Mobile Phones: The Answer to Increased Reading in Developing Countries

“Reading affects everything you do.” This quote from scholar Keith Stanovich pretty much says it all. A person’s access to books and their ability to read them is the end-all be-all when it comes to education and thriving in the current world. For some, picking out a book at the library or from our own shelves at home is a normal, everyday thing to do. We don’t realize that not everyone is privy to this luxury — this phenomenon is a directly related to something called the Matthew Effectan idea stemming from a bible passage that basically attests to the fact that those who have more, get more, and those who have less, get less. There are many places in the world that aren’t so lucky that they can walk into a library and be faced with a vast amount of books to choose from. As publishers with a focus on global distribution, we want to change this. We want everyone to have the ability to read whenever, wherever he or she wants. How do we bring books to the people and places that don’t have the resources to get them?

Mobile Phones. Mobile phones are essentially the gateway to information in a cost and user-friendly way. You can view a book on your phone for much less than purchasing the actual tangible product. UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has conducted a study of mobile reading in developing countries — looking closely at the habits, preferences, and attitudes of all mobile-readers. They want to find out who reads on mobile phones and why. Their goal is to show mobile reading as a way to get on the “right side” of the Matthew Effect and as the most promising pathway to reading.

The study consisted of participants from Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. They found that men greatly outnumbered women in mobile reading, this correlates to the fact that men are more likely to own a phone in most of these countries than women.  The main reasons survey participants said they read on their mobile phones were 1) convenience, 2) affordability, 3) preference, and 4) no other access to books. To read more about the study details and results, click here.