The first hint of the problem started popping up at the end of the school year in May. Kathy Burnette, a member of the Kindle Educators Group over at the Ning, summed up her problem in a post:
ARGH! We are not allowed to purchase gift cards using our purchase order accounts and that means I have no way to purchase the Kindle even though I have money. We received the check but it’s made out to our school. This means it must go into a school account and we must use a purchase order. Not quite sure what to do next…
She needed what I am beginning to call a “Kindle Workaround” to purchase her Kindles, and, a few days later, the absence of said workaround let to her next post, entitled We Had to Get Nooks!: ” Our Purchasing Department does not want us to use Amazon and they are in control of the Grant Funds.” So Kathy is now blazing the trail of using the Barnes and Noble Nook as the ereader at her school.
So, what is the “Kindle Workaround” that Kathy needed to purchase those Kindles? That’s the topic of today’s post.
First, you need to find a link at the Amazon website that, while not hidden, certainly isn’t obvious to the casual user. That is the link for “Corporate Accounts,” toward the bottom of the left sidebar on the main Amazon page. Diane Bushman, the board secretary for the Seneca Grade School (Seneca CCSD #170) outside Chicago, tells me that once you find this link, setting Amazon up as a vendor is pretty much the same process as setting up any other vendor for your district. The steps in the process are as follows:
1. Click on Corporate Accounts link at Amazon.com
2. Scroll down to Corporate Accounts by Segment
3. Click on the box labeled K-12 Schools
4. Below the intro you will see “Purchase Order Payment: Apply for an Amazon.com Corporate Credit Line to pay by PO”
5. Click the link “Amazon Corporate Credit Line” to set your school up for purchase using a P.O.
6. On the application page, you will be offered the chance to apply for a “Pay In Full” line or a “Revolving” line
(Note: Dianne opted for the “Pay In Full” line as she planned to pay for the Kindles in full once she got her invoice)
7. Once you select the type of line you want to apply for, you will be asked to log into Amazon
(In Seneca’s case, Dianne used the account associated with the purchasing card that they typically use for Amazon purchases)
8. Set up your corporate account and provide the application information required on the following screens
Dianne mentioned that approval for a $5,000 line of credit was painless and took a couple of days to complete. (Note that the Amazon.com Corporate Account Credit Line is issued by GE Money Bank, so you are dealing with a third party provider when you put in your app.)
BUT, since Seneca was interested in purchasing 80 Kindles, the $5,000 line of credit was insufficient. This triggered a more involved but straightforward process of getting an adequate line approved, which involved providing GE Money Bank with the district’s financials. Again, Dianne found this part of the process took a bit more time and a call or two to the help line (number provided on the site), but was straightforward. In a few more days, SGS received approval for the appropriate line and then received its 80 Kindles just a few days later. (And that’s when I showed up to participate in the Kindle set-up procedure with Kathy, as detailed in my earlier posts.)
So, aside from the relative merits of purchasing Nooks rather than Kindles (and that is a reasonable debate–see Kathy Burnette’s comparison of the two devices here), no one has to feel that they can’t purchase their Kindles with a purchase order. You can. It’s just that your business office will have to cooperate and jump through Amazon’s hoops to set up an account. I believe that one reason schools that buy Nooks do so is that they already have a corporate account set up with Barnes and Noble. No problem! the news here is that you can do the same with Amazon.
(And now that it looks like the price war between Kindle and Nook will squeeze out many smaller players in the ereader manufacturing and sales arena, getting an account set up with both of these mega-vendors may be the best idea of all.)