Everyone's talking about the new Kindle, but here's a product that may present an even more radical innovation in the e-book sector: The Talking Book, created and distributed by the non-profit Literacy Bridge, is a low cost audio player/recorder with special features for Knowledge Sharing and Literacy Learning. It was developed entirely by volunteers and costs less than $10. The device involves an ecosystem to produce and share locally relevant audio content, allowing users to record their own messages and distribute them within local networks through a device-to-device copying capability. Other features include slow play for reading practice and some interactive features (for educational lessons and games).
The man behind Literacy Bridge is former Microsoft program manager Cliff Schmidt, who studied artificial intelligence and spent much of his time thinking about how literacy can play a role in moving people out of poverty. Schmidt believes that in a country like Ghana having spoken information at hand will help people avoid lengthy trips to visit clinics or other offices. As a next step, he envisions using the Talking Books to reach women in Afghanistan (90% of whom are illiterate), but ideally the device could of course be used anywhere in the world.
While it may not have the media hype of the One Laptop per Child project (yet), the Talking Book may indeed yield greater impact. My colleague Jordan Kanarek nailed it: "The thinking behind the device is compelling, and the opportunities that come with using commodity components to create a rich service are fascinating."