So earlier this month I hinted that a new development might be underway. At this point we still are collecting information. However, I will share what we know or have been told. I am still being forwarded among e-mail addresses at Amazon, so I have not been able to confirm anything with them yet.
So what we know is that Amazon has approached the IT department at several institutions -- public, private and for-profit. These include campuses with lease, independent, and private stores. One of the CIOs I spoke to could not tell me much, but here is the general gist of what he shared. He tells me that Amazon is essentially proposing something similar to a laptop program, which many universities have invested in over the past decade, which is often run out of the IT area of the institution. These programs take several forms -- fromm rentals, to purchases, to accounting for the cost in the price of tuition or fees, etc. The idea is that the Kindles would be used in teh classroom for the downloading of course materials -- textbooks, readings, etc. and that the institution/IT area would potentially receive a commission on downloaded textbooks.
We also learned of a project at Gettysburg College where the CIO has involved the store. I spoke with the store manager there aws she discussed their project at CAMEX. In this case, the IT department bought about 30 Kindles and are testing them in an upper level course. At the end of the semester the CIO and campus store will conduct a focus group with the students about their experience with the Kindle, what they would be willing to pay for the device, pros and cons of the device for textbook delivery, etc. We have asked the store manager to work with us to write up an article of their experience after the end of the semester.
Not a whole lot of information, but at least a little bit. This is an important development for our industry as it signals a few things. First, new players are entering the market. A big player like Amazon could have a large impact in a short time period. This is also soemthing of a different approach for Amazon, based on what else we have seen, so that is an interesting departure and we do not know exactly what that means for the campus stores. Second, it is another signal that college stores MUST improve campus relations and talk with other campus departments, such as that of the CIO. This is an opportunity to both educate campus stakeholders as to the value provided by stores, and an opportunity to learn more about what is happening with course materials and digital on campus.
If we learn more about the Amazon offering, or are able to get a response to our inquiries, I will post that information here as appropriate. The stores offer a good partnering option for Amazon and we will be trying to find a way to bring this opportunity to the store community.