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Education Featured Article

October 17, 2012

More Kindles in Schools, Says Amazon

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Earlier today, Amazon announced the start of an initiative that would bring more Kindle e-readers, as well as the tablet computers in the Kindle line, to schools. There are actually several reasons to get involved in such a program, but it's not just the program that's raising some eyebrows, it's also the accompanying products that Amazon has released as part of the initiative.

Amazon has actually been involved in testing Kindles in classrooms for years now, offering the devices up for students ranging from kindergarten through high school. Amazon has offered bulk discounts on the devices, and provided help in ordering e-books for the schools to use in turn. While this program has proven to work reasonably well, it was the introduction of Whispercast earlier today that gave the Kindle initiative its biggest boost.

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Whispercast allows schools—or anyone else who wanted to put a fleet of Kindle devices in play—to manage large numbers of devices from a central location, which in turn allows schools to not only segregate devices by grade level and make the accompanying management decisions, they can also restrict what the devices can do not only appropriately for grade level but also for other more standard content restriction efforts.

The vice president of Kindle product management, Jay Marine, summed it up best: “We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to own a Kindle device. Any time we can make that easier, we do that. And we have a particular mission to increase reading, especially among kids.”

There's plenty of win-win going on in such an endeavor. Amazon, of course, gets a whopping great load of cash by selling their Kindles to schools. Even if they take a loss on the devices themselves, they get access to a massive secondary market in the form of the e-books and magazines and such that the devices need to work to the fullest. Schools actually get a long-term savings when investing in the devices, as updates are handled electronically and can be done much more often than could be done with buying textbooks.

 Even students themselves win, having not only the ability to condense their entire book load down to one tiny plastic device akin to the smartphone they're probably already packing, but also potentially giving them access to wider volumes of material. It's one thing to have “Principles of Economics” in a class, but then being able to go check out “Forbes” in the process provides that extra real-world example with immediate consequences to see how basic principles align—or fail to align—with the reality of it all.

Getting Kindles—indeed, tablets and e-readers of all stripes—in the classroom may sound like an outlandish expense, especially in an era where requests for more tax dollars for schools are often met by howls of pain and rage at the thought of taxpayer wallets being further tapped, but the benefits, both short and long-term, make them well worth considering.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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