Now consider e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, a technology that is moving astonishingly quickly in the developed world. (In January 2011, e-book sales surpassed those of hardback books in the US.) These devices were designed for readers in wealthy countries, but their impact on the developing world may well be even more profound due to the relative lack of access to books, and the ever-increasing popularity of mobile phones: it’s getting hard to find a part of the world where kids don’t have access to cell phones, and with that, some kind of power supply to keep them recharged… and of course, e-readers use the cell phone network to download new books.
Most importantly, e-readers offer a blend between something familiar and something new. What is familiar: teachers already know how to incorporate books into their classrooms, and students already know how to use devices with keyboard and screens thanks to the growth of cellphones. But what is new is the concept of nearly infinite choice: now students can read not only the books that are required in their classrooms, but also have access to any book that piques their curiosity. Watching a child finish a Curious George book and then ask: “Can I have another?” is magical.