By Brittany Hazelwood
Amazon’s online textbook rental platform was launched Monday, enticing college students across the U.S with discounts up to 80% on textbook list prices. Tens of thousands of textbooks will be made available for the 2011 school year, according to the Amazon-issued press release. Students will be able to rent textbooks for as little as 30 days and up to 360 days, with the option to either purchase or extend the title’s lease at the end of the rental period. John Wiley & Sons, Elsevier and Taylor & Francis are among the leading publishers offering their titles to the program.
An added perk of the Amazon rental setup is the opportunity for students to save their notes and highlights via Whispersync technology. Amazon Kindle VP David Limp explained, “We’ve done a little something extra we think students will enjoy, normally, when you sell your print textbook at the end of the semester you lose all the margin notes and highlights you made as you were studying. We’re extending our Whispersync technology so that you get to keep and access all of your notes and highlighted content in the Amazon Cloud, available anytime, anywhere — even after a rental expires. If you choose to rent again or buy at a later time, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced.” It was not disclosed whether this service would be free or not.
After a quick search of Amazon’s textbook rental offering, some may be disappointed that several popular (and pricey) textbooks not yet apart of the Amazon lineup, such as Peter Gray’s Psychology series and James Stewart’s Calculus series. While Amazon’s offering relieves the pockets of many social sciences and technical students (I.e. Engineering, Mathematics, Psychology, etc.), the humanities textbook selection remains small. However, the platform is fully functional on most popular devices through the free Kindle Reading App for PC, Mac, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Android-based devices. As students are well on their way to being unfettered from list price textbooks, instructors this Fall may have to adopt new policies regarding cell phone usage in class.