The staggering cost of textbooks for college students has produced a number of cottage industries catering to the empty pockets of students living on Ramen. Used bookstores abound on and offline, and sites like eBay’s half.com are overrun with students looking for an affordable deal on that $150 textbook.
Replacing physical books
Enter Amazon, the ubiquitous bookseller turned massive online retailer. As sites like chegg.com pioneered the concept of textbook rental, Amazon has realized the Kindle’s potential to simultaneously replace physical books and tap into the rental market.
Students tired of lugging around heavy backpacks have been quick to embrace the Kindle’s travel-friendly weight. At just 7.6oz (for the latest Kindle Paperwhite), the lighter load is priceless for students with a long commute on public transit or living on a pedestrian campus. The Kindle Fire 6 weighs in at just 10.1oz, and offers all the perks of a full-color tablet for under $100. Students looking for an all-purpose device to read books, Skype family at home, and check email on the go gravitate towards the Fire’s comprehensive functions, while those who prefer a traditional, non-LED look choose the Paperwhite.
Notes, highlights, and a dictionary in one place
The Kindle Textbook Rental program offers students a significant upfront savings. Critics have pointed out that the advertised 80% savings isn’t always accurate, as this figure is representative of a 30-day rental. Many students find they don’t need a book all semester; for those that do, rental isn’t always the best deal. One feature of the Kindle rental program, however, is that once students have rented a book, notes and highlights are saved if they were to rent the same title again. So if a student is taking a psychology course that uses multiple textbooks, they can rent the book for 30 days in October, return the book, and re-rent the same title to study for final exams. The textbook would still contain annotations added during the October rental period!
Kindle textbooks also feature X-Ray, which allows students to “get everything you need with a single tap, including definitions, related pages in your eTextbook, and even relevant content from other sources like Wikipedia and YouTube. ” X-Ray simplifies studying; just touch and hold a word, and the definition pops up instantly. Notebook for eTextbooks features enhanced annotations, colored highlights (on iPad or Kindle Fire), and allows students to quickly review notes when studying. Flash Cards are easily created via X-Ray, and helps students drill vocabulary and important concepts.
A convenient alternative to textbooks
For cash-strapped students, the eTextbook rental program offers a low upfront cost, even if it ends up costing more over purchasing and reselling a used textbook. Students don’t often have the cash to purchase books outright, and as a result will show up to class without important books and materials to get the most out of their tuition dollars. Some courses may use materials available in the public domain, such as an English literature class. With a Kindle, students can download these books for free, or take advantage of the Prime membership’s Lending Library. Local libraries with eBook collections may also have course titles available for free.
The advantages of digital notes and highlights, automatically created flashcards, the ability to access books across multiple devices, and the sheer convenience of a single device is starting to catch on as students set aside backpack-induced scoliosis for the convenience of Kindle.