Problems with e-education

Thoughts on Amazon Whispercast:

Essentially, the eBook problem comes down to: you, the publisher, want me to buy everyone a brand new copy of the book. I’m happy to do that, but you want £9.99 per copy. We’re more used to paying £9.99 and giving it to 10 children over the course of years. Make your eBook £1 per copy and we can talk.

On the other hand, I’ll buy 30 copies at £9.99 but I need to be able to reallocate those books next year.

Is there a way to square this circle? Maybe.

Whispercast, like the iTunes Store, requires that each Kindle have a separate Amazon account associated with it. Unlike the iTunes Store, Whispercast can bulk-create these accounts for you, which is handy.

Perhaps the model is this: create 20 generic “First Grade” accounts (e.g. fg01@example.edu through fg20@example.edu) and buy 20 copies of the First Grade reading list. Have the students use that account for a year. When they move on, give the account and password to the next set of pupils coming in.

This is harder to do in the Apple world because the use of AppleID/iCloud is so pervasive across the system. With the Kindle system (at least on the e-Ink Kindles, if not the Fire), it would potentially be easier as there’s less actual data being stored in the user’s account. The pupil logging into the account the next year would – I presume – find the last owner’s book locations, highlights and notes in there but that’s hardly different to the common experience of getting someone else’s used textbook.

Such a deployment model might work in primary education – where everyone is in the same class, likely reading the same class novel at the same time. It doesn’t really work for secondary education unless you buy all the books for every account because the pupil using the account next year is unlikely to be taking the same mix of classes as the last pupil.

I don’t know whether Apple or Amazon is going to get this right first but the company who finally cracks it stands to win a lot of business the education market.

[Yet another mess to fix.]

Source: Fraser Speirs

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