Amazon Launches Textbook Rentals, 3P Sellers Dismayed
By Ina Steiner
In what could have a major negative impact on third-party sellers, Amazon is now allowing students to rent textbooks for a semester rather than buy them. The company had launched Kindle textbook rentals last year, but this weekend, third-party sellers on Amazon began noticing textbooks that advertised an option to rent the physical books.
Companies like Chegg and BookRenter have been around for several years and offer textbook rentals, and Alibris allows third-party sellers to rent their textbooks. But Amazon's move into textbook rentals puts them head-to-head with their own third-party sellers.
Textbooks sales are critical for Amazon booksellers, and sales during the back-to-school shopping season make up a significant part of some sellers revenue. One seller who wrote to EcommerceBytes was dismayed and said the offering could kill sales for pure-play textbook sellers.
Amazon fulfills all textbook rentals, which are eligible for Prime and Super-Saver shipping offers. Amazon was listing one macroeconomics textbook for sale for $170.46 and offered it for rent for $45.75 with a due date of December 13, 2012 - a significant discount for cash-strapped students (and parents).
Chegg.com was offering the same book for rent for $57.99, with a due date of December 21, 2012.
Students can rent textbooks from Amazon for a semester (130 days), and can be extended if needed. Amazon offers free return shipping - "Simply print a prepaid shipping label and drop your book off at the nearest UPS or USPS location."
Amazon Textbook Rentals are currently available only to customers with shipping addresses in the United States (including the continental United States, Hawaii and Alaska, but excluding Puerto Rico and U.S. territories).
EcommerceBytes is awaiting word from Amazon.com as to when it launched the textbook rental program, but it's possible Amazon is rolling out the program in a pilot test. Amazon offers an Amazon Student program to market directly to students and launched the Amazon Sutdent mobile app last year.
Information on the Amazon Textbook Rental program is available here.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to email@example.com.
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