It may still be years before digital books replace paper ones in schools, but Amazon is laying the groundwork for the transition with Whispercast for Kindle, a free "scalable" online tool for "deploying Kindle devices and Kindle content." With Whispercast Amazon is also targeting businesses administrators who want to manage and share Kindle books and documents within their organizations.
The program has quietly been tested for the last several months with a number of organizations. Using the tool, schools and companies can either distribute Kindle hardware to students or employees or have them them "bring their own" devices and opt-in to the program.
Naturally, Whispercast works with all Kindle e-readers and tablets, including the new $69 Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, and new Kindle Fires, but it supports any device running the Kindle app, opening it up to PCs, iOS devices and Android smartphones and tablets.
"This is a way for schools and enterprises to manage a large fleet of Kindle devices," said Jay Marine, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. "But at the same time it's not constrained to our own devices. It really helps solve how schools distribute digital textbooks and make it so kids don't have to carry around all those heavy books. And schools and organizations can easily push out other content, including apps in the future, to users who opt-in."
Here's a quick rundown of the features Amazon's highlighting in Whispercast:
- Easily manage fleets of Kindles: Administrators can register and assign users to all of their organizations' Kindle devices at once, creating personalized Kindle experiences for each student or employee.
- Support for "bring your own device": With support for personal devices, organizations can invite employees, students, customers and partners to receive content from the organization on their Kindles.
- Create user groups: Administrators have the ability to assign users into one or more groups, such as specific class, grade level or corporate department. User groups make it easier to purchase and distribute content for each group's unique needs.
- Control device settings, such as Wi-Fi and password protection: Schools and businesses can configure device settings across all their Kindles, including configuring wireless connectivity to private networks for a simple and secure user experience as well as restricting web access and purchases.
- Wirelessly distribute Kindle books, documents and applications: Organizations can centrally distribute Kindle books as well as documents on an individual basis. In the coming months, Whispercast administrators will be able to purchase and send Kindle Fire applications. Additionally, during the purchase process organizations will be able to select which content should be assigned to specific user groups they have created.
- Support for free Kindle reading apps on iOS, Android, and other devices: As noted, schools and businesses can purchase and send Kindle books and distribute documents to devices using any of the free Kindle reading apps, including iPads, iPhones, Android phones and tablets, PCs and Macs.
- Support for centralized procurement: Not surprisingly, organizations will now be able to efficiently purchase Kindle devices and content through a single payment method, including purchase orders, as well as Amazon gift cards or credit cards.
Currently, Amazon doesn't offer up any special features on its Kindles for book clubs. When asked whether such a feature was forthcoming and how Whispercast might fit into it (book clubs weren't highlighted in the press release), Marine wouldn't comment, but from the overall gist of his remarks it seemed like Whispercast could be tailored to book clubs in the future.