Juggernaut Amazon is striking another blow at the traditional textbook industry by offering semester-long rentals of physical books. The listings for a number of textbooks now include a "rent" option that's usually around $50 for a title that sells for $170. According to Amazon's FAQ, the books are rented out by the semester (counted as 130 days), with one 15-day extension allowed. Textbooks are shipped at standard prices, and the cost of returning them is paid by Amazon. Depending on their luck, renters might receive a book that's new or one that's gently used.
Ebay's Half.com and other sites rent textbooks at roughly similar prices, but Amazon's ubiquity means it's likely to make the practice more mainstream. While Amazon also offers a buyback option for textbooks, buying and selling one back still costs slightly more, and students who sell the books are given Amazon gift cards, not cash. Amazon currently only rents textbooks in the US, and it warns students that they may be charged full price for damaged textbooks or ones with "excessive writing or highlighting" at the end of the semester.