-founder and chief executive officer. “Together with our growing e-reader program, Worldreader Mobile connects us to millions of the world’s poorest people, providing the books they need to improve their lives.”

To take full advantage of the variety of digital reading opportunities presenting themselves via different technologies, namely mobile phone platforms, we partnered with biNu in 2011. They have a technology platform that makes Internet connectivity fast and affordable on mass-market phones. The biNu mobile app is used by more than five million people across the developing world and includes more than 100 channels featuring news, weather and messaging, and, via Worldreader Mobile, books. The platform compresses mobile data so any phone can have a smartphone-like speed, even on the lower bandwidth 2G networks that account for the majority of mobile phone subscriptions in Africa today and the foreseeable future.

Worldreader’s preliminary research shows its a powerful tool for education and literacy. Although more males have become early adopters, 70 percent of our power readers are women—reading on average more than 17 books a month.  Additionally, teachers, caregivers, older siblings and parents are using the app as well, and about a third of the readers surveyed said they would use the Worldreader Mobile to read children’s stories to their young.

For more information, please see the Worldreader Mobile press release and presentation.

So whether it’s with a Kindle e-reader or a Nokia handset, it’s about putting more books into more people’s hands regardless of which device they’re holding. We’ve never been more excited to say “Books for all!”