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Amazon Lets Students Rent Digital Textbooks

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the disrupting-the-textbook-cartels dept.

Education 174

nk497 writes "Amazon has unveiled a new digital textbook rental service, allowing students to choose how long they'd like access to an eBook-version of a textbook via their Kindle or app — with the retailer claiming savings as high as 80%. Kindle Textbook Rental will let students use a text for between 30 and 360 days, adding extra days as they need to. Any notes or highlighted text will be saved via the Amazon Cloud for students to reference after the book is 'returned.' Amazon said tens of thousands of books would be available to rent for the next school year."

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Bad idea (4, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 3 years ago | (#36801290)

I routinely find myself referencing textbooks from courses that I took years ago. If students cannot afford their books, university libraries should provide copies; students should not be at the mercy of Amazon or any other company.

Re:Bad idea (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801310)

They should choose books that don't charge hundreds per copy. The textbook racket needs to be broken up with kickbacks to instructors or universities strictly called unethical.

Re:Bad idea (2)

ilsaloving (1534307) | about 3 years ago | (#36801330)

Dpends on your field, I think. I still have my old computer programming textbooks from university, but that's more due to nostalgia than anything else. Especially for things like languages that significantly over time (such as java), keeping old books is pointless.

Re:Bad idea (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#36801710)

Dpends on your field, I think. I still have my old computer programming textbooks from university, but that's more due to nostalgia than anything else. Especially for things like languages that significantly over time (such as java), keeping old books is pointless.

Syntax of fast moving targets yes. Concepts, no. Knuth is still good stuff.

Basically old IT books are about as valuable as old IT software and hardware. On the other hand, old CS books are still valuable.

definition of science? (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 3 years ago | (#36802100)

Dpends on your field, I think. I still have my old computer programming textbooks from university, but that's more due to nostalgia than anything else. Especially for things like languages that significantly over time (such as java), keeping old books is pointless.

So true. And it made me wonder. Is a science something in which the text books change slowly not annually? Computer science versus computer enginieering versus computer vocational training? How can it be science or even engineering if the textbooks go obsolete so fast?

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801332)

How much money do you think Universities have to spend on library copies? And how does this solve your object of people not being able to reference the book later on. How can they reference a library copy later on, since the library or another student will have it? At least with the Amazon solution they can look at their notes and highlighted text later on. And I image could rent the book again if they so need or could actually buy a copy of the rare book that they need to have around.

Re:Bad idea (2)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 3 years ago | (#36801340)

I routinely find myself referencing textbooks from courses that I took years ago. If students cannot afford their books, university libraries should provide copies; students should not be at the mercy of Amazon or any other company.

Amen to that. If I didn't have many of the textbooks from old courses I took, it would almost be as if I never took the course in the first place. I have always thought that in many courses, you aren't merely taking them to fully learn the actual knowledge...you are taking them to learn that the knowledge actually exists in the first place. Later you find that you need the knowledge, or that it is interesting to you, and you go back and re-read the textbooks.

Re:Bad idea (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 3 years ago | (#36801456)

Didn't you take notes in those courses?

In my first semester I made the error to rely on the text book (well, at least in one course). After that, I wrote complete notes for any course. Which resulted not only in me having the complete material covered in the course without paying anything, but also having it memorized much better than by using the book, because it all went through my brain in order to get into my notes.

Re:Bad idea (1)

tommy2tone (2357022) | about 3 years ago | (#36801520)

Didn't you take notes in those courses?

This isn't always possible in some engineering or math courses because either the professor relies on the book too heavily or moves to quickly for adequate notes to be taken. Too often I have looked through my notes and wondered what I wrote down only to refer back to the text to verify...

Re:Bad idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801604)

This is a symptom of using toilet-paper grade textbooks. If your autogun-speed scrawled notes even slightly approach the quality of what is in the textbooks, then something is very wrong. If you actually gain a net advantage from having your notes despite being preoccupied in class with writing them in the fashion of an SMS'ing driver, then something is very, very wrong.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about 3 years ago | (#36801932)

Even though it was a sarcastic AC post, parent was quite insightful.

Re:Bad idea (3, Insightful)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about 3 years ago | (#36801982)

Didn't you take notes in those courses?

In my first semester I made the error to rely on the text book (well, at least in one course). After that, I wrote complete notes for any course. Which resulted not only in me having the complete material covered in the course without paying anything, but also having it memorized much better than by using the book, because it all went through my brain in order to get into my notes.

Did I say I didn't take notes? I often find that in a field that I have continued to study or use, going back to the textbook is more useful than going back to my notes. In fact, I sometimes find that sections of the textbook that were less useful to me when I was learning the material become more useful as a way to solidify and enhance my knowledge. If the material has been digesting in my brain for a few years, the reliable and thorough explanations in a good logical textbook make more sense than they ever did before.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36802160)

After that, I wrote complete notes for any course. Which resulted not only in me having the complete material covered in the course without paying anything, but also having it memorized much better than by using the book, because it all went through my brain in order to get into my notes.

