Inc., won a contact yesterday to sell e-books to the New York City Department of Education after modifying its online marketplace to make it more suitable for blind students.

The city’s education department will purchase about $30 million worth of e-books for its 1,800 public schools and make them available through the marketplace for a download by students, according to Amazon. The contract gives the education department the option to renew it for an additional two years, with estimated sales of $34.5 million. New York City’s public schools have about 1.1 million students.

The contract, reported in today’s Wall Street Journal and confirmed by Amazon, finalizes an effort by Amazon that stalled last summer after city school officials objected. They argued that the Amazon system wasn’t sufficiently accessible to blind and other visually impaired students.

But with help from the National Federation of the Blind, an organization whose services include promoting website accessibility, Amazon will provide the city’s education department with a marketplace through which the education department will be able to purchase e-books for several types of devices, including laptops, tablets and other devices designed for use by blind and other visually impaired people. The city and Amazon didn’t specify the changes made to accommodate blind students, but website accessibility methods include such tools as text-to-voice screen reader software.

The contract will cover e-books from multiple publishers, but will not include the sale of Amazon’s Kindle or other e-book readers.  


“This partnership is illustrative of Amazon Education’s overall commitment to making connected classrooms a reality by helping students and educators with the transition to digital learning,” Amazon said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working closely with the New York City Department of Education to serve the educational needs of their students.”

The city’s department of education did not immediately return a request for comment.

Amazon’s other forays into the education market include its TenMarks unit, which provides schools with a web-based mathematics-learning program, and Whispercast, which provides online access to textbooks, e-books and mobile apps. Amazon is No. 37 in the B2B E-Commerce 300, which ranks companies on their annual web sales.

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