Amazon has launched a new service that offers to mail out textbooks to students, who then use them for a pre-agreed period of time (usually a semester) before mailing them back. It’s a curiously old-fashioned service that might have huge implications for the academic publishing world.
Students have to pay to rent a textbook, but the price is considerably lower than they would pay to buy the same book. And that’s where publishers are likely to have problems, because traditionally academic titles have been pretty expensive. There have been other companies offering rental services before, but this is different: this is Amazon. It’ll be interesting to see how publishers (and third-party sellers) respond to the move, and to find out whether they were consulted in advance.
Here’s the FAQ page for the service, and already some textbook pages are starting to show ‘rent’ buttons on their pages (although these are disappearing, so perhaps the service isn’t quite ready for a full launch yet). As you might expect, this is US-only for now.