Amazon will become the main purveyor of digital books to the largest school district in the U.S., which in 2015 had nearly a million students. The department estimates its spending at the storefront will amount to $30 million within the next three years.

Share story

Amazon scored a big contract to provide schools in New York City with a dedicated marketplace for e-books.

A panel with the New York City Department of Education on Wednesday approved the awarding of the contract, which will allow schools to purchase digital books for students through a storefront created by the Seattle tech giant.

That means Amazon will become the main purveyor of digital books to the largest school district in the U.S., which in 2015 had nearly a million students. The department estimates its spending at the storefront will amount to $30 million within the next three years.

It’s a big coup for a company that recently has been trying to make a mark on education — and a way to further the marketplace for digital books, a segment Amazon helped bring into the mainstream in the last decade.

The choice of Amazon caps a three-year process in which the New York City agency reviewed fourteen proposals from vendors, only two of which were viable (the other being Cleveland-based Overdrive.)

New York says it picked Amazon because it had a stronger deployment plan and a “robust catalog” of content, as well as lower prices.

Amazon will train the schools’ staff.

The decision was first announced last summer but the contract was delayed after the National Federation of the Blind expressed concerns about Amazon e-readers’ limited accessibility. Since then, Amazon and the federation reached an agreement to work together on improving reading experiences for blind students.

“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 statement. “We look forward to working closely with the NYC DOE to serve the educational needs of their students.”

The $30 million estimate for the contract is based on the district’s expectation of gradually increasing purchases of digital books — $2.7 million in the first year of implementation, or 2 percent of its total book spending for the 2016-2017 school year.

The district is expected to buy $12.7 million worth of digital books in the second year, and $20 million in the third year. There’s an option for a two-year extension.