Amazon has announced the rollout of Whispercast for Kindle — a single access point for the purchase and distribution of content that can help large organization easily implement Kindles and Kindle-compatible devices to their entire organizations. Whispercast is billed as a scalable tool that can manage content across a number of devices efficiently and simultaneously.
The potential of Whispercast in the classroom has led Ed Burns of redOrbit to say that going forward, it will be Amazon and not Apple that will be setting the pace when it comes to electronic textbooks. The technology will put Amazon's immense library of everything from best-sellers to free classics at teachers' fingertips, allowing them to select and distribute the material that will be most appropriate for each of their classes. Whispercast will add the power to customize content to the ultimate personalization of reading already made possible by Kindle devices, including the recently updated Kindle Fire and Kindle Apps for Android and iPad.
For schools that are considering or have already purchased Kindle-compatible reading devices, Whispercast will give a simple way of registering and configuring all the units at the same time, allowing administrators to enable passwords on students' Kindles, setting up network connectivity to allow them to make use of the school's Wi-Fi network and restricting purchase permission only to a particular group of users.
"We have been using Kindles in our schools for two and half years, and our students are more enthusiastic than ever about reading and studying," said Keith Mastroides, Principal at Clearwater High School. "We started with 2,000 Kindle e-readers at our school and the program has been so successful that we have expanded it beyond our school and now more than 122 schools in the district are using Kindles. Whispercast gives us the ability to better streamline the process to manage our Kindles and content, so we can continue to grow the program."
One of the things that make Whispercast so unique is the support for non-Kindle digital gadgets. With Whispercast, administrators can use the same configuration options to set up any and all tablets and mobile phones to allow them to receive Kindle books and documents as long as they can run the widely available Kindle app.
Burns points out that a tool that simplifies distribution substantially lightens the load for educational institutions. Tasks that used to take a great deal of time and effort — and were particularly error prone, such as distribution of materials, handouts, and any errata — will instead be automated and straightforward.
Such a system might therefore lighten the load for students, plus make trips to the library a thing of the past, as books in the public domain–notably classics–are already on many student reading lists and are readily available for free.
"It could also offer a wider range of content than a normal school library," said Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates. "Any recommendation from a teacher would be there. And multimedia consumption would make for a richer learning experience. Amazon could win big if e-textbooks take off."