As of today, students can rent textbooks from the Amazon Kindle store. This basically means that instead of paying a fixed price to buy a digital copy of a book, you instead tell Amazon how long you need it for and pay accordingly. The selection is as you can imagine not the best right off the bat and as with most things Amazon this will primarily be for US students, but it’s still a step in the right direction to get textbooks down in price.
That being said, I have a hard time being overly impressed by this new service. While it will help make textbooks cheaper, there’s still a lot of room for improvements – in the textbook market as a whole, not Amazon in particular. The textbook market is being artificially kept alive by the fact that students are required to buy the books, and so they haven’t really been subject to the same drop in price that other printed media has had to endure. Many textbooks are outdated before they hit the market, contain errors, or could frankly have been replaced completely by Wikipedia. Add to that the fact that digital books have no printing and few distribution costs, then even the rental prices seem too much.[Amazon Textbook Rental via TechCrunch]