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On the streets of Kabul today, you won't find a single newspaper blowing sown the street. In this land of endless sorrows, printed items are a luxury. newspapers provide the cheapest installments of written information but still cost about twice as much as a kilo of onions. And forget about books: The cost of a paperback is more than 15 times the cost of one slice of bread--almost a day's salary for the average unskilled worker. Light to read by is also precious. Most readers must keep the sun's hours, since less than 6% of the country's population has access to electric power.
These realities, detailed by Royce Wiles, librarian at the Kabul-based Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, further weaken the nation's floundering literacy rate and confound Afghan information-seeking.
More popular than books with Afghans are radio soap operas like New Home, New Life, which incorporate useful information into story lines about subjects as far-ranging as agriculture and livestock, voting, and infertility. As Nancy Dupree, founder of the Afghan Center at Kabul University (ACKU), tells it, radio has had a hugely positive impact, but a limited one. A …