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Amazon Kindle Textbook Rental May Save Your College Student Money

Amazon.com has just announced a new program of textbook rentals for its Kindle e-reader.  If you have a college student who is facing the purchase of textbooks this year, you may want to discuss this new program with him.  For students who already own an e-reader or similar device, this is especially exciting news.  Students who do not own a Kindle may now want to consider purchasing one.  The good news, however, is that textbooks rented through this rental program may also be viewed through Amazon’s “rent once, read everywhere” philosophy on other devices such as a PC, IPad, IPhone, Android, Mac, Blackberry, and others through the Kindle application.

Amazon’s new Kindle rental program claims that it will have “tens of thousands of textbooks” available for this 2011-2012 school year.  Most books are being offered for rental at up to 80% off of the list purchase price of the hard copy of the book. Students will only need to pay for the time that they need the book.

Students have long used Amazon.com and the ebay affiliate Half.com as sources for used copies of textbooks, so heading to Amazon for textbook purchases may seem natural.  We’ve written earlier posts about the high costs of college textbooks and possible ways to save on the purchase price of books.  Costs of college textbooks have risen exponentially over the past few years.  According to the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), prices have grown at four times the rate of inflation since 1994.  The National Association of College Stores estimates that U.S. stores showed $10.5 billion in sales during the 2009-2010 school year.  They estimate that each student spends an average of $745-900/year on books.  Any program which helps students save on college costs is welcome relief.

According to Amazon, Kindle textbooks may be rented for anywhere from 30-360 days.  Rental periods may be extended by the day, or students can convert a rental into a purchase of the book.

One particularly intriguing feature of the new Kindle textbook rental program is its use of Amazon’s Whispersync technology.  Students may highlight, take margin notes, and save bookmarks in the textbook.  Even though the textbook is “returned” and no longer lives on the student’s device, the student’s notes continue to be accessible through the “Amazon cloud”.  Should the student ever wish to rent the textbook again, perhaps to review for a comprehensive exam, the notes will continue to be available.  The amount of storable highlighting is being determined by individual publishers.

According to the National Association of College Stores, nearly 75% of college students still prefer print textbooks to electronic versions, and approximately 15% of students own e-readers.  With the advent of textbook rentals at significant savings, that percentage may quickly change.

This may be a good time for parents to talk with their college students about this new rental program and about the use and purchase of college textbooks in general.  Whether students rent textbooks through the Kindle program, Barnes and Noble program, hard copy rental programs such as Chegg.com, purchase textbooks online or purchase from the bookstore, planning ahead and getting an early start is important.  Colleges are now required by Federal law to provide textbook information to students early, and students can take advantage of that information to get an early start.

Helping your student think about and act upon textbook information and choices early will mean one less overwhelming task as the school year begins.

Related Posts:

Thinking About Your College Student’s Finances

New Textbook Information Available to Students

College Textbooks:  Tools of the Trade – Part 1

College Textbooks:  Tools of the Trade – Part 2

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