Amazon Whispercast...but is it for libraries?
Yesterday, Amazon announced a new service designed to help schools and businesses deploy Kindles for wider use. Dubbed Whispercast (after the similiarly named Kindle network called Whispernet) the service provides support for deployment of management profiles, distribution of content, and management of devices. But will it work for libraries?
Whispercast, as it has been announced so far, works for schools and businesses. And by school, they really don't seem to be leaning towards libraries. Others reading the launch materials, like Digital Book World's Jeremy Greenfield, seem to find support for libraries somewhere in the white space between the lines of text. "Amazon Launches Whispercast to Push Into Content Distribution for Schools, Libraries, Businesses" announces the headline at DBW. Gary Price at Library Journal's Infodocket also leads coverage of the press release with "Libraries and schools that lend Kindles to users might be interested in this new service from Amazon that launched today." But these are not statements from Amazon, these are editorial remarks.
Unfortunately, there is no explicit support for libraries on the Whispercast site or in Amazon's press release about the new service.
The service is sold as "giving schools and business customers" a tool to "easily purchase and distribute Kindle books and documents for educational, marketing and employee incentive programs…"
While I really hope that this promising new service will be made available to help school, public, and academic libraries provide direct access to content to patrons, I will remain cautious. Ideally, this would be an entirely new source of ebooks for libraries. We can buy direct from Amazon, pay the regular consumer price, and then loan to patrons on a one-to-one basis. This bypasses all of the publisher restrictions, ignores the silly Random House $84 ebook prices, and laughs at the HarperCollins 26 loan limit. Or does it?
The Kindle Store Conditions of Use dated Sept. 6, 2012 state that content is licensed "solely for your personal, non-commercial use." Furthermore, the conditions state: Unless specifically indicated otherwise, you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense, or otherwise assign any rights to the Kindle Content or any portion of it to any third party…" Given the ambiguity of these statements, and the lack of updated terms to explicitly address school/library use, the termination section is quite worrisome: "Amazon may immediately revoke your access to the Kindle Store and the Kindle Content without refund of any fees."
I have submitted a request to Amazon Kindle PR, but have not heard back. This post will be updated with any response received. In the past, Amazon and Kindle for Education team members have refused to put any statements confirming or denying the acceptability of libraries loaning Kindles and Kindle content into writing.