Taking E-Readers to the Next Level
By Ken Walker-
Electronic devices are such a fact of life in America that e-book sales appear poised to consign hard covers to the dustbin of history, even if the transformation takes another decade or two.
Indeed, I know writers who have already scrapped their traditional libraries. That is understandable, given the stacks of “stuff” that can easily overrun anyone who does much research and interviewing for a living.
E-readers Fade Too
Given the pace at which technology multiplies, first-generation e-readers are also going the way of paper-and-ink. Last December, Israeli-based Helicon Books announced the first reader for Android devices that supported the EPUB3 programming language for e-books.
Indeed, the competition is so fierce that Barnes & Noble has seen Nook sales drop 23 percent the past year, announcing plans in August to lower the price of its Simple Touch and offer free video apps.
While the world awaits the next development that will supplant the latest devices, a question that seldom gets asked in this rush for newer and better is what happens to all the old ones.
That is why it was so encouraging to work on a story that appeared recently about a mission project undertaken by a college in the Los Angeles area.
After traveling to Kenya on annual mission trips for more than 35 years, Life Pacific College Professor Dan Stewart thought of a way that churches in his denomination could help pastors in this African nation.
Last year he demonstrated to pastors there how e-readers could provide them with a theological library at their fingertips. While flying home, Stewart wondered how many of these older devices were likely sitting in closets or otherwise gathering dust after their owners acquired an upgrade.
That launched an effort by the school’s Global Life Missions Team to collect old Kindles and Nooks. Stewart told students about it during the annual fall missions chapel and shared the idea during speaking engagements. Word circulated on Facebook, too.
Five churches and seven individuals responded with donations of used e-readers or cash to buy new ones. The donors included a retired librarian. Despite living on a fixed income, she told me, “I’m so glad that I was able to participate in both the project and the equipping of pastors.”
This past May the missions team returned with 20 e-readers to distribute in a mountainous region of Kenya, far from the country’s capital. The recipients looked like the proverbial kid unwrapping Christmas presents.
Still, one can’t help but wonder how many more devices could be collected for overseas distribution if additional churches, denominations and parachurch organizations pick up on this idea.
Life Pacific will be sending another team to Kenya next spring, although promotion won’t get into high gear until the second semester. In the meantime, it would be fantastic to see others imitate this initiative.
Already there are signs that the e-readers are proving more useful than first envisioned, according to Jessica Stewart of the school’s office of advancement and alumni relations.
“We did get an email from one of the pastors that they recently found a location with WiFi,” she says. “They have been very happy to use their e-readers for internet access, too. It makes them feel more connected.”
If you have an old, used reader, you can send it to Life Pacific, marked to the attention of Dan Stewart, 1100 West Covina Boulevard, San Dimas, CA 91773. Or, go to lifepacific.edu/givetolife to donate to this project via your credit card.
The more people who know about this idea, the better.