Amazon Nears $30M Deal to Build Digital Storefront for NYC Department of Education

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE: New York City’s Department of Education is set to finalize a three-year, $30 million contract with Amazon to develop an online marketplace for e-books and digital materials for the city’s 1,800 public schools. Capital New York reports the deal is “likely to be approved” when the official vote takes place in late August. The department reviewed 16 proposals since issuing the RFP in March 2013 and picked Amazon over Overdrive.

According to the contract, the “Amazon Storefront” will let educators search, buy, assign and review digital content. They can also “view and track usage of content by students,” who will be able to annotate passages and use a built-in dictionary. “Despite this technology’s capacity for tracking and reporting student progress,” the department states, “students’ personal identifiable information will be safeguarded in this system, as Amazon will use a DOE-provided proxy with encrypted information and limited student information.”

If passed, the contract will signal one of Amazon’s biggest push in the US K-12 market. It won’t be an unprecedented venture: it has already worked with Brazil’s Ministry of Education to deliver more than 40 million digital textbook. In recent years, the company has also rolled out several updates to Whispercast, a platform that allows organizations to purchase and distribute content on any Kindle reading app (available on PC, iOS and Android) or Kindle device.

These efforts appear to confirm observations that Amazon’s education play will revolve around its array of digital content—and not its own line of devices.

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