Government Spending

Your Stimulus Dollars at Work: Uncle Sam Buys Kindles for $6,660 a piece


See Update below:

Tony Lee reports at

The State Department will spend $16.5 million on 2,500 Kindle e-book readers from Amazon, which amounts to a whopping $6,600 per Kindle device that retails for $189. first reported this news by looking at procurement databases and discovered the State Department awarded a no-bid contract to purchase the kindle devices at a 3,500 percent markup. 

According to NextGov, "Kindles were seen as the only appropriate devices for this contract, which was not opened for competitive bidding" and the State Department will use the Kindles to "aid those seeking to study English and learn about America."

Other devices, such as Barnes and Noble's Nook, Sony's Reader Daily and Kobe e-Reader and Apple's iPad "were unsuitable" due to various reasons such as low-quality "text-to-speech" functions, battery life, and Wi-Fi connectivity, according to the government document examined. 

The State Department, after much outrage, immediately issued a hazy statement that said the $16.5 million figure was the upper limit of what it could spend over the course of the contract.

No wonder the private sector is doing "just fine" under President Obama.

Update: As it turns out, NextGov just pretty much retracted its story and issued a mea culpa. Here's what it now says:

State is willing to guarantee approximately $2.3 million in the first year for at least 2,500 Kindles and content, the spokesman said. It is waiting for Amazon to come back with a proposal for further negotiations.

The price per unit is currently being worked out. It is expected to be in the ballpark of a recent pilot program where State purchased 6,000 Kindles for $980,000 for educational and e-diplomacy purposes, which works out roughly to a cost of $163 for each device.

"State has not and will not spend even a penny more than retail prices," said Philippe Reines, spokesman for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

My apologies too to H&R readers.

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  1. Wow,I bought three Kindles as Christmas gifts last year. How am I not completely broke?

    1. Top Hat and Monocle crowd? I’m just surprised you give gifts to the people who organize your collection of opera glasses.

  2. … the State Department will use the Kindles to “aid those seeking to study English and learn about America.”

    If that’s the goal, then they should definitely leave the price tags on.

  3. Usually they get away with this crap by ‘ruggedizing’ them. Which means putting them in a ~$10 rubber case.

    Frankly I’m happier seeing that money go to whatever contractor was in bed with whatever contracting entity than seeing it go to some mid-level paper-pusher. It’s not like it was ever going to be spent on anything useful.

    1. I’m sure nobody at the State Dep’t knows how to negotiate a kick-back

  4. Quit bitching – Jeff Bezos does need the money

  5. I’m guessing they’re buying kindle fires? They retail for about 189. If they’re just buying the regular kindle reader, that’s around a 100 bucks.

    1. For $6,600 bucks, I want the Kindle Incinerator.

      And yes, it does just what the name suggests, in addition to playing your ebooks.

      1. A Kindle Flame-thrower would be kinda cool too.

        1. No, no, it’s a stationary incinerator, for burning all your paper-based books and overworded legislation.

          Kinda kills the portable aspect of the Kindle, but it helps to have something to read as you shovel box after box of the PPACA into the blaze.

          1. Why can’t we have both? I like the incinerator idea, but I also want to project the flame to targets not necessarily within arms reach; a complete offensive/defensive duo as it were.

            1. the design trade-offs make separate products a more effective, and cheaper, alternative.

              1. Why settle for one, when you can have two at twice the price, eh?

  6. These must be special State Department Kindles which convert plain English into State Department jargon which converts “bomb Pakistan” into ‘Conduct robust kinetic military action in areas of unrest to maximize the follow through of American policy interests”

  7. lol, thats jsut too funny dude. Meanwhile Americans cannot afford healthcare.

    1. Anonbot? More like Cannonbot, what with that bittersweet zinger. You keep me grounded, my transistor mister.

      1. What you did there, I see it. Everything about this comment is awesome. I just wish there were more opportunities to work “transistor mister” into everyday conversation.

      2. transistor minister?

        1. so, did you really mean “mister”? “minister” works better on a few levels.

          1. Indeed it does, though perhaps we should save “minister” for “More like Canonbot” with a single “n”. He’s bound to offer some tender missive on the First Amendment before long.

      3. Domo arigato, transistor mister.

  8. I feel like General Dreedle. Can’t we shoot someone?

  9. In all fairness, if the purpose is for immigrants to “learn about America”, showing them that the State Department paid $6,600 for a sub-$200 electronic would be a pretty good start. They could skip the liberal-conservative-libertarian journey we all suffered through.

    1. Or, “like Michael said above”.

    2. The article said nothing about immigrants, only “those who want to study English and learn about America.” I took this to mean American public school students.

      1. Ah, indeed, they were meant for libraries overseas. Perhaps they were meant to deter immigration? Pack them with Obama’s speeches?

