Amazon To Annoy Even More Book Stores With Textbook Rental Plan

Now Amazon just seems to be toying with the retail book stores of America. The online behemoth has long been hated by many bricks-and-mortar booksellers for the hugely discounted prices it charges on books and other items traditionally sold in book stores. And then there’s Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader which some stores blame for dropping sales. Now Amazon is getting into one business still dominated by college book stores: textbook rentals.

For example, this accounting textbook retails for $195, but can be rented for a semester (130 days) for around $54.

It’s an inversion of the standard textbook buying procedure many of us experienced in college. Back in my day, you’d pray you could find a used book at the store, then hope you could get a fraction of that cost back when you returned it at the end of the semester.

With the Amazon model, you never pay that full price. The website’s FAQ says your rental may be a used book, but what do you expect for only a fraction of the bloated retail price?

Users can track books’ due dates on Amazon and will receive alerts when the time is drawing nigh for the books to be returned. A one-time 15-day extension can be granted for that time when your History of Landscape Architecture professor allows you to re-write your paper on something something or other (it’s been a while since I took the class and it obviously didn’t sink in).

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  1. Biokinetica says:

    Isn’t this essentially what Chegg has been doing for years?

    • Captain Spock says:

      Capital star trek Avatar! I see yours is as distorted as mine after the website changeover.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      if the pricing is the same, this would be better. no shipping back and forth. The problem with chegg is that some classes don’t tell you want book you need until the first day of class. Then you need to wait for chegg to deliver the books.

      chegg should get in on this.

      • Biokinetica says:

        That’s if you’re using the Kindle edition, though. In that case, you’d need a Kindle. which is an extra $200. But when you consider the savings made after the first year, they will likely pay for the device, so maybe that won’t be as much of an issue.

        • tlf0803 says:

          Seeing as they offer Kindles for $79, I don’t see that being a problem …

          • Biokinetica says:

            That don’t have color. Kiss scientific text books goodbye. I’m talking about the Kindle Fire. I wouldn’t touch the original with a ten-foot pole.

        • Whitebacon says:

          You can use Kindle for PC or MAC to view these as well. I rented a Kindle book for a couple of math classes this summer and it was so much better than dropping 125 on a physical copy.

        • Whitebacon says:

          You can use Kindle for PC or MAC to view these as well. I rented a Kindle book for a couple of math classes this summer and it was so much better than dropping 125 on a physical copy.

  2. Coffee says:

    This is a wonderful development for college students. I know that everyone who went to college has a version of this story: took an Intro Psych class and had to purchase a fairly expensive (at the time) book for around a hundred bucks. Fast forward to the end of the semester and I’m trying to sell it back, but they will be carrying the new edition next semester and will only give me $4 in store credit if I sell the book back.

    I would have loved this option ten years ago.

    • Jane_Gage says:

      Yes. High time this monopoly got shattered. I’m also envious of middle and high school students who can attend school on-line.

      • Press1forDialTone says:

        Okay, close all the college oriented book stores and don’t bitch when you find
        out that thousands of people were put out of work and lost all their benefits if
        they even had them to begin with.

        • Coffee says:

          I’m sorry, but this seems like a straw man argument. The fact that people are employed at stores that sell college textbooks doesn’t somehow create in me, as the consumer, a sense of obligation. It’s unfortunate if the change in business model affects them, but progress shouldn’t be stopped just because it means some people will lose their jobs.

          • Biokinetica says:

            I agree with Coffee. The Barnes & Noble at my university has responded to moves like these by having their own rental program that’s open to certain books. They’re still pushing the Nook, too.

          • Press1forDialTone says:

            You’ll think that right up until its YOU who are out on the street.
            F*** my fellow man/woman. I am the most important person on
            this damn planet. Ha ha. It’s coarseness like yours that perpetuates
            the recession.

            • The Cosmic Avenger says:

              Yeah, well, I work for a plant that manufactures butt plugs and vibrators. How many of each do you own? If it’s not eleventy-seven, which I say is the right amount, Y U NO SUPPORT UR FELLOW HUMIN BEEN?!??!!