This implies that the professor covers *all* the material in the course in the classroom. I found that in later years, this was less the case; what happened more is that the professor would use what was in the text on a particularly troublesome or interesting problem, and work through it in class using the knowledge contained within the book (though in their case, it was from their brain). I wouldn't have had it any other way, because on those difficult problems you need someone to help wrap your head around it (e.g. using a Fourier transform to turn the telegrapher's equation into a pseudo-ODE). I am not saying that this is usual for all academic paths, but probably comes as a result of the combination of engineering and physics. In this regard, owning the textbooks is incredibly useful where well-established math seldom changes; even in the case where physical models are found to be incomplete in some regard, there's a good chance that they are still useful for the majority of cases (e.g. the discovery of quantum mechanics only supplants classical mechanics where it is required ).

Re:Bad idea (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 3 years ago | (#36801342)

University libraries likely do, when I taught we put a few copies of the text for the class into the reserve.

Why shouldn't amazon offer an additional service to students?

Re:Bad idea (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36801694)

A few is exactly right. As a poor college student I tried to use those, sadly when you have 400 folks taking one class the three copies in the library are not exactly enough.

How about not using a new edition of the book every semester?
Or for something like Chemistry 101/Calculus how about using something in the public domain? Not like either of those fields have really changed in the past 100 years.

Re:Bad idea (4, Insightful)

Wiarumas (919682) | about 3 years ago | (#36801344)

I doubt you reference ALL of them. Books relevant to your major/career should probably be bought and kept, but there were dozens of books (each costing $100+) that I have absolutely no use for: math, chemistry, english, history, stat, etc. None of these are relevant to my major/career and I'd opt for a more entertaining book on a rainy day.

Re:Bad idea (1)

scubamage (727538) | about 3 years ago | (#36801700)

Agreed. Those silly computer science textbooks were a waste of money. Now those underwater basket weaving texts, I practically sleep with those things.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about 3 years ago | (#36801946)

downmod, missed the point. (OK, you may have been sarcastic but sarcasm loses it's value in written text).

Re:Bad idea (1)

scubamage (727538) | about 3 years ago | (#36801980)

It's called a joke. I mean, c'mon man, seriously? Underwater basket weaving? /facepalm

Re:Bad idea (1)

Dunega (901960) | about 3 years ago | (#36802118)

Full contact underwater basket weaving is much more exiciting.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Dunega (901960) | about 3 years ago | (#36802130)

Miiy 'i' kiey iiiis sticiikinig.

Re:Bad idea (2)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#36801844)

I doubt you reference ALL of them. Books relevant to your major/career should probably be bought and kept, but there were dozens of books (each costing $100+) that I have absolutely no use for: math, chemistry, english, history, stat, etc. None of these are relevant to my major/career and I'd opt for a more entertaining book on a rainy day.

Disagree strongly in theory, agree strongly in practice.

The old liberal arts idea was the "great books curriculum" where everyone had a common liberal arts canon of education. Everyone should have read at least Plato's Allegory of the Cave, and probably should own a copy if they're wealthy / cultured enough.

For financial reasons those books have been replaced in the sciences with "C++ in 24 hours for noobs professorial financial kickback edition new for 2011 obsolete in 2012" which invalidates both the common canon concept, and the "great books should be great" concept.

It would be very much like the philosophy department replacing Plato with the second Matrix movie, as long as they get a kickback.

Another example, you are not educated WRT history if you have read at least some of Gibbon's decline and fall. An educated person simply should own a copy of Gibbon. I do. However, your university history class will probably not require you to read Gibbon, you'll probably get stuck with "crappy flash in the pan (c) 2010 ancient history by mr forgettable" where mr forgettable's publisher provided the prof or dept head with a rather healthy kickback, your loss. And that book may as well be turned into cigarette paper once you're done with the class.

I don't know IT enough to know the classics, although I suspect Brooks would qualify. In CS I would think Knuth is obviously canon. The Little Schemer series is probably canon. I do know that someone who never read Knuth or Brooks does not really know as much as they think they do about computers.

It boils down to a collision between "great books" and corruption.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about 3 years ago | (#36801972)

Again, you missed the GPs point. Not ALL textbooks are going to be useful. There's a lot of terrible texts out there that don't address topics that are useful for everyday use. They might be interesting to some as an intellectual exercise but textbooks should have some component of use or at least interest.

Re:Bad idea (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#36802088)

Again, you missed the GPs point. Not ALL textbooks are going to be useful. There's a lot of terrible texts out there that don't address topics that are useful for everyday use. They might be interesting to some as an intellectual exercise but textbooks should have some component of use or at least interest.

