Amazon launches digital rentals of college textbooks

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By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, MCT

College textbooks are getting a bit more affordable.

Amazon.com Inc. on Monday said it launched a program in which college students can rent digital copies of “tens of thousands of textbooks” at a fraction of the cost of buying them.

The online retailer said the rental fees could be as much as 80 percent lower than the purchase price. Students can rent a textbook for as few as 30 days or up to 360 days, with fees based on how long the book is rented, Amazon said.

Rentals can be read on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, as well as on Macs and PCs that have the Kindle app. They can also be read on smartphones and tablet computers running the Apple iOS, Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and Google Android operating systems.

Once the rental period is up for a textbook, students can choose to purchase books or rent them again for a period of as little as one extra day, Amazon said. Among publishers offering rentals through Amazon are John Wiley & Sons Inc., Elsevier and Taylor & Francis Group Ltd.

Amazon said students will be able to take notes and highlight text.

“We’ve done a little something extra we think students will enjoy,” said Dave Limp, vice president of Amazon’s Kindle unit. “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.”

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