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Amazon tackles soaring textbook prices

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Amazon is sending its Kindle ebook reader off to college, enrolling it in a program to help save students from the crushing burden of skyrocketing textbook prices.

"We're excited to offer students an option to rent Kindle textbooks and only pay for the time they need – with savings up to 80 per cent off the print list price on a 30-day rental," says Amazon's Kindle kingpin Dave Limp in a canned statement.

The new program – called, appropriately enough, Kindle Textbook Rental – will enable students to rent books for periods from 30 and 360 days. There's also an option to buy the book at any time during the rental, or to extend the rental period in increments as brief as a single day.

Amazon's program will also hold onto any notes and highlights that a student has made in his or her rental and has synched into the Amazon Cloud over the company's Whispersync service. Should the student eventually decide to buy that book – even well after the rental period has ended – Limp says that "your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced."

Of course, Amazon hasn't inaugurated this service – US-only at this point – merely out of the goodness of its heart. Not only is the online megaretailer presumably hoping to goose sales of the Kindle ebook reader itself, but there are also all those copies of Sizzling Sixteen and Smokin' Seventeen that students might buy for less-academic moments.

Still, with tuition costs going through the roof, anything that might help alleviate the equally soaring costs of textbooks is to be applauded. According to The Student PIRGs, students currently spend an average of $900 per year on textbooks, and textbook prices have increased four times as fast as inflation since 1994.

The Kindle Textbook Rental program should help put a dent in that $900 per year – perhaps even enough to pay for some other necessities of campus life, such as a couple of cases of Newcastle. ®

Bootnote

On the same day that Amazon announced its Kindle Textbook Rental program, the beleaguered, bankrupt, buyer-less Borders bookstore chain announced that it was liquidating, and closing its 399 brick-and-mortar stores. As your Reg reporter sang with his beaded, bearded buddies back when he was in college, "The Times, They Are A-Changin'".

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