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Amazon wins $30M contract to sell e-books to NYC schools

A big move into education, Amazon edges out OverDrive to capture NYC e-book contract

Amazon.com has won a $30 million contract to sell digital textbooks to New York City’s public schools over the next three years, in a deal that could extend an additional three years and be worth a total $65 million.

Under the terms, Amazon would have the right to sell e-books and other content but not devices like Kindles through an internal marketplace site. The e-books will be readable on e-readers, tablets, smartphones, laptops and other devices.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Panel for Educational Policy approved the three-year contract on Wednesday for the Department of Education, who could spend as much as $4.3 million in the first year of the contract. The deal has the option to be extended an additional two years.

“This partnership is illustrative of Amazon Education’s overall commitment to making connected classrooms a reality by helping students and educators with the transition to digital learning,” Amazon said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with the NYC DOE to serve the educational needs of their students.”

Amazon has been slowly moving into education. The company also owns a web-based math program, TenMarks, and WhisperCast, a database that lets schools search for e-books and digital textbooks.

In its bid for NYC’s business, Amazon edged out competitor OverDrive, which is also ramping up its commitment to schools and school libraries to compete for districts’ e-book dollars. Traditionally, a library e-book lender, OverDrive is working with education publishers to make it easier for schools to borrow textbooks electronically. A division designed for elementary schools, called K-5 QuickStart, is giving schools unlimited access to about 200 titles for $500 per month.

Amazon’s catalog size and overall lower costs factored into the panel’s decision. Amazon will also work to train school staff on how to use the e-books.

The NYC school district has about 1.1 million pupils in more than 1,800 schools. The deal takes effect in the fall.

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Laura Ascione

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