College is expensive. Really expensive. And textbooks make up a good chunk of that cash outlay, with textbooks for a year of college easily topping $1,000. Students who are plugged in have already discovered that they can cut that cost at least a bit by opting to make full use of their e-reader and buying e-book versions of the textbooks instead, enjoying savings that may be a few hundred dollars off that $1,000+ tally (even more if they are lucky and happen to require those rare textbooks that are priced at less than half the cost of their paper counterparts). Of course, one downside to going with buying the e-book versions is that they can't really be re-sold after use, so that savings may be wiped out by lack of a small cash bonanza at the end of the year when the armloads of paper books are carted off to the used bookstore.
However, Amazon recently announced a new program that just might make a big difference to Kindle e-reader toting students. And students who are into reading e-books on their laptops, computers and tablets.
The Kindle Textbook Rental program promotes savings of up to 80 percent off the list price of the print (paper) versions of the textbooks. The way this works is that Amazon allows you to specify a rental period (anywhere from 30 to 360 days) and purchase access to the e-book version of the textbook based on your period of usage — in other words, you rent it. If you have a course that lasts for only one semester and you'll have no need of the textbook afterward, this could represent a pretty significant savings. In the example that Amazon uses, the print version of a textbook lists through Amazon.com for $184.99, while the Kindle e-book version lists for $109.20. Renting the Kindle e-book version for the minimum 30 days costs $40.54, a savings that could quickly add up. Finding which e-books are eligible is easy; Amazon includes a rental option in the pricing for any e-textbooks that are available for rental.
The rental program is quite flexible, so if you decide that you want to hold on to the text for a few more days than you'd originally paid for, you can top up the rental in one day increments. If you really love the book, you can convert it to a purchase as well. And even if you let the rental expire, losing access to the e-book, any notes or highlights you made in the text are still accessible through Amazon.com. A lot easier than digging up your old paper textbook at the used book store to retrieve that incredibly insightful note you left in the margin of your old Biology 101 text!
Of course nothing is perfect and there are always catches. The first is that this program is offered through Amazon, so insert the standard Kindle 'proprietary format' comment here — this means if you have Kindle or a device capable of running a Kindle app (like an iPad or PC) you're golden, but if you plan on using a Sony, Barnes & Noble or Kobo e-reader, time to move on since Kindle books are incompatible with these devices. Availability is also an issue, since not all textbook publishers have signed on to the idea.
For those students with the right combo of technology availability and textbook requirements, the potential savings could be enough to subsidize that Spring Break trip to Daytona Beach...
Press release here.