              • Press1forDialTone says:

                Did you cat write that last sentence?
                Hey if you work for a butt plug factory you’re MUCH
                (and I mean much) closer to them than I have ever
                been. In fact scratch that, I think you put in a butt
                plug and that explains the last sentence.

                • Bladerunner says:

                  That’s right, question the method of delivery and not the counterpoint itself, that’ll convince people you have a legitimate point!

                  You still haven’t addressed why we shouldn’t move forward with new methods of learning, instead trying to say that progress that actually still includes the material you’re talking about somehow will make all books become illegal (didn’t have to google Fahrenheit 451, btw, I read it. On my Kindle.)

            • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

              I’ve been taking college classes pretty solidly since 2002. In that time, I’ve purchased about 85% of my books from retailers that were NOT my college bookstore. However, they remain in business. I know many of my friends and fellow classmates use services such as Chegg, Half.com, ebay, etc. I think your argument, it is moot.

            • Jane_Gage says:

              The book store at the college I went to was staffed by work study gruntlets making 7 an hour. At least I worked in the tutoring center and was able to translate that as a resume notch for my career. Selling a biology textbook for 400 dollars isn’t as bad as selling bottles of water for ten dollars after a hurricane hits, but it’s still pretty crappy.

          • Joedragon says:

            well maybe we should pay the student athletes at least min wage for practice.

            some student athletes get easy / make work jobs in school that should be filled by non athletes

        • Jawaka says:

          Somehow I feel that they’ll still make a pretty handsome profit on these text books even if they have to cut prices by a third.

      • Biokinetica says:

        That route is unproven. I expect that there will be a lot of remedial education needing to be done primary school kids who go to school online. On top of that, learning to work in a group will need extensive polish if they make it to undergrad, putting them at an inherent disadvantage when gunning for grad school.

        • Jane_Gage says:

          I doubt I could work well in a group if I had gone through ten years of high school, it just made me feel like failure. For others I think it’s a major distraction, research shows that same sex education produces better academic results.

          • Biokinetica says:

            Does it also show emotional maturity toward the opposite sex? While not part of the learning curriculum, that is something that’s expected of somebody coming out of high school.

        • Press1forDialTone says:

          Amen to that.

    • Captain Spock says:

      I stopped buying books after awhile. My teachers were not even teaching from them.

      • Press1forDialTone says:

        You’re supoosed to read the textbook -and- go to the lectures.
        Since you said you stopped buying and reading the books, that
        explains a lot.

        • The Beer Baron says:

          Actually, the fact that Captain Spock appears to be of the Vulcan persuasion explains even more, insofar as I am sure he would find any college course offered at any human institution of learning to be easy enough to follow without reading the textbooks. He is far more intelligent than you, is what I am attempting to convey.

    • bluline says:

      Yeah, and that “new edition” may have differed by only a paragraph or two. College textbooks are one of the biggest scams in the U.S.

      • Press1forDialTone says:

        Yeah, this whole industry devoted to increasing people’s knowledge
        and thinking skills is for the birds. Hail to thee, the coming Idiocracy!
        Fahrenheit 451 (Google it) here I come. Make it crime to read college
        textbooks and make them all have just pictures, if people have them in
        their homes, burn ‘em!!

        • Biokinetica says:

          Has it ever occurred to you that people like to read books in digital form or listen to audio books? Preservation of the text book monopoly is not necessary for the preservation of learning. And the text book industry is no more devoted to people’s knowledge as Monsanto is devoted to people’s health.

          • Press1forDialTone says:

            Of course people like to listen to audio books and read e-books.
            I do it. I’m not some Luddite. The quality of what is available for
            people to read is directly related to the quality of their thinking
            and learning processes. Other things are too, but reading in any
            form is very powerful be it crap or non-crap.

            • Biokinetica says:

              Then you shouldn’t have a problem with the market evolving to increase the penetration of digital books. Physical book stores can evolve to meet the challenges in ways not even websites can. Imagine a book store that shifts from being a place where the books are housed to a place where books can be previewed and discussed. Adding a social element to the shopping experience is what malls are thinking about doing to combat the internet. One idea was to put Xboxes by the changing room so the guys won’t feel totally bored when shopping with their girlfriends who are trying on way too much crap. Putting dining areas right in the middle of clothing stores like Macy’s allow the patrons to stay longer and rest while they shop.

