Here’s what I knew: Amazon’s Kindle 2, with the ability to make any book large-print and a text-to-speech feature for some books, is a powerful new tool for school libraries attempting to serve a diverse student body. The device could certainly help meet the needs of struggling readers and students with vision problems, for example. Further, with reasonably priced downloadable content from Amazon and many classics freely available on-demand from manybooks.net and other sites, the Kindle could reduce a library’s reliance on a slow inter-library-loan process and thereby benefit all students.
Here’s what I now know: When attempting to integrate Kindles into a school library program you’ll likely face some challenges. Most vexing, for me, has been getting content onto the device. Technically this is easy, but buying content is the problem. Unlike other purchases at Amazon (like the Kindle device itself, for example), all digital content must be tied to a credit card. A credit card is something, I bet, that most schools don’t use. Instead, they probably have a corporate account at Amazon, which allows for a regular purchase-order approach to buying. If a school employee wants Kindle content, then, a personal Amazon account would be needed. This, of course, poses at least one significant problem: All content would be tied to the buyer’s account and could only be managed by the buyer. While Amazon did tell me via email support that digital content can be purchased with gift cards, I called them and pointed out that in order for a gift card to be redeamed, it needs to be tied to a credit card account, which brings me back to the original problem. Right now the only solution seems to be an institutional credit card that could be used for establishing an individual library Kindle account. It’d be nice if Amazon followed Apple’s model in the iTunes store, where a personal credit card can be deactivated from an account once sufficient gift-card credit has been added to the account. (Purchase orders can be used to buy gift cards). That way a library account truly belonging to the school could be easily created.