If you went to school to get training, instead of an education, like a very expensive vo-tech school, then you're not going to like educational subjects. If you graduated but can't stand anything other than your major, you failed those classes, even if thru grade inflation "everyone got an A just for showing up" or whatever.

Most of this countries restaurant meals have been at McDonalds. That doesn't mean the concept of a five star restaurant cannot exist, or that no restaurants make food better than dog food, or that restaurant experiences cannot be worthwhile.

The problem with terrible texts isn't people don't want to keep them. The problem with terrible texts is they should never have been required to begin with.

Re:Bad idea (1)

tehrustine (2020446) | about 3 years ago | (#36801362)

I reference my old texts that were related to my major sometimes, but I find Google much faster and more convenient in most cases especially for general education type knowledge.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801366)

I wish I had my old books for reference, but I had to return them after finals to afford the books for the following semester.

Re:Bad idea (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 3 years ago | (#36801374)

The really depends on the course and the book. Throughout my university degree, I had to take courses from many different faculties. For my software engineering degree, I took biology, psychology, environmental science and many other courses that I had to buy textbooks for that I have no need for any more. Granted, I was able to sell the dead tree versions I bought, but I would have been nice to save even more money by renting certain textbooks for a single semester. Also, I had a lot of courses the recommended very bad textbooks, I would have much rather rented the required text and spend the remaining money on a good text that would have served my much better.

Re:Bad idea (1)

beaker314 (522039) | about 3 years ago | (#36801388)

It depends on the class. I have a number of books that I do reference (mostly from my major) but most of the books I used I would never look at again. If I could have rented these for a good enough price I would have.

Re:Bad idea (1)

scubamage (727538) | about 3 years ago | (#36801722)

Agreed, though even texts from my major I got rid of. Not so much because they weren't useful, but because after meeting other people who had the same major from other Universities, I saw they had better texts than I did. So, I picked up those texts when they were a dime a dozen later down the road, and end up with a far better reference collection than my original books would have provided.

Re:Bad idea (1)

The Great Pretender (975978) | about 3 years ago | (#36801428)

I routinely reference my old text books as well, but I have to disagree, this would've been preferred by me.

As a student I didn't really have the cash for these books and always needed to sell them back. So assuming that the cost is significantly cheaper than buying the book it would've suited me to rent them. Then as I got an income (i.e. the job that would use them in) I not only purchased back old text books, having a lot more disposable cash, but I purchased the ones that I used and didn't have the useless doorstops sitting around. It's not like there's a law out there saying that you only get one chance to buy the book.

Let's face it, Amazon will charge more to rent the book than price/course length, but the students will benefit from this deal. It's not like they can't go buy the books if they want. The only downside may be that you can't mark up the book while studying.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801446)

At least MY school's library purposely makes sure NOT to buy books that are listed as required for courses. I should know, I run the reports for cross reference ( one of those little things that grates at my concience involved in working for the school I attend). I think anything to help bring the cost of school down is good. Taking 17 credits last semester I had over $2k in books. I am to the point that I buy what I think I'll need, and ignore the rest, or occasionally will meet up with several other students the first day of class and split the cost of 1 book to share. I fail to see how this is a bad idea.

Re:Bad idea (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#36801892)

I am to the point that I buy what I think I'll need, and ignore the rest, or occasionally will meet up with several other students the first day of class and split the cost of 1 book to share. I fail to see how this is a bad idea.

Believe it or not, a quarter century ago the strategy employed was to photocopy entire books if the publisher tried to charge more per page than the cost per photocopier page. If the prof was part of the kickback, perhaps by being an author, etc, then they got real pissed off. On the other hand if it was the profs' boss who got the kickback, the prof would high-5 you for sticking it to the man. The cost of copying has exploded upward from that 3 cents/page, but then again the price of textbooks has also exploded, hasn't it?

Re:Bad idea (1)

Nursie (632944) | about 3 years ago | (#36801448)

Never really have.

Why bother? The internet is there and has 99% of everything on it. Either the same text, or someone else's or (usually) something much more specific to the problem area you're looking at.

Books.... meh.

Right to read (5, Insightful)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 3 years ago | (#36801450)

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [gnu.org]

Richard Stallman's famous parable about the Right to Read, and what will happen if intellectual monopoly laws continue to grow.

It's amazing how RMS, obstinate as he is, has been so prescient.

The story's about what will happen when we're all converted to electronic books.

Re:Right to read (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801534)

Can I get this on my Kindle? If not, I'm not interested.

Re:Right to read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801638)

But Mom I don't want to be an electronic book!

Re:Right to read (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 3 years ago | (#36801646)

Stallman is only 1/2 right.

