Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Will e-books replace traditional books as a primary source of learning?

Article from AFRIC Editorial
Books are an integral part of people’s lives. They provide the foundation of learning from an early age and continue to grow with people throughout their adult lives. The primary purpose of a book is to convey information. Whether that information be intellectually driven or for personal reasons, books are always going to be a part of people’s lives. Electronic books (e-books) on the other hand have become prevalent amongst the general population, as well as students, owing to their advantages over traditional books. In South Africa for example, a number of schools have integrated tablets into the classroom with the promise of replacing traditional books.

However, the appearance of books has taken a drastic change within the past couple of years. Transitioning over to a digital age, books are no exception. While many readers are familiar with printed books, e-books are a relatively new option when considering the format of reading.


The exact impacts of 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) technologies on society and the planet are still unknown—but the fact that they will bring profound and rapid change seems all but certain. The need for higher education for Southern African countries including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other SADC countries to respond is urgent as the power of 4IR technologies for either positive social impacts or devastating environmental damage is upon us, as is the potential for irreversible loss of control over networks of powerful Artificial Intelligence agents with increasing autonomy within education sector and within urban infrastructure. “We are for the use of technology to aid education. If it is used correctly, it can greatly enhance a learner’s education and ability to become a valuable member of society,” said Steve Thobela, Novus Print: Executive – South (part of the Novus Holdings Group).

According to UNESCO (2015), literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. A literate community is a dynamic one that exchanges ideas and engages in debate as opposed to illiteracy which is an obstacle to a better quality of life, and can even breed exclusion and violence. Africa still experiences low literacy levels and poor reading culture despite the availability of printed books and digital content.

Since the year 2000, literacy rates for adults have improved; reaching 85% globally but sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia have the lowest rates. The global literacy rate for all males is 90 % and the rate for all females is 82.7 %. The rate varies throughout the world with developed nations having a rate of 99.2%, South and West Asia having 70.2% and Sub-Saharan Africa having 64% (UNESCO, 2015). Over 75% of the World’s 781 Million illiterate adults are found in South Asia, West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and women represent almost two thirds of all illiterate adults globally.


Africa is the fastest growing region for mobiles in the world, and most observers seem to agree that mobile phone platforms are probably the most fertile ground for new approaches to book publishing on the continent, promoting books at relatively modest cost, to a much wider audience than was hitherto possible, and allowing new and innovative ways to deliver content to users.
The concept of using mobile technology to support e-learning, especially for distance learners, is also gaining ground in a number of African countries.
Reading books will always be a foundation for many. Whether that is due to educational purposes or reading for their own personal pleasure, people will continue to have a need for books.  e-books do not compromise either reading speed or comprehension of students within their academic environment, but may in fact be effective tools for reading and learning.

However, due to the ever changing technological advances of the world, books have taken on different physical forms throughout the past several decades resulting in a divide between the printing and digital world which African countries should address urgently.
By the end of the day, for the book to thrive in Africa, in whatever formats, it requires a stable infrastructure, and a stable and enlightened government to support real progress; a government that takes positive steps to support literacy development, writing and reading, provision of library services, and support for its indigenous book industries.

Parents must use the home environment to develop the foundations of literacy among children and stakeholders need to involve parents in reading initiatives which have a strong focus on engagement in their children’s learning. Special sessions for parents should be held to highlight the importance of parents’ roles as their children’s first and greatest teachers, and to provide them with the skills and tips that enable them to fulfill this role.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo credit : google image /illustration

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