Amazon released a student version of its mobile shopping application today, just in time for the back-to-school rush. The free app is available for the iPhone and iPod touch.
The app, Amazon Student, features barcode scanning for comparison textbook shopping. Students standing in a bookstore can look at their syllabus, scan a book’s barcode with the iPhone or iPod touch camera, and determine whether the bookstore is ripping them off. Excuse me, charging a higher than average price. The scanner also works on a number of other Amazon-available items a student may need such as electronics, entertainment and more.
There many types of mobile and Web solutions on the market that offer textbook rentals and interactive learning. With this app, Amazon is taking a step in that direction, altering the way students buy and sell their books.
At the end of the semester, students can use the app to exchange their used textbooks for an Amazon gift card. Like most bookstores, however, items are subject to eligibility.
The buying process is simple and requires no set up. You snap a photo of the barcode and Amazon identifies the book and lets you know if it is eligible. For example, we scanned an old AP stylebook, which came out as “Not Trade-In eligible” (see photo to the right). If the book is eligible, the app will quote you a maximum price, or the gift card amount you will receive based on the book’s quality.
Whether Amazon or its third party merchant NorAm International wants your textbook, however, is up to them. Should the book be eligible, Amazon will foot the shipping bill. You may also be paid less than quoted based on Amazon’s quality determination.
Instead of trading in your books, you can sell them as per usual as a listing on Amazon. Amazon Student does not seem to support this action in-app. Students can also join Amazon’s Student program through the app to receive perks like free two-day shipping and deals.
Amazon Student joins the ranks of many mobile textbook offerings including Inkling, Kno, and its own Kindle textbook rentals. While these companies enhance the textbook reading experience, however, the Amazon Student app is enhancing the buying process.
VentureBeat has reached out to Amazon for comment and will update accordingly.
The app is free and available only on iPhone and iPod Touch. You can download it here.