U.S. State Department withdraws Kindle contract proposal

Amazon Kindle Touch

Updated with statement from State Department (see below).

The U.S. State Department, which was considering a $16.5-million no-bid contract with Amazon to provide Kindles, content and services for overseas language programs, has officially withdrawn its proposal, saying it “intends to conduct additional market research and reexamine its requirements for this program.”

Gary Price at Library Journal’s Infodocket blog first discovered the notice about the withdrawal of the contract, which was posted to the State Department’s website August 15 at 4:00 p.m. ET.

A State Department spokesperson provided the following statement:

The Department of State continues to pursue technology that enhances our ability to provide international audiences with relevant, real-time content on U.S. society, culture, and English language learning.  In order to conduct additional market research and further explore technological options for our public diplomacy programs, the Department of State opted on August 15 to end the Request for Proposals for the Amazon Kindle in favor of proceeding with a Request for Information (RFI) process. This action will open to all vendors the opportunity to respond to the Department’s requirements for a mobile learning program.

The contract that the State Department was considering in June would have provided 2,500 Kindle Touches in the first year, preloaded with 50 titles apiece, at a guaranteed $2.29 million, with the option to renew the contract for four more years. The upper limit on the five-year contract was 7,000 Kindles per year. State Department spokesman Philippe Reines suggested to me at the time that many of the books would be in the public domain (i.e., free) and that other services would include preloading content and shipping devices.

If the contract had gone through and was renewed for a total of five years, and if State had purchased a total of 35,000 Kindle Touch 3Gs each priced at $170.10 (a 10 percent discount) during that time, each with a case and adapter valued at $20, that would have left $9,846,500 for content, shipping and “associate costs.”

It appeared that the deal would take place, as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in June that they would hold a joint press conference to announce the Kindle Mobile Learning Initiative. Then the State Department postponed the press conference to an unspecified later date. It never took place.

The National Federation of the Blind filed a complaint with the State Department saying that any agreement to purchase devices that are inaccessible to the blind is a violation of the law, but it is unclear whether the complaint had any bearing on the deal’s failure.

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