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Kindle Textbook RentalsAmazon on Monday announced that it would now offer students the option to rent digital textbooks, advertising that customers can save up to 80% off textbook list prices.

Buying textbooks in college has been a costly endeavor for many years, and just looking over new and used prices on textbooks in business, math, science, or history can be frightening. A CBS report last year listed the 12 most expensive college textbooks, with a jaw-dropping top price of $1,450.

Digital textbooks have helped lower some of these insane costs, and now Kindle textbook rentals give people the ability to rent a book for 30 to 360 days, paying for each extra day after the 30 day period. More often than not, this pricing will be cheaper than purchasing the digital textbook and much cheaper than buying a hardcover textbook.

For example, Introductory Chemistry: A Foundation, 7th Edition costs $129.16 for a new hardcover edition, while a Kindle purchase costs $114.36. Amazon will now let you rent the textbook for a minimum 60 days for $46.55. Bumping the time to 120 days pushes the cost to $59.32, which is still much lower than buying.

Kindle digital rentals can be read not only on Kindle reading devices but also through apps for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7, and Blackberry.

Another cool feature available to students is the ability to keep notes and annotations even after the rental period is over. Students can access these notes at

It’s curious that it took so long for Amazon to introduce digital textbook rentals since it has been a player in the textbook market since the company’s inception. But it’s possible the company is announcing this initiative with its rumored tablet offering in mind, as a color tablet would be a better interface for reading textbooks than a black-and-white Kindle.

Amazon’s digital textbook rental business could affect the physical textbook rental market. Services like Chegg and BookRenter seek to offer students physical textbooks in way lower the aforementioned high costs. Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of BookRenter, says the introduction of digital rentals only further validates the need for lower-cost textbook options across the board and that BookRenter will be there as an option.

“We definitely intend to offer ebooks, and we are positive on the their future, but we also know that right now 80% of students prefer a physical textbook because they are more comfortable with that experience,” said Maghsoodnia via e-mail. “We also know that much of ebook adoption has been driven by price. With BookRenter, we take price off the table as a determination.”

What do you think of Kindle textbook rentals? Do you think this is a step in the right direction for textbooks?

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