Aakash: Reaching for the Sky

I recently wrote an article about the joy of e-books.  Of course there were a lot of critical comments and the usual 'I love books and they will never die' argument.

Unfortunately, I don’t buy this. And neither do the producers of e-books. We now not only have Kindles, but Nooks, iPads and other “tablets.” The latest is the Indian invention of Aakash. (which means “Sky” in Hindi)

Why is this different? Because it’s half the price of a Kindle.

In India if you want cater to the masses you think cost-effective. The world’s cheapest car, the Tata’s nano, was perhaps not the best of ideas— I’m not against giving more people the opportunity to own a car, but 1) our traffic is bad enough in the big metropolitans and 2) I’m not sure if families who already have 5+ cars really need a nano for “grocery shopping.” I’d  advocate for that money going into enhancing our public transport systems.

But this time we might have got it right. We’re encouraging people to read. We’re thinking about the masses but we’re thinking about social development. About education.

E-books in the developing world aren’t so much about being environmentally friendly as much as their educational value. Ebooks can change the face of education. Or should I say interface.

“The only way to provide books to the 2 billion children in the world is electronically,” wrote Nicolas Negroponte, the founder of one-laptop-per-child in his article “books are better without pages.”

And in some respects they certainly are. A few months ago South Korea’s education ministry declared it was going digital by 2015. Now lets wait to see what Aakash brings for India and the rest of South Asia.