”Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. They are engines of change, windows on the world, lighthouses erected in the sea of time.” -Henry David Thoreau.
The saying is true that, ''if you want to hide anything from an African, put it into writing (books)''. Apart from the fact that there are generally high illiteracy rates in many African countries, most of those who can read do not do so for reasons best known to themselves. Most Africans have simply not cultivated the habit of reading and therefore often do not pass it on to their children. It is even alleged that some politicians do not read through international contract documents before signing them which have thrown some of them into jail.
There is a revolution in bringing reading materials, movies, and animations among others to both adult and children across the globe, and Africa cannot be left behind. Giglets Limited, a start-up media company based in Ayrshire, Scotland in the United Kingdom, is such a leader in e-books. Giglets educational e-books are currently introduced throughout a number of schools in Scotland for literacy, literature and language training.
An e-book is defined as ''a book in electronic format. It is downloaded to a computer, PC, Mac, laptop, PDA, tablet, smartphone or any other kind of reading device, and is read on the screen. It can have numbered pages, table of contents, pictures and graphics, exactly like a printed book''. And from those devices, it can also be displayed onto a TV or other large screen, in front of an entire class of students.
This means that story books, text books, maps, lecture notes inter alia can all be put into electronic forms and with that, you can ''have the whole world in your pocket''.
This technology is fast spreading in the developed world and it is important that Africa embraces it.
A recent report by the Association of Worldwide Mobile Phone Operators has revealed that Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, and the biggest after Asia.
''The number of subscribers on the continent has grown almost 20% each year for the past five years'' adding that, ''there will be more than 735 million subscribers by the end of 2012''.
However, this cannot be said of e-book education in Africa as the technology is relatively new to many Africans though prospects are high for its development on the continent.
The benefits Africans stand to gain from this technology are multi-fold: ''E-books are portable. You can carry a whole library of hundreds of books with you, on CD, in a laptop, notebook or any e-book reader, without worrying about their weight'', ''with today's technology you can read e-books everywhere, on the bus, train, airplane, and while standing in line'', manufacturers do not require trees or timber to manufacture them. This saves our trees from deforestation.
One notable advantage of e-books is that, ''since e-books are delivered through the Internet, there are no packing and shipping expenses''.
In addition, ''it is very simple and easy to purchase and download an e-book. People living in big modernized cities, in a remote village in a faraway country or on a small island, can equally access an e-book. It takes them the same amount of time to purchase and download an e-book, provided they have an Internet connection''.
Africa cannot be left out of this innovative technology which is fast spreading in many parts of the world. For Africa to advance, these are some of the innovative technologies she must introduce especially in the area of education and encourage her children to read voraciously so that, they can be as versatile as Shakespeare.
Francis Xavier Tuokuu is a Freelance Journalist and a Postgraduate Student in Corporate Social Responsibility and Energy (MSc) at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland. He is also an intern with the Public Relations Department of Giglets Limited, a media company in Ayrshire, Scotland (www.giglets.net). He can be reached via [email protected] or Room 5 A, Dieview, Stonehaven Road, AB12 5UT, Aberdeen.