Information tends toward freedom, while those that have information want to restrict it so they can monetize it. He is only speaking towards the latter half. IP laws are legitimate under very limited circumstances. However we've long since past any reasonableness in laws pertaining to the tyranny of the content holders.

This is why I've suggested that we start making Open Source Textbooks for use.

And after what I've seen being passed off as textbooks these days, full of Politically Correct garbage, I'm not sure it is possible under current laws. It is depressing!

Re:Bad idea (2)

Riceballsan (816702) | about 3 years ago | (#36801476)

Good for you, not all schools provide the option however, and very often actually upgrade the version of the book to obsolete it within a year, Telling students they absolutely must buy the 5th edition of the book to take the first class, then next year the follow up class has shifted the requirement to 6th edition. Or perhaps it's just a extra course completely out of the field that colleges like to put you through for the sake of keeping you well rounded, and you have no need to ever look back at again after you pass. it isn't always the case, but it is sometimes, and it never hurts to have the option to rent rather then spend the ridiculous prices some of these books can run.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about 3 years ago | (#36802032)

Publishers now tend to follow the WOTC theory, a new book every year... or they lose profit.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801556)

I would have used this service, had it been available when I was attending university. However, I studied engineering and the texts had a lot of illustrations. I'm not crazy about how the Nook and the Kindle handle illustrations and photos. I hope that the publishers have made some improvements in handling illustrations. In most of the e-books I have now (not technical books) the illustrations are almost useless, since you can not enlarge them. Of course, I have not read all of the details f this service so they may have addressed this. However, I can see this being very useful with books for classes in English or history (or similar subjects). I was never much of a highlighter ... I made my own notes in a notebook instead.

Re:Bad idea (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 3 years ago | (#36801578)

there are some classes I still have my books from, but most of my books I wound up donating, Thereby this would have been extremely useful for my old generals especially.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801600)

Well, I've got text books from French and German courses, Philosophy courses, Sociology courses, and more. Don't look at them. Do look at the Mathematics and Science books.

Just be smart about what you rent, that's all. Learning to make good decisions is a part of college.

Good idea (1, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#36801618)

You sound like a college professor, who has a hard time believing your area of study isn't interesting to all your students.
For most college classes text books are an expensive and near useless expense, Especially for those Undergrad required courses that the student needs the book for the class then never uses it again... Some students never even use the book during class as they learn better by hearing the lectures vs. from reading a book.
Many college books are introduction based books so after they take the class and advanced to the next ones the content of the intro book is so basic that it is useless now.

Sure some books a student should keep but not all of them. And if you are going to Pay $150.00 for a text book where during the class you have read 3 chapters in it. (50 pages) on a topic that you are not interested in but needed to take the class to graduate. Then have a choice of selling that book back for $15.00 or just being able to rent the book for even $50.00 for the semester you may be better off.
In a classroom of 100 students (who will pass the class). 1 or 2 is so interested in the topic that they will love the book and read it front to back and keep it for it has enlighten so. 20 will read the requested readings and have useful notes on it, 20 will have done the requested reading, 40 will do the required readings just because it will be on the test, and rest will pick out info they need for the test and bluff the rest.

Re:Good idea (2)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#36801962)

And if you are going to Pay $150.00 for a text book where during the class you have read 3 chapters in it. (50 pages) on a topic that you are not interested in but needed to take the class to graduate.

Hmm. $150 / 50 pages is $3 per page. Can you find a photocopier that charges less than $3 per page? Just sayin.

The "one guy buys it and we all share it" does not scale for multiple readings. The "one guy buys it and we all photocopy it" did scale. You can even illegally sell photocopies of the relevant chapters for perhaps twice the cost of photocopying and everyone still comes out ahead (well, not the greedy publishers, or the kick back powered profs, but no loss there).

Also I had a prof who collected a $20 bill from each student at the start of class to defer his extensive photocopying costs, and then provided hundreds, maybe thousands of photocopies of the best parts of all the best books. Probably pushed the limits of "fair use" to say the least. Everyone loved that arrangement.

Re:Bad idea (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 years ago | (#36801620)

I have never heard of a school that had more then a handful of copies for courses with hundreds of students and always very limited time borrowing so unless you are the type to just go to the library and do all your homework in a afternoon then it is useless, and never around when you need them anyways.

And text books are already a huge percentage of school fees, so no school out of the goodness of their hearts are not just going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year keeping the latest edition of every text book in stock.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801622)

So rent it for cheap during the class and buy a used copy after they change versions for 10% of the new cost.

Re:Bad idea (1)

SpeZek (970136) | about 3 years ago | (#36801748)

Shouldn't you be referencing your notes instead? I've sold every textbook I've ever bought, but I still have all the pertinent information in my own words in searchable document files on my computers.

