In addition to its Amazon Prime membership program for students, which offers free two-day shipping on most purchases as well as a few other perks like free streaming videos, the world’s largest online retailer is now renting college textbooks.
Although a first for Amazon, the college textbook rental business is nothing new. Some colleges and universities have rental programs in their campus stores and bookseller Barnes and Noble launched its rental program in 2010. There are even websites like Chegg that specialize in nothing but renting college textbooks. Even so, Amazon’s announcement is still big news for some students simply because the company is such a popular, trusted online retailer.
According to Amazon.com, students can rent textbooks and save up to 70% off retail prices. They will be able to keep the books for 130 days (one semester) and ship the book back—in good condition, of course— free of charge with a provided shipping label. Change your mind and want to keep the book for good? No problem, you’ll just be charged the full purchase price if you don’t return it.
Most students are hoping to save money on books, and many are doing so. A 2012 study by the National Association of College Stores (NACS) found that students are in fact spending less on textbooks than in years past: students estimate they spend $655 per year on required course materials. That figure is down from $667 just two years ago and down from $702 four years ago.
“This is terrific news for students, who continue to be pressured by the higher cost of attending college. The steady decline in textbook spending indicates that the money-saving strategies college stores have implemented are working,” said Charles Schmidt, NACS’ director of public relations, in a press release.
Many college texts are available in a digital downloadable format known as E textbooks or e-books. Students can then read the books on their computer, tablet or eBook reader. Ebooks are available for purchase, but last summer Amazon announced its Kindle Textbook Rental service, which lets students rent digital texts for their Kindle device. Barnes and Noble has a similar program, renting ebooks for its NOOK device. E-textbooks are available for rent from other retailers as well, making the digital books another money-saving option for students.
Even so, Business Insider reports that although considered old-fashioned by some standards, most college classes still require traditional printed texts. And despite their high cost—often as high as $400 for one book—studies show that most students still prefer them over their digital counterparts.
A Textbook.com customer survey found that a low 7% of respondents prefer eTextbooks to used, new or rental textbooks. The NACS study mentioned above found that hard-copy textbooks are preferred by 74% of students.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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