Your OLPC XO-Included e-Book Wish List


The previously dormant OLPC Library newsgroup, a forum to discuss "content collections for OLPCs, both software and booklike" came alive recently with emails by past and present librarians, looking for the content organization of the OLPC XO.

The first email was from Jim Pace, a former librarian, who shared his hope, one we can all ascribe to:

Years ago I thought E-books would take off and revolutionize the dissemination of information, especially with the development of E-paper at Zerox PARC. But I was wrong. Perhaps this laptop project will do what E-Books did not: Bring the world's collected knowledge to a significant portion of the world's population. A public library in every citizen's pocket.
And such a noble goal is also in the minds of One Laptop Per Child. Michael Burns' dream, for the $208 or $972 dollar laptop is that each Children's Machine XO will be a Library of Alexandria. Next, Samuel (SJ) Klein, OLPC Manager of Content, shared his own dream, one that's rather limiting:
A question for the list: if you could only choose ten books or collections to share with a significant portion of the world's population, what would they be?
Ten books? Only ten books for the 6 to 16 set? The limitation so stumped me, I asked David Rothman of Teleread to pose this question to his learned readership, international book experts who might give a better cross-representation than I.

Looking over his readership's answers, I see they are just as stumped as I, and David is right, 10 books is a librarian's nightmare. How can 10 books maintain attention over such an age & reading skill span?

From 6 year olds just learning how to read and enthralled by Green Eggs and Ham, to 16 year olds more engaged by Lord of the Flies. And how can any 10 books represent the worldwide breath of literature, Argentinean to Zambian, not just a Westernized sample set?

That leads me to believe that 10 books cannot be the limit, cannot be the full OLPC Library of Alexandria dream.

So in the spirit of the holiday season, and with the noble goals of One Laptop Per Child in mind, what would be your dream XO-included e-book reading list? Be it 10, 100, or 1000 books long.

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The laptops will come pre-loaded with some content. Obviously that content is very limited, but if there's no internet connection when the laptops are first distributed the kids should have *something* to read if they have to wait for other infrastructure to get set up.

Ten books? If your were stranded on a desert island what ten atoms would you take?

While the laptop could probably hold about 100 four-hundred-page ebooks (a rough estimate), remember that communication is a key component of the laptop. The laptop isn't just going to be "preloaded" with a small number of books and then shipped out, the idea is that books could be transferred between children. If I don't need Green Eggs and Ham any more, I can delete it and download Go Dog Go. And if I want Green Eggs again, I could always redownload from a friend or from a school server.

To expand on what Owen said, not only can children add other's books and remove their own, we must also remember that they won't all have the same set to begin with.

10 children in a group might each have their set of 100 books (1,000 in total) and through the communication features of the laptop, that aggregated ibrary (of Alexandria :)) is greater than the sum of its parts.

How diverse the book sets are is still up in the air, of course, but fully expect that a diverse collection of books will be available, even to a non-Internet connected village, via the mesh network.

Of course, when you add in the School Server and Internet access for each village, and you really do have an endless supply of literary content for any agre group.

"Enders Game" by Orson Scott Card

More eBooks to choose from:

The Internet Archive is working to turn their feeds of new book-metapages into a feed of PDFs. Alexis Rossi is helping produce improved collections of their children's library. See

Anil Hemrajani at Big Universe has 14 children's picturebooks whose authors have agreed for them to be distributed as demo books. These are the first children’s books in our collections that were not scanned, but were created in digital format. This is a temporary collection while working to get authors and publishers to agree to a suitable CC license.

Andrew Whitworth at Wikijunior is working on making stable versions of their newer books, with a focus on an offline interface that is simple and allows people to read static books while linking to places for them to comment and edit them.