I live in a palace. I say that in all seriousness. It doesn't matter that my modest, three-bedroom brick ranch in Detroit's northern suburbs is surrounded by McMansions so big that in the winter, their snow-covered roofs resemble mountains; I'm acutely aware that for a large percentage of the world, two people living in a 1,000-square-foot house on a half-acre lot with fruit trees and a vegetable garden would be considered the height of luxury.
For as long as I can remember, I've been sensitive to the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Which is why, as both an author and a book lover, when I first learned about Worldreader, I fell in love with the organization, and what they're doing.
For the past few years, Worldreader has been distributing e-readers to kids in the developing world. The readers come pre-loaded with reference materials, local textbooks and classics of world literature in the public domain. As of October 2012, Worldreader has put over 229,000 e-books into the hands of 1,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa.
But that's only half the story. Worldreader has also partnered with an Australian app developer whose patented technology turns an ordinary, low-end feature phone into a smart phone -- enabling millions of people in the world's poorest places access to Facebook, Twitter, local news, Google -- and e-books.
Think about it: Millions of people in the developing world now have access to the same Internet library the more fortunate of us do, simply by using a device they already own: their mobile phone.
Feature phones are the largest and fastest growing segment of the global mobile market, with almost five billion subscribers. As of April 2012, the Worldreader app has been downloaded to 3.9 million mobile phones, mostly in India and Africa, and they hope to reach 10 million by the end of 2012.
I discovered Worldreader through the authors' collective I'm a part of, Killer Thrillers, when a Worldreader representative wrote to ask if members would be interested in donating their self-published novels and short stories. I offered my short story, "Calling the Shots" (originally published in the anthology First Thrills edited by Lee Child), and in October, the story went live on the Worldreader book app.
In two weeks, "Calling the Shots" was read 1,525 times. I'm thrilled to think that my short story is being enjoyed in areas of the world where books in any form are a luxury, and so I'm making my science thriller Freezing Point available for free through Worldreader as well.
Authors Michael Morpurgo, Meshack Asare, Cory Doctorow, Mary Pope Osborne, Daniel Pinkwater, Seth Godin, Jon Mertz, Kevin Rau and Chika Unigwe have also donated a selection of their books and stories to children through the Worldreader program at no cost.
How can you get involved? If you're an author or publisher and are interested in getting your book or short stories on the Worldreader app, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're a book lover, all you need to do is vote for Worldreader on Facebook between November 27 and December 4.
Worldreader has been chosen as one of 25 charities to participate in the second annual American Giving Awards presented by Chase Bank. This means they now have the opportunity to win up to $1 million for their programs.
With $1 million, Worldreader could enter 20 new countries, work with hundreds of new schools and help tens of thousands of children.
Help Worldreader change education in Africa. Please commit to vote for Worldreader between November 27 and December 4 and share it with your circles. Visit the Worldreader website for banners, videos and other resources you can use to get the word out. Results will be announced on NBC December 8 at 8 p.m. EST.