August 8, 2012
It is no secret that college is expensive, and hefty textbook costs aren't a help. Pricey textbook fees have given rise to a new market for textbook swapping and rental services, creating competition for traditional campus-based bookstores. Now these stores will face even stiffer competition as one of the Internet's largest e-retailers announces its venture into the textbook race.
CNET reports that giant e-retailer Amazon.com rolled out its new paper textbook rental service on Monday, a program Amazon says can save students as much as 70 percent off the retail price. According to Business Insider, textbooks typically cost between $100 and $400 each, if not more.
"College is expensive, and students are always looking for ways to save money on textbooks, which is why we've long offered great prices on both new and used textbooks," said Amazon Director of Textbooks Ripley MacDonald in a press release. "With Textbook Rental, Amazon gives students yet another great option for saving money -- it's now easier than ever for students to get the books they need, in the format they want, at affordable prices."
Amazon's approach is not entirely new: CNET notes that Barnes & Noble, the startup Chegg and eBay's Half.com already offer comparable services. Even Amazon itself already offers textbook rentals, though exclusively in digital form for its Kindle customers. Still, the retail giant's announcement puts pressure on campus bookstores and publishers to re-evaluate their sticker prices.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Amazon will allow students to keep textbooks for 130 days, though a 15-day extension is available for a fee. Amazon will still charge shipping fees, but, according to CNET, students can avoid them by accumulating more than $25 in their shopping carts or by purchasing an Amazon Prime membership at a special student discounted price. Students can return books for free using an included pre-printed shipping label.
Students who do not return their books on time will be charged the full retail price minus rental fees. According the Los Angeles Times, students may also be charged for books that are returned in sub-par condition, though "a minimal amount" of writing is acceptable.
How exactly do the savings compare? The L.A. Times notes that a hardback rental copy of the textbook "Intermediate Accounting" by Donald E. Kieso through Amazon is $57 while renting it digitally for Kindle via Amazon costs $53.79. Still, this is a significant savings when compared to the $195.47 retail cost for a new copy through Amazon.
Business Insider notes that Amazon's new textbook rental service and others like it puts pressure on textbook publishers to play a game of technological catch-up and produce larger numbers of digital e-books.
Compiled by Aimee Hosler
"Amazon goes for college crowd, launches rental textbook service," news.cnet.com, August 6, 2012, Paul Sloan
"Amazon Launches Textbook Rental," phx.corporate-ir.net, August 6, 2012
"Amazon starts renting out printed textbooks," latimes.com, August 7, 2012, Salvador Rodriguez
"College Students Rejoice! Amazon Now Rents Textbooks, Too," businessinsider.com, August 7, 2012, Julie Bort