Monday, February 09, 2009

Should Amazon's Kindle 2 be part of the stimulus?

First, I'm not a believer in the Kindle. I'm biased, because I still like to pick up a book. I've tried both the Kindle and the Sony Reader and I just don't like them. However, I'll admit that I'm old school and I'll never be with it on some items. The combination of hearing stimulus news and the launch of the Kindle 2 made me think - shouldn't we bring a kindle to the kids?

Right now there are roughly 52-53 million school age kids in the US. Back out kids under 8 and you probably have about 46 million kids in the US using textbooks -- some of which are clearly ancient. The cost of new text books is a huge burden for local schools. Here's the solution - tell Google, Microsoft, IBM, Sony & Amazon that they have 5 months to create a prototype for US schools. A Kindle-style device for textbooks. The US government will buy one for every child and pay $100 each. It's a $4.6 billion contract for the hardware alone. So far, it is estimated that Amazon has sold 500,000 Kindles. I think they'd jump at the chance to sell 46 million units by September 09 (and Google already has a curious Google Books program underway).

Then we'll go to the textbook suppliers and tell them they have 4 months to create electronic versions of their books. We'll negotiate a national contract to buy a single math book for 3rd grade (I recommend the Singapore Math books - their grade 1 is more challenging than our grade 4 math), a single history book for 5th grade, etc, etc. You can create a national standard of education while upgrading every textbook in America. These books will get downloaded to your child's e-textbook on Labor Day 2009 and your child will have a much lighter backpack next year.

Total cost probably $10 billion in year 1. It's serious money, but it's a real investment that I could support.

Unfortunately, this probably makes far too much sense to actually happen. But if anyone has an in w/Sen Schumer or Rep. McHugh or your Senator or Congressman -- send it along. Hey, you never know......


Scott Atkinson said...

I'm a modest Kindle fan; to beat an overused analogy into the ground, it strikes me as the iPod of ebook readers.

The biggest thing for me is that it does, as Amazon promised, exactly what a good book does. It disappears as you start to read and you're not aware that you're playing with an electronic gizmo.

The Artful Blogger said...

It's a good point and I've heard many of positive reviews. However, with just 500,000 units sold it's still more of gimmick than a real product, imho.

Cracking the textbook market would be a nice way to gain critical mass overnight.