Re:Bad idea (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 3 years ago | (#36802222)

It is frequently the case that some material is not covered in as much depth in a course as I really need, particularly more advanced or obscure material. For example, I took an undergrad theory of computation course and an undergrad algorithms course, but neither one went into much depth about the Cook-Levin theorem, other than mentioning what it is; I found myself consulting the textbook long after the courses were over when I needed to know more about the result. I also discovered that my graduate computer architecture textbook actually referenced the undergraduate version of the textbook, including sections that were not even covered during the course.

Re:Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801788)

If university libraries provide copies then the Amazon system should work no? I use the ebook when I need it day to day and I visit the library when I need a one off?

Re:Bad idea (1)

physicsphairy (720718) | about 3 years ago | (#36801790)

Libraries are meant to provide a collection of knowledge, not a warehouse of books. Most libraries I've been to have been filled up on every floor with copies of *mostly unique* books. Where are they supposed to store hundreds of identical copies for each of hundreds of different classes? And books used as a reference are different than books used as instructional material: the former can be fifty years old, the latter is assumed to be mostly up to date, and the problem sets need to correspond to the latest edition, i.e., the books must be frequently replaced. It's still going to cost the same (probably more--is the university really going to buy the cheap international paperback?) and I know my school for one would raise the money by hiking tuition.

Many students already share books to the degree that is practical, and pass them on to other friends until the edition is eventually replaced.

In any case, the point is moot because Amazon is providing a solution, and the universities are not, so it's pretty ridiculous to ridicule what Amazon is providing. Good luck convincing the thousands of administrations around the country to implement your solution. (They could have been doing exactly what you suggest for the past hundred years. Maybe some even do, but everywhere I've been we've had to buy the books.) Meanwhile, Amazon is providing a counterpart that can be used anywhere. As long as the price is right, I'm very happy to have the option.

Re:Bad idea (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 years ago | (#36802080)

I routinely find myself referencing textbooks from courses that I took years ago

All of them? Because while the books I took related to my current job may be somewhat useful, I have absolutely no use for my intro to world literature book I bought. Doorstop maybe. And books related to my current job, it's quicker just to google that information than even finding the book itself.

what happened to information wants to be free (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801316)

why do we let corporate whores decree that the ideals we founded the internet on are wrong?

Re:what happened to information wants to be free (5, Informative)

FrostDust (1009075) | about 3 years ago | (#36801364)

Because those corporate whores are the ones who publish the books that hold the information.

If you really want to support the freedom of information, petition your university to use OpenCourseWare [mit.edu] .

Learn and Forget (1)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | about 3 years ago | (#36801322)

Because all of us remember everything from our classes and never again need a reference Complete silliness. Find more ways for them to keep the books, not more ways to take them away.

Don't forget undergrad (1)

bberens (965711) | about 3 years ago | (#36801414)

I have a hard time believing that anyone references more than 10% of their undergrad texts after graduation.

Re:Learn and Forget (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#36801490)

yea! I for one am assured that when I need to calculate the interest of a home loan that text book showing me how to do it in lotus123 is near by bedside!

Re:Learn and Forget (1)

alvinrod (889928) | about 3 years ago | (#36801518)

But we don't need to keep every single book. In college I had to take a Chemistry class that used a book so large that barely a third of the material was covered. Since I'm not a chemist and almost anything I really want to know about the subject can be found on Wikipedia or some other part of the web, there was no real reason to keep that book, especially when it cost well over a hundred dollars and I could get most back from reselling it. We should focus on making a lot of this knowledge freely available. There's no reason kids should be paying hundreds of dollars for math text books when they're really only a collection of homework exercises. We could make education much accessible and less expensive for many students by applying open source concepts to areas outside of computer science. Give them a large set of problems, some explanation of how to apply the necessary mathematical techniques to solve them, and some step-by-step examples. Make it accessible form the internet and format it so that it can be put on any e-reader out there.

...in the house that Jack built (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801326)

Here's this digital eBook that we've already destroyed first-sale doctrine on by "licensing" it to you so you don't own it.

Now you can rent the eBook you already can't own.

Next we'll just automatically draft your bank account, then send you monthly ransom notes.

After that come the bullets.

Thank Goodness! (For some circumstances) (1)

phatphoton (2099888) | about 3 years ago | (#36801334)

There are some books that I would prefer to keep around for reference (In the engineering course path) and in that case, I would not want to rely on Amazon for this. The most useful case would be for the books for my Gen-Ed classes like English and Economics where I need the book for max 2-3 terms (~24-36 weeks) and I'll never need the book again. Also, a great plus is that when I'm done with the books for these Gen-Ed courses, They are absolutely worthless and end up being thrown away. These are fair sized books most often. I would much rather rent these books than lug them around. Given that they are searchable and can all fit on my nice small kindle, I would probably do more homework too. :-P

Still a fucking ripoff (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801336)

From Amazon's example:

Hardcover (Amazon): $184.99
Hardcover (New): $90
Hardcover (Used): $55
Kindle Edition: $109.20

Libraries do it for free. Amazon not, of course. (1)

GreenHawk (2286564) | about 3 years ago | (#36801354)

Not good idea. You can go to library and save money.

