Amazon introduces Kindle textbook rentals

kindle rents textbookThe Kindle is a beloved device by readers of every variety, but students are likely to become the Amazon e-reader’s biggest fans. This morning, Amazon announced that it will begin a Kindle textbook rental service, allowing students to save cash on their required academic reading. Better yet, you don’t have to have a Kindle to rent the materials: Amazon says you can rent textbooks for your computer or smartphone as well (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, or WP7 devices).

Other details of the rental service include the option of renting textbooks anywhere between a month and a year (with the ability to extend service or buy the book), savings of up to 80-percent off the listed retail price of the print version, and features like notetaking and highlighting via its Whispersync software, which you can access after the rental period is over.

The Kindle has been a godsend for avid readers and a thorn in the side of the print industry since its origin, and messing with college textbooks publishers is only going to solidify that reputation. College textbook manufacturing is a profitable market, and one that students spend mind-boggling amounts on every year – much to their, and oftentimes educators’, frustration. For every college course that needs its reading material republished yearly there are a handful of those that receive minor edits yet still cost students some serious cash.

Cutting these corners without the aid of an e-reader is far less economic. Buy-back programs return students an incredibly low fraction of the original cost, and damaging text versions is far easier – forget taking notes in physical margins. The new, ad-integrated, 3G Kindle is only $139, which is how much many textbooks cost to begin with. This calculus textbook costs $136.01 ($46 used) in paperback, and to rent via Kindle it’s a measly $27.07. That’s an investment that would pay for itself pretty quickly.

And given the average college student’s increasing comfort and ease navigating electronic devices, the rental service is likely to succeed. Barnes & Noble offers a similar application, called NookStudy, which can be accessed via PC or Mac.

Amazon is preparing to launch a tablet or family of tablets this fall, and is also continuing to drive sales of the Kindle with a new ad-infused, less expensive version of the e-reader. Tapping into a market desperate to save a little money and required to buy reading materials is one more way it can keep a competitive edge over the Nook and other challengers.

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