              The same can be done for book stores. Put kiosks in the stores that have digital, cut-down versions of all the books they sell, with nice chairs and tables everywhere. Throw in a cafe and it’s an instant meetup spot to talk about whoever’s latest book. The free WiFi offered by the book store serves as the download terminal for the books, with everything being sponsored by the publishers.

              There are ways for everybody to get what they want so long as no one party tries to take too much.

        • The Beer Baron says:

          It amuses me that you are still working under the outdated misapprehension that the modern college experience is in any way about providing a classical education and critical thinking skills and not about lining the coffers of institutions and professors at the expense of the student.

          I must admit, though, your diatribe about making college textbooks illegal befuddles me. Were you perhaps struck on the head as a small child? That could explain it. I’d set an appointment with a phrenologist post haste!

        • wombats lives in [redacted] says:

          Hey buddy, how you doing? I think you might need a /hug.

    • Press1forDialTone says:

      Were any of our books in college compelling enough so that you still have them?
      I doubt it from your comment. And just to make sure, look in the mirror, it’s ten years
      later.

      • MutantMonkey says:

        Based on the sheer number of responses on this topic, it seems like you are really worked up about this. Why?

      • lobsterssss says:

        Dude, Dial, just stop talking. You’re contributing nothing to the conversation and you’re just throwing out petty insults at people. I’m guessing you work in a book store – it’s the only thing that can explain the animosity you have towards anything but physical books bought brand new for market price.

        ” It’s coarseness like yours that perpetuates the recession.”

        So, what will you have us do? Give up automated manufacturing, computers, cars, basically EVERYTHING that makes our modern life modern, so that people can have the old jobs their used to instead of training our offspring to be prepared for a future with *gasp* DIFFERENT jobs than are available today?

        Renting a book instead of buying it will do NOTHING to harm sales. Someone still has to buy the book in order for it to be rented out. And, believe it or not, schools DO change books after a few years. Hell, I had one teacher who required the newest edition of a book for his class every year.

        • Press1forDialTone says:

          For God’s sake, I don’t work in a bookstore. Sheesh.
          My main gripe is that information in all forms including
          books should have an important place as we go forward
          in that part of people’s lives that has to do with education.
          Any part of that virtual sea of information that we toss aside
          we do so at our peril in the future. Also, when I drop a Kindle,
          it breaks, when I drop a book, I say darn it and reach down and
          pick it up for whatever thats worth and you’ll say it’s worthless.

          • Bladerunner says:

            The reason everyone assumes (including me) you must work or have a vested interest in the textbook industry is that it’s the only explanation for the incoherent arguments and obvious, ridiculous bias you’ve been putting forward.

          • lobsterssss says:

            The only part of your post that made any sense what-so-ever was the last sentence, and even that can barely hold it’s weight. I’ve had the same iPhone for 2 years and have dropped it more times than I can remember, and it’s still fine. My former iPad and current Fire have endured the same, and, yep, they are still running.

            And, FYI, converting from one medium to another does not = ‘tossing aside information.”

          • The Cosmic Avenger says:

            THE COMPUTER IS NOT YOUR IBM SELECTRIC, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HIT ENTER AT THE END OF EVERY LINE STOP PLEASE JUST LET THE TEXT WRAP STOP PLEASE STOP STOP

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Seriously. Having to buy as many books as I have for my recent classes (and most of those from Amazon) I would have loved to be able to rent them instead. However, I’ve been doing pretty well with Amazon’s buy it and trade it in later set up as well.

  3. Hi_Hello says:

    I’m sure the college text book industry will find ways around it. Require you to buy a new one before the new one has a CD. Or it has a key that is one time used for some online BS access.

  4. donjumpsuit says:

    Amazon is officially awesome. Again, like everyone else, I wish this was available in 1996!

    This along with reselling video games has brought back some sort of respect to life. How long have I been upset at buying used books, then having to resell them at 10% of that value. Same with video games at “Gamestop”.

    Buy it new =$59.
    Buy it used =$55.
    Sell it back 2 days later for $10.

    With Amazon you can buy it used for $40, then sell it on Amazon for $40. (Amazon takes ~$3.50 but you can charge as much as you want for shipping)

    This solved two of the three injustices in life. Now Amazon has to start offering individual cable networks for a monthly fee, and it will be utopia~!