  10. Other devices, such as Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Sony’s Reader Daily and Kobe e-Reader and Apple’s iPad “were unsuitable” due to various reasons such as low-quality “text-to-speech” functions, battery life, and Wi-Fi connectivity

    I suspect that the $16.5 million/ $6,600 per kindle isn’t the price that they’re paying to Amazon for the Kindles, but the money that it cost them to pay someone (or a group of someones) to study the pros/ cons of the various e-readers on the market plus any other “administrative” costs.

    I’m not defending the waste though. It probably should have taken one person ~15 minutes of internet research to compare the various e-readers and maybe ~45 minutes to write up a short report on their findings. Maybe another hour or so to perform a formal trade study. Definitely not worth $16.5 million.

    1. “I suspect that the $16.5 million/ $6,600 per kindle isn’t the price that they’re paying to Amazon for the Kindles, but the money that it cost them to pay someone (or a group of someones) to study the pros/ cons of the various e-readers on the market plus any other “administrative” costs.”
      Got it. This is the e-equivalent of having people dig holes with spoons instead of powered equipment.

      1. But think of all the jobs “created or saved”! /sarc

      2. e-equivalent?

        did apple already trademark “e-quivalent”?

        1. They have iQuivalent.

          1. It’s much better. You wouldn’t understand.

            1. You’re right, I don’t understand, since it ruins the wordplay.

    2. We’re beyond corruption. What’s the word for beyond corruption? ?berkorruption?

      1. How about “quantumcorruption”?

      2. DC government?

      3. DC is close, but no cigar.


      4. Mari?nBarruption.

      5. We’re beyond corruption. What’s the word for beyond corruption?


      6. metacorruption

      7. Meta-corruption?

    3. I did just that for a coworker last December. She asked me which e-reader was best for her. 15 minutes later and I emailed her links to some tech articles comparing them, along with my recommendation.

      1. I do this all the time. Where’s my $16mil?!

    4. Even so, that’s still $16 million (2500 Kindle Fires ~$500k) to perform a study that hundreds of tech journalist websites have done for free.

      That’s not just waste, but ridiculous waste. And probably corruption.

      Government: No One Does the Corruption Business Like Us

  11. “Other devices, such as Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Sony’s Reader Daily and Kobe e-Reader and Apple’s iPad “were unsuitable” ”

    What a relief! Imagine what they’d have paid for iPads.

  12. I see that Shikha upped the price by $60.

    How conveeenient. I’m not sure what caused her to do this. Could it be…Satan?!?

  13. This story needs an update

  14. How about if people in other countries feel the need to learn English and study America, they buy their own damn e-readers with their own damn money?

  15. One Laptop Kindle per Child!

  16. I have a Kindle Fire I’ll sell for a mere $3000, if anyone is interested. Cash only, plz.

  17. Oh the perils of reporters writing stories about stuff they don’t understand. They are proposing what is known an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract- essentially it lets the government order supplies as it needs them, with a minimum and maximum dollar amount. So the $16.5M is certainly not the amount they spending now, but the maximum dollar amount they can order. It says nothing about the unit price. And the document posted is known as a Justification and Approval (JA), which is signed prior to contract negotiation and award. So they haven’t actually entered into this contract yet, much less negotiated the unit prices.

    1. Shorter: You stupid proles just don’t understand the nuances of how your money gets legally and appropriately wasted.

      1. DaveAnthony has a damn good point below, as do you. But so does Adam 330. The source of the article has already done a partial retraction.

        Dividing the maximum costs of a 5 year contract over the expected orders in the first year was a boo boo.

      2. I guess I’m wrong for pointing out that the reporter made some wildly stupid and uninformed assumptions instead of, you know, doing some research before accusing an agency of wasting money? This dipshit reporter thought that she could just divide $16.5M by the initial order quantity (2,500) to get the unit price. But she didn’t actually understand, or bother to find out, what the numbers meant or how the contract worked. Pretty typical for a journalism major.

  18. Maybe not why the private sector is doing just fine, but definitely why the DC “private” sector is doing fantastic. These loosely defined contracts are basically how contractors make a lot of their profits. They get a contract with a maximum price and then they bill against that contract to cover all their hours and expenses– although funny story, they almost always consume the entire budget. A lot of the defense contractors I was familiar with would basically commit massive amounts of billing fraud (making employees bill all their hours to a project regardless of whether they were working on it or not) so that there was no overhead and no money was “left on the table”.

  19. Fecking squirrels IS NOT spam!!!! Meta-corruption dammit!!

    1. Don’t mind me the squirrels are fucking with me today.

    2. Thought the Tourette’s was flaring up for a moment.

      1. Who here has not been abused by the squirrels? To have a perfectly pithy reply squashed by the possibly flagged as spam monster, and yet anon-bot sails by unmolested. There is no justice at H ampersand R any more.

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