Does Stephen Covey's Amazon deal change the e-book landscape?

So why do we care about Stephen Covey here in the land of Ed Tech? Because Amazon uses a closed format and highly restrictive DRM that matters little to business travelers flying at 40,000 feet, but matters a lot to schools and libraries.

If you've spent time in private industry and, more recently in progressive educational circles, you know that Stephen Covey is The Man. He's like Dr. Phil only smart. Like him or not, agree with him or not, his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and related franchises have resonated with a lot of people.

Now, Covey will exclusively be selling electronic versions of two of his most successful books exclusively through Amazon for the Kindle platform. According to the New York Times,

Amazon, maker of the popular Kindle e-reader and one of the biggest book retailers in the country, will have the exclusive rights to sell electronic editions of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and a later work, “Principle-Centered Leadership.” Mr. Covey also plans to gradually make other e-books available exclusively to Amazon, which will promote them on its Web site.

So why do we care here in the land of Ed Tech? Because Amazon uses a closed format and highly restrictive DRM that matters little to business travelers flying at 40,000 feet, but matters a lot to schools and libraries. If publishers and authors start dealing exclusively with Amazon as the de facto leader in e-books (both in terms of volume and their first-to-market device), what does that do for educational institutions looking to increasingly provide electronic content?

PCWorld makes an interesting comparison in this regard:

...the superior hardware specifications of the Nook could be overshadowed by Amazon's bookstore for the Kindle, if other exclusive deals such as the one with Covey will be inked.

This way, the difference between the Kindle and the Nook would be similar to the differences between the iPhone and Google Android phones: several Android phones such as the Verizon Droid or the HTC Hero have superior hardware to Apple's, but the sheer number of exclusive app in the iTunes App Store swayed many more customers to the iPhone. The same could apply if Amazon will hold an advantage over the Barnes & Noble bookstore with several exclusive deals.

The last thing we need is any sort of vendor lock-in, especially since the actual e-reader market is jockeying with tablets, smartphones, and other devices that benefit from open formats (like EPUB) for delivering open content to students and consumers.

Stephen Covey is a big fish in an incredibly large pond. I just hope that other fish of many sizes think twice about locking into agreements with Amazon when neither Amazon nor the Kindle in any of its current configurations can meet most educational needs.

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