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Amazon now offers physical textbook rentals as a cheaper option for college students, a move designed to keep Amazon as a dominant player in textbooks.
While Amazon has offered digital rentals of textbooks for more than a year, this new initiative will cater to students who feel more comfortable with old-fashioned paper books for studying. It also increases Amazon’s rental selection substantially because many tomes are not yet available as e-books.
Most of the textbook options Amazon offers for rent cost between $30 to $60. Rentals are by the semester (130 days), and there’s free shipping back and forth for delivery. Physical rentals are only available in the U.S.
For those concerned about getting a used textbook with a ton of scribbled notes inside, Amazon is doing quality control. The company will allow a “minimal” amount of note-taking in the textbooks. If a student adds “excessive writing or highlighting” to a rented textbook and tries to ship it back, he or she will be charged the full purchase price of the book minus rental fees.
Amazon’s entry into physical book renting could easily hurt rival services like Chegg and BookRenter. Notably, Chegg originally started as a physical textbook rental service but added digital textbook rentals to counter Amazon.
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