New York City Schools Strike $30mil Amazon Content Deal

(Photo: Silus Grok, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Silus Grok, Creative Commons)

The New York City Department of Education has officially awarded a $30 million contract to Amazon for the right to sell e-textbooks and other content — but not hardware such as Kindles — to all the schools in New York over the next three years with an option for an additional extension of two more years. The New York City School District is the nation's largest district, counting 1.1 million students in more than 1,800 schools.

As Greg Bensinger of The Wall Street Journal writes, The New York City Department of Education is planning to buy about $4.3 million of content from Amazon in the first year of the agreement, $8.6 million in the second year and $17.2 million in the third. The Seattle-headquartered retailer will earn a commission of between 10% and 15%.

The contract will take effect in the coming academic year. The officials can use the Education Department's internal marketplace platform to purchase digital textbooks and other content from Amazon for use by pupils on all sorts of devices. Under the agreement, once purchased, the city will own the rights of the e-books, which means they will be allowed to transfer them from school to school, explained a spokesperson for the Department of Education. He also emphasized that the contract does not include Amazon's hardware such as Kindle e-readers.

As Hilary Brueck of The Fortune notes, the deal with Amazon has been on hold since last summer. The National Federation of the Blind has brought forth concerns that e-books would leave blind students out of New York's education system. The representatives of the Federation are now working closely with Amazon to ensure that visually impaired pupils will have equal access to the digital books.

K-12 schools have been an attractive investment option for tech giants because of the possibilities to modernize them and to make the learning process more efficient — and the consistent funding that can come along. Classrooms are also an effective way for the business to present their products to potential lifelong buyers at a young age. However, the higher level of bureaucracy in public education has often kept the majority of the tech companies out of the schools.

The contract with the New York Department of Education is a boost to Amazon as it aims to establish itself as a major player in education. The company already has some previous experience in the field. Amazon recently acquired the startup TenMarks Education, which assists math teachers with their curricula. Following the purchase, the retailer launched a massive campaign across the country to change students' attitude towards math and science.

Amazon has ongoing agreements to operate co-branded websites trading with textbooks and other merchandise to colleges including University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Purdue University, where it is in charge of installing package pickup centers.

Amazon has not commented the deal yet, writes Brian Bennett of CNET.

For the City of New York and its taxpayers, the deal will result in savings in buying e-books, as well as saving storage space for traditional books. The education department confirmed that digital books purchased from Amazon through its marketplace platform will be readable on a broad range of devices including e-readers, tablets, smartphones and laptops.

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