Amazon has taken a big step towards turning the Kindle into a true textbook replacement — the company just announced Whispercast, a new service that allows businesses and schools to distribute content like PDF documents and ebooks. While Amazon is marketing the service to enterprise and education alike, it could be a particular boon for schools looking to distribute to students in lieu of hefty and expensive textbooks. The program also lets institutions order E Ink and Kindle Fire devices in bulk for their students, but if hardware costs are a problem, Whispercast also supports the free Kindle apps on iOS, Android, Windows, and OS X. This stands in contrast to the iPad and iBooks combo that Apple touted at an education-focused event last January — at the time, the company didn't have any solid answers as to how it would solve the problem of getting expensive iPads to students.

The service lets organizations categorize users into groups like grade level or class, and distribute class materials and other content to each group. While Whispercast won't entirely replace traditional paper textbooks any time soon, creating an easily organized and secure system that allows schools to digitally distribute class materials is certainly a step in the right direction. Whispercast is available now, and Amazon plans to add support "in the coming months" for distributing apps in the Amazon Appstore for Android.