A few years ago, Worldreader expanded its model of using Kindles in classrooms to a new method of distributing e-books through something most people in the developing world already carry in their pockets: mobile phones.
Since then, Worldreader Mobile has become a means to reach thousands of new readers in a relatively short amount of time. But the best is yet to come.
To help understand the often-complicated world of mobile development, here are our answers to the most common inquiries.
“What is Worldreader Mobile?”
Worldreader Mobile is a mobile phone app that provides free access to nearly 7,000 e-books to over 250,000 people in the developing world.
“Tell me about your app. Where did it come from? Who is using it?”
It was built and promoted by a company called biNu, our technology partner. biNu has a free application that over 2 million people use to make lower-end “feature phones” (think of something between a flip-phone and iPhone) behave more like a smartphone. After they developed our app, biNu made it appear automatically on all of these phones, and it just happens that many of those phones are in Africa and Asia.
As a result, almost overnight we had 250,000 people each month using the Worldreader Mobile app. Other people are downloading the app and using it outside of biNu too. All together we’ve had over 600,000 users since it was created.
“Sounds great! Why would you need a new app?”
Our current app was designed for low-end feature phones because those phones are very common throughout Africa and Asia. But we also know that smarter phones, especially ones that run on the Android operating system, are becoming the new norm, even in remote parts of the world.
Simply put, our current app doesn’t work well on nicer, newer phones. At the very least, our app can’t offer the features that people have come to expect from a smartphone app experience. Things like annotations, dictionary look-ups, quizzes and social networking simply aren’t possible with our current app.
So, without “smarter” apps, we’re missing out on a huge market of potential readers using “smarter phones.”
“If you had a new app, how many people do you think you can reach?”
Currently, there are 7.1 billion people in the world and 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions, all on different types of phones.
As soon as we have apps that work on some of the most popular mobile phones out there, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Worldreader Mobile could quickly have millions of users, maybe even billions some day.
Of course, first we have to develop the apps, and then get them promoted too. So there’s a lot of work to do.
“You keep saying apps, in the plural. How many apps do you really need?!”
Right now we have four different projects in the works, each at different stages. Each app will reach a different – and very large – group of mobile users.
A while ago, we started working with Nokia to develop an app for their S30 and S40 phones, which number around 1 billion in the world today. Now that Nokia is part of Microsoft, the partnership includes another project: Nokia/Microsoft smartphones.
The third project involves working with a web-browser company called Opera. Again, we’re hoping to develop an app that works on their mobile phone browser called Opera Mini, which is used by over 200 million people.
Finally, as an organization we’re developing a plan for a full-blown Android app; something that will work on any of the many billions of Android phones out there. We may even develop special versions of the app to promote things like girls’ education and women’s empowerment.
These projects will rollout over the next couple of years; roughly in the order they’re laid out here. Assuming we can find the right funders and partners, we could be reaching millions of users on Worldreader Mobile sometime in 2015.
“How can I help?”
For Worldreader Mobile to build its infrastructure, we need people to invest in its potential. For Worldreader Mobile to truly thrive, we need partnerships to help along the way. If you’re interested in supporting Worldreader Mobile or connecting us with people and companies that can, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.