As we reported earlier this week, Amazon and the U.S. State Department are making a deal: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will announce the global launch of the Kindle Mobile Learning Initiative on Wednesday, June 20 at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
Described in a Friday afternoon press release as a “public-private partnership with Amazon and the U.S. government,” the program is designed to create “a global e-reader program that introduces aspects of U.S. society and culture directly to young people, students, and international audiences in new ways and expands English language learning opportunities worldwide.”
Earlier this week, State’s no-bid contract with Amazon became public. State spokesman Philippe Reines told me on Wednesday that the contract wasn’t official yet and that State was waiting for Amazon’s response to its proposal.
Apparently, that happened quickly — within 48 hours — and now the deal is official. Update, 5:54 PM: Reines now tells me that “there’s no deal,” still just a pilot program. “Amazon has to respond. The two sides need to work out details. The event isn’t to announce a deal. It’s to talk about the initiative. Remember, we’ve already bought 6,000 Kindles.” This distinction that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. When Jeff Bezos and Hillary Clinton hold a joint press conference, I infer that a deal, for which a sole-source contract has already been issued, is going to go through. But as Reines notes, State already bought 6,000 Kindles within the past year and the press conference could conceivably focus only on the results of that program. I’ll report more on Wednesday.
According to the information we have so far, the State Department would spend $2.29 million in the first year of the program, including a purchase of 2,500 Kindles, and the maximum cost of the program over five years would be $16.5 million, including a maximum of 7,000 Kindles per year. As I reported earlier this week, the potential program’s non-device costs are substantial but we don’t know yet which e-books will be preloaded on the Kindles.