Valued at up to $16.5 million over five years, the contract calls for an initial order of 2,500 Kindles, to be distributed to libraries, cultural centers, reading rooms, and other "American spaces" operated by the State Department, according to department spokeswoman. There are such locations around the globe. "These are kind of like little American information centers, where they can look at copies of magazines, U.S. reference books, books on the American political system, history," and other topics, she said.
Amazon also will provide content distribution and management, an online bookstore, international 3G services, device registration, and help desk support. And, as a condition for purchase, the State Department required that the e-readers have a text-to-speech capability, which will be used as a classroom tool in English language classes.
[ Apple's iPad is quite popular in other parts of government. Read TSA Buys Into iPhones, iPads. ]
The contract allows the State Department to acquire up to 7,000 Kindles annually. Amazon will be responsible for upgrading device software, maintaining a repository of government documents that can be accessed via 3G or Wi-Fi, and maintaining metrics on how content is accessed. Amazon also is required to support the delivery of content to other devices in use by the State Department, including Apple devices and Macs, Androids, Blackberrys, and PCs.
The contract with Amazon follows a State Department e-reader pilot program in fiscal 2011. That program was covered by a one-year contract, valued at $980,000, for 6,000 Kindles.
The State Department specified the new contract as a "sole source" deal with Amazon. Among the mobile devices that didn't meet its requirements were the Apple iPad, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and the Sony Reader.
In its justification for the sole-source contract, the State Department pointed to the Kindle's text-to-speech capability, as well as its extended battery life and international power adapters, as required features that weren't available with other e-readers. The department said it "identified the Amazon Kindle as the only e-Reader on the market that meets the government's needs, and Amazon as the only company possessing the essential capabilities required by the government."
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