A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post describing Amazon’s new Whispercast content delivery tool. It enables teachers to send out Kindle eBooks to all of their students over a wireless connection from one, centralized account. This helps to avoid the potential hassles of separately loading each individual device. Along with a nice video of students enjoying their Kindles, the teachers and administrators interviewed at the pilot schools placed emphasis on the ease of adopting the Kindle into the classroom, all thanks to Whispercast. Was this too good to be true? Christopher Harris, an early Whispercast user, has had a different experience:
This morning, I had to make a call to the Amazon Kindle Business and Education team to get our Kindles added to our new Whispercast account. While on the phone, the representative did say that Whispercast could be used to deliver content through a school library. But then again….they do have a history of telling you whatever you want to hear and it still violates the terms of service.
The process, if you want to risk all of your content being deleted at a later date for violating the conditions of use for the Kindle Store, is a bit convoluted. Even getting devices into Whispercast is not as easy as you might think. To start, you have to add devices using the order number from the original Kindle purchase. The Kindles also had to have been ordered by a Whispercast administrator. Turns out, that the Kindles for my library system were not ordered under my account, but under the business manager’s account. So a phone call later, this is being sent to the “devs” so her account can be made an administrator on the Whispercast account. Easy process, but odd that the software developers have to do this and there isn’t a way for support to help.
It’s even more complicated to use this in a library loan setting. When you buy a book via Whispercast, it gets locked to an account. Reading is one-to-one via account and each account can only have one e-reader, I was told. However, you can change the device assigned to an account quite easily. Which means we might be able to make this work to create instant lending of any library-owned ebook to any library-owned device.
The trick, it seems, is going to be creating a separate account for each ebook you buy. If I buy Hunger Games and then create an account for hungergames@mylibraryemail, then I could potentially assign any e-reader to that account, thereby allowing me to instantly loan Hunger Games to the random Kindle I pull from a drawer. (I said this might work, I didn’t promise easy or efficient. )This is obviously a set-up nightmare, but it might allow this type of use rather than just making Whispercast a somewhat improved copy of what Barnes & Noble already offers.
As for the ebooks, it seems like Amazon is continuing to laugh at the Big Six publishers. Whispercast is selling books from Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan despite those publishers’ refusal to sell to libraries. Furthermore, books from Random House are listed at the consumer-price level, not the elevated library prices. It will be…interesting…to see how publishers respond to this. One would hope this would encourage them to work with ALA and libraries on reasonable and mutually beneficial terms.
Originally published on americanlibrariesmagazine.org, 10/19/2012