Re:Libraries do it for free. Amazon not, of course (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 3 years ago | (#36801440)

Most libraries have maximum loan times of 3 weeks and then you have to bring them back. Sometimes they let you (automatically) renew the book, but if somebody has it reserved, you often don't have that option. Libraries would not give you the option of keeping a text book for the entire semester.

Re:Libraries do it for free. Amazon not, of course (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#36802002)

Most libraries have maximum loan times of 3 weeks and then you have to bring them back. Sometimes they let you (automatically) renew the book, but if somebody has it reserved, you often don't have that option. Libraries would not give you the option of keeping a text book for the entire semester.

How long does it take you to run off a couple photocopies? Used to be a stereotypical "early morning hangover" activity in the early 90s.

Re:Libraries do it for free. Amazon not, of course (1)

Nailer235 (1822054) | about 3 years ago | (#36801472)

You do realize that we're talking about college textbooks here, right? The library isn't going to store 100+ copies of the same book for everyone to use. And a lot of the time, you can't simply check out a coursebook for an entire semester - it's seen as unfair to other students (and people who aren't taking the course but may need to use the book). Amazon seems to have adopted a pretty reasonable solution, as many schools already have textbook rental programs of their own. Now, you can rent the book in digital format, which is going to be very convenient for obvious reasons.

Re:Libraries do it for free. Amazon not, of course (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 3 years ago | (#36801634)

And if it is actually around 80% cheaper then buying new then that is better then buying used and reselling.

Re:Libraries do it for free. Amazon not, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36802190)

Books placed on "reserve" can only be checked out for 2-3 hours at most places, so that all the students have a fair shot at the two copies of the textbook that the school has on hand.

Nice to have the option (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 years ago | (#36801360)

Ideally classes should use open source materials (or is that open source source materials? open source^2 materials?) but if they're going to have the whole corrupt commercial textbook system then students ought to have the option to rent rather than buying anything they're not going to keep.

Re:Nice to have the option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801594)

I'd rather depend on an author whose income depends on quality to produce a comprehensive text than on a collection of unaffiliated authors putting a text together. Also, open source has the tendency to get things to the point where everything is just good enough to keep someone from improving things.

80% savings? really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801368)

If you ever look closely at Amazon's manufacturer's suggested retail price, you'll find that many times it's much more than what the manufacturer says it is. 80% of what they say is the normal price.

It's like when you see those ads on TV that say "HOLIDAY SPECIAL! 60% OR MORE OFF!" and then when you actually go to the sale, you'll see that their "sale" is the same price as other stores.

next up kids, I'll show you how to "prove" that a bolt from Home Depot "costs" $500 when you're selling it cost plus to the Department of Defense - and it'll all be FASB safe!

Good idea (1)

swan5566 (1771176) | about 3 years ago | (#36801402)

You usually can make a reasonably good guess as to which books will most certainly not be useful later on in your career (which in my experience I guessed pretty accurately, and the numbers were pretty high - social sciences and English anyone?). I would much rather deal with the likes of Amazon over the exorbitant book pricing and buy-back policies of university bookstores.

Here come the lawsuits (2)

realmolo (574068) | about 3 years ago | (#36801432)

The textbook publishers are going to throw a FIT. So are the universities, probably, because most of them run for-profit bookstores.

I expect that Amazon is going to be forced to kill this new service within a few months.

The way textbooks are bought and sold and approved is one of the biggest scams in education. But it's hugely profitable. Amazon is going to have a battle on their hands.

Re:Here come the lawsuits (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 years ago | (#36801536)

Why would publishers have a fit? In the current model, they only get revenue for the first purchase. When a student resells a book, they don't get a cut (at least I'm not aware that text bookstores give them a cut). In the rental model they revenue each time the book is rented. The bookstores however are another story.

Re:Here come the lawsuits (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 3 years ago | (#36801642)

Exactly. It's just like the netflix price hike. The IP owners know what price point maximizes their revenues, and new technology doesn't fundamentally change that number. The idea that some third party (Amazon) could come in and drastically reduce textbook prices for students is pretty absurd, because book prices (and the size of the texbtook industry overall) were never based on the price of paper or shipping in the first place. One way or another, people will continue to be charged whatever the market will bear.

The only thing that could really change the prices is a crash in the student loan industry.

