Amazon Whispercast Could Make School Books Obsolete
October 17, 2012

Amazon Whispercast Could Make School Books Obsolete

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

Steve Jobs won´t likely ever be relegated to a footnote in history, and it looks like Apple won´t be writing the book on the future of textbooks, either. On Wednesday essentially rewrote the playbook on textbooks with the introduction of “Whispercast for Kindle,” which could give schools and businesses a simple, scalable online tool for deploying Kindle devices and Kindle content.

The technology, from the world´s largest retailer, is designed to provide a single access point to allow users to easily purchase and distribute Kindle books and documents. This would include purposes of education of course, but could also be used for marketing and employee incentive programs.

Nor is it just limited to Kindle ereaders, as it is software-based and could be used with the Apple iPad and iPhone, as well as Android devices, PCs and Macs.

“Hundreds of thousands of students around the world are already reading on Kindle,” said Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “Today, we are announcing Whispercast, a free, scalable solution for school and business administrators to centrally manage thousands of Kindles and wirelessly distribute Kindle books as well as their own documents to their users. Organizations can also design bring-your-own-device programs at school or work using personally-owned Kindles, Kindle Fires, and other tablets using the free Kindle reading applications for receiving content.”

For schools it could make it a whole lot easier to replace textbooks and keep teaching materials up to date.

“The primary benefits outlined by Amazon–providing a single point for buying, distributing and managing Kindle devices and ebooks–seems primarily attuned to professional administrators - though I´m sure many teachers will provide input on textbooks and course materials,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

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.”

The question is whether publishers will see a benefit in traditional text books going digital. Some analysts see that Amazon and book publishers could be facing another showdown.

“Problem has been the publishers don´t want to lose any revenue and that has been a sticking point even though currently they make no money from book reuse which is common, and while this might cut initial revenues it would assure a longer revenue tail and fund authors doing interim updates,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told RedOrbit. “Amazon is pretty easy, they have the leading tools for cloud services for small business and they have done an excellent job making the Kindle and very easy to use.”

The other part of the equation is whether teachers who are used to blackboards and traditional textbooks will have to go back to school themselves to learn how to use the Whispercast technology.

“I think teachers will find using their system, once they learn it, vastly easier than the generally out of date tools they are forced to use today,” added Enderle. “They can more easily distribute material, have a better sense for how that material is used, eventually be able to monitor study habits and use real time, and that feedback look should help build both better teachers and better textbooks and study materials over time. This could turn out to be one of the best things assuring quality in education ever created.”