An Idea for Free Digital Chapters for Students From Amazon

Reacting to Inspire.

June 28, 2016

So Amazon is going after the education market.  

Amazon Inspire is... "A free service for the search, discovery, and sharing of digital educational resources." K-12 educators can sign up for early access to the the Amazon Inspire beta. (I tried to sign up with my school e-mail - I’ll let you know if they let me in the club).

Does Amazon’s entry into the K-12 world mean that a postsecondary play is close behind?

I’ll start out by saying that the last thing higher ed needs is another digital learning object repository. We are so over digital learning objects.

After two decades of trying to get repositories to get any traction, we have finally realized that disconnected content is the least important part of the education equation. We had thought that chunks of digital learning content would be perfect for re-mixing and re-using in lectures, labs, and online modules. We we’re wrong.

So please Amazon, no Inspire for higher ed.

What could Amazon do in the postsecondary space?

Let’s start with why Amazon should go for the higher ed market.

Tomorrow’s Kindle e-book and Audible audiobook readers (buyers) are today’s college students.

Amazon should be worried (and so should we) that college students are not developing the book reading habit.  Books compete with every other media for time and attention.

So here is my higher ed idea for Amazon: Free Digital Books Chapters for Courses.

When I design and teach a course I want to easily assign a chapter or two to my students. I want my students to simply and easily be able to get access to the chapter (or two) that I assign.  I want my students to have those chapters in every digital format - from Kindle chapters to audiobook files. Oh - and I want those assigned chapters to be free to my students.

Let’s make a rule. Say it is reasonable for Amazon to provide (for free) 10 percent of any digital book to a verified college student in the context of a course. Access to the chapter (in Kindle and Audible format) lasts for the length of the course.

As a professor, I can easily search/grab/assign that 10 percent (those chapters) in every book that Amazon has a digital version.

Students would of course have the option of purchasing the entire book.  Some would.

Amazon would gain as students would need to register for an Amazon account. Amazon would gain as students would get into the habit of reading digital and audio books. Amazon would gain by getting all the data on what book chapters are being assigned, and how students are actually reading the material.

Most students would read by downloading the free Kindle app to their phones or tablets or computers - but some students would buy Kindle e-readers.

How would Amazon negotiate all this with the publishers and authors? Not sure? Maybe a revenue share for entire digital books when they start from a free chapter? Getting college students to read books (if only chapters) seems to be in the interest of publishers and authors.

What do you think? Would Amazon ever go for this? Would this be valuable to you in your teaching? Can you poke holes in my proposal?

Amazon could extend this idea from books to media. Allow professors to easily grab 10 percent of any of the movies or TV shows that Amazon has on its video platform for their courses. The key is fast, free, and easy.

What other higher ed plays could you see Amazon going for?



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