How Amazon’s New Textbook Rental Service Works (For Now)

Big news for the textbook rental industry. Amazon is now offering a textbook rental service just in time for the start of the upcoming school year.

They’re saying it’s going to save students as much as 70% off the typical retail price. I’m assuming teacher editions are also going to be included.

What Amazon Is Offering

Here’s the skinny on the new service.

  • You can use your Amazon Student account (or Amazon Prime account) for free 2-day shipping on most textbooks (orders must be over $25).
  • You’ll also get free return shipping when you send the book back at the end of the semester.
  • Books are rented for 130 days, the standard length of time Amazon says is a semester.
  • Textbooks may come as new or used depending on availability.
  • Need to keep the book longer? You can purchase the book without having to return it.
  • Writing in the rented textbook is discouraged as it’ll be used by future students. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if most rented books get written in and then returned. If that happens however, you’ll have to buy the book. In other words, if you know you’re going to highlight and write in the margins… you may want to just buy a used version anyway.
  • You can already rent textbooks via the Amazon Kindle. This new feature is for printed books.

Surprising? Not Really

Honestly, it’s kind of surprising that it took Amazon this long to jump onto the textbook renting train. Companies like Chegg have been disrupting the textbook industry for years now. But after years of textbook rental, they’re pivoting to become an academic hub that focuses on homework help, scholarships, and being environmentally friendly.

The Future Is Approaching

Textbook rentals, to me, feel like a stopgap solution. We’re all slowly getting more accustomed to the idea that textbooks can and should be read on tablets. But the popularity of printed books means that we’ll be using them for quite a few more years.

At some point though, look for textbook rentals to become less popular and for e-book rentals to be the lion’s share of the industry. The times they are a-changing.