    • Press1forDialTone says:

      And your time is worth nothing considering the huge amount you’ll be
      spending sending those big heavy books BACK to Amazon. Sounds
      like fun!!! Maybe you can get drunk or high and have a textbook packing
      partay to send back books you haven’t even looked at the table of contents
      of.

      • lobsterssss says:

        Yes, because $8 shipping and a free box from USPS is SUCH a burden, especially after renting a book for $50 instead of paying $250 for a new one.

        Your arguments, they make no sense.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    LOVE IT!!

    Maybe textbook makers will start pricing their books more appropriately instead of gouging the market. And stop making new editions every for the sole purpose of making more money.

    • Press1forDialTone says:

      Yeah, I hate those new editions. Things don’t change much nowadays anyhow.
      Why can’t we just use the 5 year old version of that physics or medical textbook??
      But by God you better keep updating The Sims cuz I am bored!!!!

      • Bagels says:

        Yeah, those ever changing laws of physics!!!! i can’t keep up with them!

        • Lyn Torden says:

          They keep adding stuff to the periodic table, too. Stuff you and I will NEVER even get to see. It’s probably fake just to sell more textbook revisions.

      • Bladerunner says:

        Got an example of a book that had a new edition every year for 5 years that had significant differences from each edition?

        Your examples are hilarious, as those are two fields that are consistently slow moving in terms of relevant, confirmed new information (which is what should be in a textbook). They taught pressure points for years in EMS, as well as the older 15/2 compression system for double rescuer, despite knowing they were wrong, because it hadn’t been confirmed enough yet. And, as Bagels noted, the laws of physics have been tweaked a few times, but not yearly.

  6. Press1forDialTone says:

    Yeah, let’s get those textbooks (um er part of the actual basis of your education,
    not really Harry Potter or the TV Guide or Entertainment Weekly which of course
    are so much more important in the long run) down to the bare bones prices.
    Lets get the quality down too, because the smart folks WON’T HELP WRITE THOSE
    BOOKS UNLESS THEY ARE ADEQUATELY COMPENSATED. Hell, we don’t need no
    stinking experts to get that there college degree. Me? I’m getting mine while I fix
    dinner for my out of work husband, my 2 year old and the one that’s in the oven!

    • Coffee says:

      How will paying less to “rent” electronic textbooks negatively impact the people who are writing them? Right now, someone writes a textbook, then there are printing costs, distribution costs, income lost because of the used book markets, etc…additionally, authors are pressured to constantly churn out slightly different versions of existing texts so that students have to purchase them new rather than buying a used book. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the net result for authors was a beneficial one.

      • HSVhockey says:

        Coffee, you know better than to feed the troll. Look at all of this idiots posts on this subject, he is either a troll or a failing bookstore owner who is also a professor in physics at a community college and relies on the profits from his $200 intro to dynamic physics book to survive. And while I was typing this out, seems like they need to leave the 90’s and hit the gym. “..sending those big heavy books BACK to Amazon. Sounds
        like fun!!! Maybe you can get drunk or high and have a textbook packing
        partay…”

        • Coffee says:

          I know better, but I can’t help myself! :D

        • Press1forDialTone says:

          I just love how many assumption you made about me.
          I reply to comments that are made on a subject that is important
          to me (no I am not a professor or a failing bookstore owner).
          I lived my personal and worklife in a manner that has enabled me
          to retire at 55. Hit the gym? I’m 5’11” 175lbs, been doing it since
          I hit 40. You know the old adage: If you assume it make an ass out
          of u but in this case not me. Oh, in the 90’s I was working in IT and
          bringing about some of the technology that you just can’t live without
          now. Now go hit the books!

          • Quirk Sugarplum says:

            You worked in IT, bringing about some of the technology that I just can’t live without? Did you ever stop to think for one moment about all the poor souls who you were putting out on the street? The losses in the typewriter industry alone was staggering! I remember watching carbon-paper salemen jumping to their deaths from towering reams of stock rather than face the shame of going home jobless. How do you live with yourself? And how do you think it makes ME feel, learning that I’m using the disgusting fruits of your labors? I can’t even look at you now.

