Digital Books in Developing Countries

I had to write a quick post about this  interview over at CNN.

Nicholas Negroponte is the professor who spearheaded the One Laptop Per Child initiative. He makes a bold prediction—that the print book will be gone in five years. While I fully expect e-books to continue to make strides in the US, I don’t think print books are going away. However, he gives an interesting reason why he makes his claim. He compares the digital book to cell phones.

Here in America we have our big desktops, our laptops that plug into our cable modems, and we’re sitting happy. But in lesser developed countries they don’t have many of these luxuries. Desktops are not practical, and it’s hard to get cable internet. Instead, they’ve leapfrogged us in technology, jumping right to smartphones. Negroponte points out that we didn’t adopt smartphones as rapidly as developing countries, simply because the laptop or desktop was good enough. But if you don’t have a laptop or desktop, then a smart phone looks much more appealing.

It’s the same way with books. It’s hard to get heavy books from one point to another. It ends up being expensive. You can store 3,000 books on a Kindle, and the ones in the public domain won’t cost you anything. So for the same price of buying and shipping three hardback books, you can have a Kindle with a life-time supply of books.

I see many benefits of e-books, both to authors and readers. But this is one benefit I hadn’t considered before.

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