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State considers $16.5 million contract for Amazon Kindles

Thomas Lohnes/AP

This article originally misstated the terms of the State Department’s agreement with Amazon and was misleading about the cost of each Kindle. NextGov regrets the error.

The State Department is considering a $16.5 million, 5-year no-bid contract with Amazon that could include as many as 35,000 Kindle e-Readers and content, an agency spokesman confirmed. The Kindles would be used to stock designated libraries and U.S.-friendly educational centers around the world, aiding those who want to study English and learn about America.



State is willing to guarantee approximately $2.3 million in the first year for at least 2,500 Kindles and content, the spokesman said. It is waiting for Amazon to come back with a proposal for further negotiations.

The price per unit is currently being worked out. It is expected to be in the ballpark of a recent pilot program where State purchased 6,000 Kindles for $980,000 for educational and e-diplomacy purposes, which works out roughly to a cost of $163 for each device.

“State has not and will not spend even a penny more than retail prices,” said Philippe Reines, spokesman for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Department officials determined that Kindles were the only appropriate device for the contract, which was not opened to competitive bidding, contracting databases show. The Amazon e-Readers were selected because they come with a built-in English dictionary, support foreign languages, translate text to speech, and receive information securely from a content distribution platform managed by the State Department, contracting notice stated.

Other electronic readers such as the Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Reader Daily and Kobe e-Reader were deemed unsuitable as they couldn’t offer the same the text-to-speech function, battery life and global Wi-Fi connectivity, the document stated.

Apple iPad tablets offered unnecessary functions that presented “unacceptable security and usability risks for the government’s needs in this particular project,” the documents said. iPads also fell short on battery life requirements and would not allow the State Department the same control over the dissemination of content.

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