Looking to broaden the reach of Kindle devices, Amazon has targeted educational and business institutions with the launch of Whispercast for Kindle, a new technology that allows organizations to distribute and centrally manage the deployment of content to multiple Kindle devices.

Whispercast for Kindle is designed to encourage the bulk distribution of Kindles, Kindle Fires and Kindle Reading apps to institutional groups, like high schools and employees of a business, by allowing groups to distribute content to the devices through a localized network. A spokesperson for Amazon said the technology will be available for "all books in the Kindle store" and that payment for titles will be made through the organization managing the Whispercast account. The rep also confirmed that titles would be purchased individually, just as in a standard consumer transaction. The spokesperson elaborated saying that, with the example of a school classroom, the school would "purchase 30 copies of a book for the 30 students in the class. When asked whether publishers, specifically the major houses, were excited about the technology, the spokesperson said that "most publishers" are, and that some "have asked for a way for their authors to be able to distribute titles to readers at events."

Dave Limp, Amazon Kindle v-p, said the program is a “a free, scalable solution for school and business administrators to centrally manage thousands of Kindles and wirelessly distribute Kindle books as well as their own documents to their users.” In an interview with Reuters, Jay Marine, v-p of Kindle product management, said that Amazon has been offering schools discounts on the hardware for bulk purchases and may offer bulk discounts on e-books in the future.

For schools, the new service is said to allow the distribution of novels, nonfiction titles or bestsellers that can distributed wirelessly to specific student group or classes; for businesses, the service allows companies to deploy fleets of devices to employees for training, marketing, or sales activities. The service also allows the wireless distribution of original content and lesson plans as well as purchased books or free content to be delivered to specifically designated groups or classes.

Jim Donohue, Elsevier managing director, global clinical reference, said that rather than dealing with shipping and managing physical books, the new service allows “our professional sales rep to focus on helping our clients choose medical information they want on their Kindle devices,” as well as offering the immediate ability to “procure and distribute select Elsevier e-books to their clinicians, researchers and staff.”

In addition, David Risher, president of literacy Worldreader, said the Whispercast for Kindle allows his organization to wirelessly deliver more than 200,000 e-books to children in sub-Saharan Africa. He emphasized that the service allows his organization to help “kids read more than ever. Kids no longer have to wait for a new book to be shipped. It is simply delivered electronically and waiting for them to start reading.”

Whispercast for Kindle provides an administrative logon that allows institutions to create specific groups, set passwords and restrictions, and purchase devices and content through a single payment channel, including using purchase orders.

While the service is said to be already being used in school systems, the use of digital readers and tablets in education is an evolving phenomenon. School adoption of devices are covered by a variety of accessibility legislation—disabled or learning-impaired students must also be able to use them—and it is unclear if Kindle devices are universailly supported. In addition the service leaves unanswered questions about data generated by student and business use—who has access to this data and how privacy is protected from authorized or inappropriate use.