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Amazon Targets Digital Textbook Publishers with New Kindle Beta

The migration to e-books has spread to the popular Kindle service.

Amazon created an e-book reading revolution with its e-ink Kindle reader. Now the service intends to expand its reach to textbook publishers.

A new service from Amazon allows educational content, such as textbooks, study guides and course notes, to be published in the online retailer’s Kindle Store. Kindle Direct Publishing is divided into several genres, the newest of which, KDP EDU, offers a service called Kindle Textbook Creator, currently available as a public beta.

Publishers have sold textbooks in the Kindle Store in the past. But Amazon now offers tools through KDP EDU that allow authors to prepare and publish materials and then promote and track sales. Authors with a preexisting body of work won't have to start from scratch, either. They can turn PDFs of textbooks into pages for Kindle books using the Textbook Creator.

Amazon's platform allows authors to earn royalties of up to 70 percent and retain the rights to the works they create, according to a press release.

Amazon’s leap into textbook publishing mirrors a trend that’s evident elsewhere in the industry. At EDUCAUSE 2014, Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, declared traditional textbooks "dead." And in a July survey by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), 80 percent of publishers surveyed said they believe a digital-subscription model for the textbook industry is inevitable.

But along with the migration of publishing priorities, from print to digital, comes a series of additional considerations in digital piracy. A 2013 online poll of college students, conducted by BISG, found that students have increasingly been downloading course content illegally.

“This is important behavior to track, especially since it's coinciding with other data that show declining student commitment to owning current editions of assigned texts,” said Len Vlahos, BISG’s executive director, in a press release.

Jan 30 2015