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Obama announces e-book scheme for low-income communities

Thu 30 Apr 2015

The White House has today launched an initiative encouraging top book publishers to supply $250mn (approx. £160mn) worth of free e-books to low-income students.

Partnering with local governments and schools nationwide, President Obama hopes that the e-book scheme will support low-income households who significantly trail the national average for computer ownership and digital connectivity.

At Anacostia Library in Southeast Washington, D.C., Obama announced that libraries and schools in poorer communities would be supported by the scheme and efforts would be made to increase internet access at these establishments.

Publishers involved in the programme include Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Bloomsbury, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. NGOs, such as book donation charity Firstbook, and public libraries will also be working together to develop apps to support the digital reading programme.

The offering forms part of Obama’s ConnectED framework which seeks to provide broadband internet access to 99% of students across the U.S. by 2018.

According to the White House National Economic Council’s director Jeff Zients, tech giants including Apple have shown their interest in the project and have already donated over $100mn in reading devices to lower-income schools.

“If we’re serious about living up to what our country is about, then we have to consider what we can do to provide opportunities in every community, not just when they’re on the front page, but every day,” Zients added.

The White House has also pledged to work alongside local schools and libraries to provide universal access to library cards. Around 30 cities and counties have already signed up to support this effort, including Baltimore and San Francisco.

Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council, argued that although lower-income families “may not be on the grid at home,” the programme would help ensure that there is certainly internet access at school and in the community.


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