Literacy is considered to be a public good - one that benefits not only literate people, but also others in society through mechanisms of sharing and mediation. But to what extent do the benefits of literacy extend to socially distant groups? This paper applies the sociological concept of social distance to examine how social stratification impacts on the way that literacy is distributed and 'shared' through mediated practice within and across caste-based groups. The paper presents a case study of physical proximity and social distance in Nepal to examine how literacy is shared in a context where inequalities of literacy and schooling are heavily influenced by gender and caste membership. The findings demonstrate that mediation takes place across caste groups, but less extensively than within caste groups. We conclude that assumptions about how literacy operates as a public good need to be tempered by consideration of the implications of social distance.