In a deal valued at $16.5 million, the U.S. Department of State has awarded a 5-year contract to put tens of thousands of Kindle electronic readers in educational centers around the world. Nextgov reports that the e-readers will be used for educational purposes, helping individuals overseas study English at libraries, educational centers, reading rooms and other locations. The devices also will be used as a tool in the Department of State’s English Access Microscholarship Program.

The initial purchase from the U.S. Department of State is for 2,500 Kindles, and includes content as well.

Amazon is on the hook for providing other services as part of the contract, including customer support, international shipping, a protective cover and the appropriate country-specific power adapter.

Here’s what the Department of State said in a document about why the Kindle was picked over other devices:

Other e-Readers such as the Barnes and Noble Nook, the Sony Reader Daily and Kobe [Sic] e-Reader cannot provide the text to speech requirement, the long-lasting battery life and the free Wi-Fi with a global network (which is a firm requirement since all devices are to be used overseas). Additionally, the portability and durability of the Kindle is unique, and is required by the government due to overseas shipment requirements and use in public facilities by students.

Although the Apple iPad offers features that meet many of the requirements of this project it falls under the tablet/computer segment versus a single function e-reader device. The additional features are not only unnecessary, but also present unacceptable security and usability risks for the government’s needs in this particular project. Critically, the Apple iPad falls short on two requirements: the centrally managed platform for registration and content delivery, and battery life.

You can read more about the contract here or in the document below. Meanwhile, Tricia Duryee of All Things D reports that Amazon is looking to open its Appstore in Europe this summer, and speculates that the Kindle Fire might be heading overseas as well in the coming months.

Department of State Kindle Contract

[This post has been corrected with more accurate information about the contract]

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  • Guest

    My wife bought me one a few months back and I just bought one for her bday today. I looked at other options including other ereaders and tablets, but in the end I went with the Kindle because it’s great at what it does.

  • twobits

    Hmm… they all support wifi…  they must mean the 3g access some of the devices offer,  and the others support the epub standard.  The kindle pictured also does not support audio, so the text to speech argument goes out the windows.

    If this is what comes out of the kind of research the government does before spending $16.5 no wonder they remaind ineffective per amount spent compared to entities that can’t just print or tax the money the want.

    • shial

      The picture above is a stock photo chosen by Geekwire, not necessarily the version the government actually picked so leave the political attacks at the door please.

      • TJ

        “leave the political attacks at the door please”

        What is political about citing government waste and ineffectiveness?  Even if you disagree with twobits’ logic for concluding how/why the government was ineffective, what is political about that?  I would hope we would all be against government ineffectiveness regardless of our political stance.

        • shial

          He was very anti-government spending throughout the entire post without actually reading the actual document that was linked which is where I draw the political angle from.

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