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Frugality for the win: Amazon now offers textbook rentals

Just in time before college begins, Amazon has launched a textbook rental program that will allow students to borrow physical books for periods of 30 to 360 days. Is there anything Amazon won’t do to become the online superstore?

Much like competitor textbook rental sites such as Chegg or Half.com, Amazon is offering book rentals for a fraction of the cost of actually buying the book. Take for example this Media and Culture textbook I remembered purchasing back in college (albeit a much older edition). Amazon currently sells it for $90 new, $62 used, or $29 to rent until mid-December. Surely this beats buying the book only to sell it back for 30 percent of what you originally paid, especially when Amazon only sells back in gift cards.

“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¬†Ripley MacDonald, Director of Textbooks at Amazon.com. “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 also pays for return shipping, meaning that students who have signed up for their free Amazon Prime membership can oftentimes get textbooks with a complimentary two-day shipping and pay nothing to send it back. Students will also get e-mail alerts when their textbooks are close to their due dates to avoid any late fees. Alternatively, they can also extend the rental period if they want to bump the 30-day loan to a semester-long borrow. Depending on availability, renting textbooks could mean receiving new books if the version you need happens to have been recently published.

“All this means more money in your pocket for the things in life that can’t be learned from a book,” Amazon.com’s Textbook Rental FAQ reads.

Physical textbook rentals isn’t the first of Amazon’s efforts to help college students save money. For the tech-savvy, students have been able to loan Kindle e-books since last summer though textbook options may be limited in such format. The convenience there is, of course, not having to worry about shipping books back in time.

Amazon’s Textbook Rental program is currently only available for students in the United States. If you want to stick with reading off your Kindle or e-reader of choice, check out our comparison guide to e-book rental services.