            • The Cosmic Avenger says:

              He invented The MySpace. I hear that was popular back in the 90s. I wouldn’t know, I was too busy getting my Master’s degree while working full-time, although according to P1fDT, I’m a drooling, illiterate idiot because I like e-books in addition to paper books.

      • Press1forDialTone says:

        You want a quality education (assuming you could benefit from it) well
        let me tell you a secret: Smart people who are capable of teaching others
        are sick of getting the short end of the stick. Knowledge and Information is
        power and if you want to just thumb your nose at those who do know, and
        can teach, fine, join the Idiocracy, hell half the folks under 30 can’t even
        spell. Otherwise, we teach you on our terms, hey its just progress!

        • lobsterssss says:

          Seriously, you contribute nothing and you avoid everything that people are trying to talk to you about. Why bother posting.

        • Bladerunner says:

          If you’re going to complain about others’ spelling, it is generally advisable to spellcheck yourself.

    • Solenoid says:

      You are (at least in some cases) mistaken. I was just involved in the writing of a chapter for an upper level textbook for graduate/medical students. The professors (and their labs) involved in producing the actual content for the book are compensated with a copy or two of the book and a new line in their CVs. No money was exchanged. Apparently, “adequately compensated” is not a high bar.

      • Bladerunner says:

        Press1 is mistaken in most cases. The only ones who turn significant profits off textbook sales as a general rule are the textbook publishers. The “smart people” who write them are getting the short end now, and it won’t get any shorter just because there’s a new method for marketing books on Amazon.

    • The Beer Baron says:

      I say, my good man, but is there something you are angered about? It seems to me you’re taking a logical shift in business quite personally. It reminds me of many years ago, when we automated the Beer Barony. The workers argued that I was increasing efficiency at the cost of their jobs, and how could I just throw them out? I pointed out that if they were concerned, they could be trained in maintaining the automated lines and adapt to a changing situation the same way we were doing.

      In case you didn’t happen to read all of your economics textbook (I did), this is reflecting a very basic economic principle: essentially, there is a point where a price is too high for even a captive market, and people will simply stop paying it. Inevitably someone will create a business to take advantage of the new market created. This is capitalism in it’s most basic form. Why are you so resistant to it? Why do you demand we consider the needs of other workers and place them above our own? I am not obligated, as a customer, to pay inflated prices just because someone else needs to eat; I do too. You sound like a Red Communist to me, good sir. You’re not a Red Communist are you?

  7. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Beware buying used text books from Barnes & Noble’s Marketplace. We got a bad dealer & it took a month to get the book. They tell B&N that’s it has shipped, so they can prevent cancellations, but don’t actually ship until they get paid by B&N 2-3 weeks later

  8. Aliciaz777 says:

    Oh how I wish this was available when I was in college. I took an Anthropology class one semester and the professor required 2 books. One was about $75 and the other was $200. We used the $75 one almost every day but the $200 one? We used it once…ONCE! I was fuming pissed. Then when I tried to sell it at the end of the semester, the book store told me they had too many of that book and weren’t buying any more back. I still hate that professor. Luckily, professors like her were the minority. The majority openly stated they knew books were very expensive so they did their best to teach the classes without them. If we needed any pages, they’d make copies from their own book and hand out the Xerox’d pages to the class. Thank gawd there’s professors out there who realize college students are usually poor.

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      It’s always the most absurdly expensive ones, isn’t it? I literally needed zero of my textbooks last semester.

      But I’m much too anxious a person to just wait and see, and buy the book a week or two in if I need it. The idea of needing a textbook the first week of class and not having it is worse to me, somehow, than spending $100 on a book I never use. Yeesh, what a sad sentence.

    • The Beer Baron says:

      *GASP*

      The horror! What savages! What boors! To think of all the poor bookstore workers those professors put out of work in some misguided attempt to save some rich college student some money, to say nothing of their own colleagues who went hungry because of their actions. What arrogance! What insolence! How DARE they?

  9. cactus jack says:

    I like having some of my old textbooks around. I still reference some of my design and marketing books.

    For most of the freshman & sophomore classes I bought previous editions and mostly just noticed chapter numbers/order being different and that was about it.

