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K-12 Publishers Will Sell Textbooks via Google Play

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Google announced Wednesday that its Play store will offer digital textbooks through partnerships with several major K-12 publishers. Laura Hazard Owen at GigaOm reports that, beginning in early August, students will be able to buy or rent textbooks from Google Play at a significant discount – although she looks sideways at the latter claim. Details on the scope of textbook offerings remain vague. However, an announcement on Google's Android Press site lists a few sample titles.

Google's content partnership with Cengage, Wiley, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Macmillan, among others, contrasts with bets made by other technology corporations and publishers on how best to capture different parts of the K-12 market. Amazon, for example, has focused on getting Kindles into schools through its Whispercast service and a partnership with the Parent Teacher Association, among other initiatives.

Pearson had previously appeared to prioritize "delivery systems" over either content or devices, investing in NOOK Media late last year and developing a portfolio of learning management systems and even online universities abroad. To Pearson, Google Play may be just another channel for distributing material the publisher creates or acquires.

At the moment, it's hard to say what this means for students and schools in the near future. Perhaps homeschoolers and other nontraditional students will benefit from discounted textbooks and individual rentals. A deal linking Play-purchasable titles with a massive online course could be right around the corner, offering a way to monetize MOOCs, upsell participants, and effectively remove "open" from the acronym. It remains unclear, however, whether Google plans to extend this partnership to work with teachers or districts, or to otherwise focus on a particular audience for its K-12 e-book business.

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