Re:Here come the lawsuits (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36801764)

Or universities refusing to play the game.
I had a professors that did that. He used old versions and you had to pay a deposit to get the book, which was exactly what replacing that used copy would cost him. At the end of the class he gave back your money when you returned the book.

I am not suggesting all universities move to a 0 profit from books scenario, but they could move to exclude any book above $X from the undergrad curriculum.

Re:Here come the lawsuits (1)

Sectoid_Dev (232963) | about 3 years ago | (#36801796)

Agreed, the first thing that popped in my mind is, "this won't stay cheap for long". Sure Amazon might offer some good discounts on text book rentals to pry away students from the University cash cow that is the student union bookstore. But once they have gotten a decent market share, the price can go as high as students are willing to pay, which is pretty damn high. Sure, they'll rationalize the price hikes, but they're coming.

In all fairness... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 years ago | (#36801470)

... when I was in post-secondary, I resold (or attempted to resell, in some cases) well over half of my school textbooks. The only ones I kept were ones that I had a notion I might need to reference at some point in the future (which typically were scientific or computer science texts). If the technology had existed at the time for digital books to be rented for just a semester, and I could have rented the ones I was intending to resell at a cheaper price than buying them in the first place, I would have happily done it.

If, however, they don't off students at least an option to choose whether or not they want to keep the content permanently (and, reasonably have to pay more for the privilege than simply renting it), then I have to say I'd be against this sort of thing.

I'll Believe It When I See It (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801478)

When you're a dirt-poor college student and your books cost as much as $300, renting might be way better than doing things like giving up food. The problem, however, is that the upper-division typical college textbook still isn't available electronically. The general ed stuff -- history, government, English, calculus -- possibly. But the $300 book on igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary petrography? Not so much. For those of us in the later phases of our college educations, where books get really expensive really fast, this is of limited usefulness.

I'd buy a Kindle if the books I need are available on it. They aren't.

Artificial scarcity is ... (4, Interesting)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 3 years ago | (#36801508)

... an unfortunate business model for the 21st century and all our tools of abundance... http://www.artificialscarcity.com/ [artificialscarcity.com]

Not like you can't re-rent (1)

AmbianceForce (995764) | about 3 years ago | (#36801532)

All the negative comments seem to focus on the lack of future reference back to the text after the rental is over. Just like renting Robocop for the 20th time from Blockbuster, there is no reason that you can't re-rent the book for the minimum 30 days again in the future. Or, better yet, you rent the most current edition of the subject textbook and reference up-to-date and now-relevant information instead of what was taught 15 years, 20 discoveries, and 150 theories ago...

Re:Not like you can't re-rent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801602)

My textbook tells me that we've always been at war with Eurasia.

Re:Not like you can't re-rent (1)

pthreadunixman (1370403) | about 3 years ago | (#36801986)

Re-rent? My objection is to the idea of renting --let alone returning-- ephemeral bits at all.

What about grade school texts? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801540)

Everyone's talking about college books, which are expensive.

What about high school texts? Sure, the books are (loaned) free, but are often in bad shape.

More importantly, my 10th grader humps over 20 pounds of books back and forth to school, every day.

Replacing those heavy tomes with an e-reader would be worth more than a little money, from my point of view. I was seriously considering scanning her texts this fall, but this would be a lot easier.

pt

Re:What about grade school texts? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 3 years ago | (#36802122)

I'm sure that high school texts vary by location. Mine were all in perfectly good shape.
I'm surprised that kids these days are having to haul a lot of books around. When I was in high school, I only took books home at all maybe two or three times a week, and never more than one or two. And we didn't even have study hall back then. If I couldn't finish my homework in class, I would take my book to the next class and if I got done with that classes homework, I would work on my other classes homework. Nowadays, they have one or sometimes even two hours of study hall, so I am surprised they EVER have homework, other than an essay or something.

Artificial scarcity (1)

MM-tng (585125) | about 3 years ago | (#36801546)

If we pay some smart people for some good books and take care of distribution our selves we would be much cheaper off en with a lot less restrictions. The knowledge is much more valuable if it is shared across as much people as possible. The digital information store seems too big a choke point if large scale distribution of information at low cost is so easily in reach. We need to break this last barrier.

And as our laws are based in spirit of Christian values I would like too reference Jesus feeding the 5000. The core principle I understand from this is that if you share the end result is a multiplication of what you put in. So to me we are all breaking the law in spirit with a lot of things we are doing, including this Amazon thing. We should freely share a all be ritcher people.

Re:Artificial scarcity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801780)

While I agree with everything you say (even the Christian values part and I'm an atheist), there is a problem with the following sentence:

If we pay some smart people for some good books and take care of distribution our selves we would be much cheaper off en with a lot less restrictions.