    • cactus jack says:

      Just remembered some other fun stuff. Professors who write their own textbook tend to have temper tantrums during the first week of class if students do not purchase a brand new current edition (or even better, if you didn’t buy it from his/her preferred bookstore. They “know” because they made sure only to order the correct number of books.).

  10. Overheal says:

    Textbooks are a joke anyway:

    -I can pay $250 for a Physics textbook that weighs 12 lbs and is, just a big annoying book

    OR

    -I can find that book as a bittorrent for free, have it downloaded to my phone, ipod, laptop, desktop, and tablet, broken up into individual PDFs by chapter, and have the text searchable, and have it weigh absolutely nothing but a few theoretical electron shifts between a 1 and a 0?

    Guess which one I chose!

    • beachdad says:

      You chose theft, apparently.

      • raydeebug says:

        The legitimate system feels like theft from the consumer’s side.

        Many people when faced with the choice of “getting fleeced” or robbing some faceless corporation through a “victimless crime” will be picking the latter.

  11. aleck says:

    “Now Amazon is getting into one business still dominated by college book stores: textbook rentals”.

    College book stores are not in rental business. They are in a monopolistic scam of selling books to a captive market, buying them back at deflated price and then selling them again. I am glad this is coming to an end.

  12. Rebecca K-S says:

    The rental system is still kind of a mess. You can only rent one textbook per transaction – as soon as you click “rent,” you’re taken directly to the checkout screen, with no option to add more, and once you’re on the “order review” page, there’s an option to edit your shipping/billing addresses, but not your actual order. Of course, if you back out of that page, the order appears to magically disappear.

    Two of my three textbooks were cheaper to rent from Amazon (Chegg beat it out for the last one by a significant amount), but yeesh, what a tremendous pain in the ass.

    Anyway, I’m sure there are better ways still to get textbooks and save money, but at least I know for sure what my net cash outlay will be with renting.

    • lvdave says:

      Its the same thing if you buy a lot of MP3 tracks from their MP3 store.. EACH track is a separate transaction, and Amazon seems to have an aversion to adding a cart to the store.. I had to buy a bunch of separate tracks a while back and there were a big bunch of .99cent transactions on my credit card.. Surprised the CC company didn’t flag it as fraud…

  13. Willow16 says:

    My daughter is starting college in a few weeks so we’re dealing with textbook buying right now. I was able to find her $200 calculus book for $10 on bookstores.com. It is used, paperback and the international edition but reviews stated it had the same pagination as the hardcover US edition so, for $10, we were willing to risk it. Her Spanish book is another story – it comes with an iLrn access code and her only choices from the university bookstore are the new hardcover for $90 or the eBook for $60. I can find the book used online but the bookstore is not selling the iLrn access code separately. Another gotcha is the book for her “Journey of Transformation” class. Last year the professors used hand outs and the internet for that class. This year, the university wrote a $42 book specifically for this class so it can’t be found used or any other place.

    She is buying the books herself so I want to help her spend as little as possible. It’s very frustrating!

  14. centurion says:

    This is one of the things my daughter used to get all of her first semester college books for under $200.00. She had to buy only 1 of them.
    Considering the cost of tuition, you have to get the best deals you can get.

  15. darknight7884 says:

    The textbook rental program offered by Amazon is nothing new to the industry, just another entrant in the market. Most college bookstores are offering rental programs to compete with rental programs like Amazon, Bookrenter, or Chegg. However, publishers are ultimately the ones who refuse to change without causing a ruckus, and they are in the back pocket of most professors.

    Anyone who has been to larger colleges in the past few years know that most lower-level (and increasingly–upper-level) books are either custom packages bundled with absolutely necessary access codes that when sold separately cost more than if you would have just bought the package to begin with, or custom books made explicitly for that school and cannot be found on Amazon.com because it is just not worth it to them to sell it.

    Publishers sell these packaged or custom books to professors through whatever means necessary, usually by offering to take some of the workload off of professors like creating tests and such; if they can secure the adoption, the students are literally forced into buying said book, or fail. Its sad.

    As a result, what is needed more than a competitor to college bookstores, is a viable competitor to publishers. Now that would be some exciting change.

    Sincerely,

    –An actual seasoned college bookstore person.