Amazon Textbook Rental Launches, Leaves Smaller College Textbook Sites in a Lurch (AMZN)

Posted by · August 7, 2012 10:48 am

Textbooks and Collection of Assignments for 1s...Taking what has long been the next logical step in its books business, Amazon announced the launch of its book rental service, simply entitled Amazon Textbook Rental, on Tuesday. In a press release published in The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch section, the online retail giant outlined the simple process that would allow college students to rent textbooks for a semester and reap major discounts (up to 70 percent, according to Amazon) with a couple clicks.

All the user has to do is perform a standard search for a book on Amazon and then choose the “Rent Now” option, which will then lead the user through the standard shipping and payment steps that are customary to the Amazon experience. Then, to make the return process as seamless as possible, Amazon Book Rental also includes a free prepaid return label that renters can print out at the end of the rental period.

“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,” explains Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s Director of Textbooks. “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.”

College Textbook Rentals: Not the Newest Idea

However, contrary to the implied novelty of this “one-stop shop” approach that MacDonald is promoting, Amazon Textbook Rental is hardly the first service of its kind. As a recent college grad, I can testify first-hand to the vast array of college book rental sites that offer similar, if not larger discounts than those offered by Amazon.

Such sites include, (which I used for most of my undergraduate studies),,, and several others.

All of these sites work in relatively the same manner. Students navigate to the site, where visitors are immediately asked to enter the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), Title or Author Name for the textbook they need. They are then taken to a list of search results, where they can choose to buy or rent the book and, if applicable, choose between getting a new or used book. Finally, after students have completed their semester coursework, these sites, like Amazon, also supply a free printable return shipping label to make the process, well, textbook.

With the steep price of college textbooks these days—sometimes costing upwards of $300 for a book that is only needed for one semester—it’s difficult not to see the launch of Amazon Textbook Rental as a net gain for students looking to save money in any way that they can, especially in this economy. However, given the ubiquity of the Amazon brand, I can think of others who will likely experience a net loss from Amazon’s debut on the textbook rental scene.

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