Who exactly will be paying these smart people again? All of us? Via some sort of taxation? Or we pay whenever we use their work? That seems pretty similar to how it is now... And how would we decide how much is a reasonable amount to pay these smart people? If they are really smart people, they might decide to put in the minimum amount of effort as they are being paid a basic amount anyway... Would there be some sort of independent review process?

In this particular situation, the free market (with some government oversight perhaps, to forbid the use of any DRM crap) seems to be the best I can come up with. People who write popular or good stuff, will find people willing to pay for that. I'm willing to pay for a decent ebook, I'm not willing to pay the same for it as for the dead tree version of that book.

Which is it? (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | about 3 years ago | (#36801598)

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.

Then immediately after.

If you choose to rent again or buy at a later time, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced.

Well, which is it? These seem to be mutually exclusive conditions. Either you can access your notes "anytime, anywhere" when your rental has expired or you can only access them after you have given them more money again.

Re:Which is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801866)

I believe it works like this:

Your notes are saved whether or not you still have access to the book. However should your rental expire you will be left with no way to bring the book up on a kindle so you will not be able to see them. However should you regain the ability to call up the book (by purchasing or re-renting it) you will be able to see the notes again.

Re:Which is it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36801890)

I'd assume

1) Your notes are available to read at any time.

2) If you re-rent, the notes will also highlight the same text you marked the previous time/rental.

So it's not a case of they'll either be available or not available, but they'll be available and also in the relevant locations.

Some universities already rent text books. (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 years ago | (#36801636)

My wife went to the University of Wisconsin Eau Clair and they rented text books there. I would assume that there are other universities that do the same as well. There was also the option to purchase the book if you wanted it.

As many have noted I did keep some of my text books, but they were mostly the more advanced ones like the ones for my compilers, algorithms, computer simulation (offered through the physics department), AI, and robotics courses. Granted these were mostly theory books and had lots of algorithms for doing things and didn't focus much on specific languages.

This makes too much sense.... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 3 years ago | (#36801656)

...I fully expect the textbook moguls to sue the pants off Amazon.

Questia (2)

Hassman (320786) | about 3 years ago | (#36801750)

This is not too different than what Questia [questia.com] has been doing for years. I'm sure Amazon's service is more polished and integrates better with their reader, but this concept isn't new by any stretch of the imagination.

We're essentially talking about an online library for a premium.

Just remember... (1)

Drafell (1263712) | about 3 years ago | (#36801808)

These are digital texts books. They have near zero cost of reproduction. Is 80% less really that good a deal when you take that in to account?

As someone else already stated, this is just another model of artificial scarcity generated for commercial gain. I don't really see the logic in renting any digital product unless it happens to be an actual service.

Re:Just remember... (1)

theangrypeon (1306525) | about 3 years ago | (#36802102)

These are digital texts books. They have near zero cost of reproduction. Is 80% less really that good a deal when you take that in to account?

Compared to spending hundreds of dollars every semester for bulky physical books that will only be useful to you for maybe 4-5 months tops? Yes, oh my god yes it's still a really great deal.

As someone else already stated, this is just another model of artificial scarcity generated for commercial gain.

Students could potentially save a few thousands on their book expenses over their 4 years of college thanks to this. But that's fucking horrible ... because there's profit involved?

I don't really see the logic in renting any digital product unless it happens to be an actual service.

If it's significantly cheaper than buying the actual product outright and it's something I know I only need temporarily, I think it's pretty logical. I don't know about you but I would have loved to have the option of renting digital books when I was in college.

Re:Just remember... (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 3 years ago | (#36802164)

According to the example provided by Amazon, you could save significantly by buying a used copy instead of renting their digital copy.

An "always updated" textbook (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 3 years ago | (#36801894)

I have copies of a number of textbooks from my degree - although some I've ditched. However, given how fast my particular subject - and many others - moves, I could be quite happy "renting" a textbook, where I always had access to the latest version. I don't need to buy / store every copy of a book, but to have access to the latest copy - in digital form - when I needed it, would be something I'd pay for.

With virtually zero cost of reproduction, and an ongoing payment stream to authors (and their publishers etc.), I wonder if this could be a viable model.

Re:An "always updated" textbook (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#36802140)

With virtually zero cost of reproduction, and an ongoing payment stream to authors (and their publishers etc.), I wonder if this could be a viable model.

I think you pretty much just described Oreilly's Safari service. Was a customer mid-last decade, liked it, but didn't use it enough to justify the cost. You'd think they'd prefer half the revenue at half the price from a very light user, to none of the revenue at full price, but ... Anyway, is Safari still around?

Re:An "always updated" textbook (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 3 years ago | (#36802178)

Do they really update the digital copy on the fly though? Somehow I find that unlikely. I suspect that the edition coincides with the print edition and does not change throughout the year.

No. Just No. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 3 years ago | (#36802018)

Rent.
Digital.

Choose one.

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