Amazon has announced an e-textbook-rentals program to serve students. Of note, is that Amazon has tens of thousands of titles from major publishers like John Wiley & Sons and Elsevier and Taylor & Francis that are available for digital rental.
The rental model is structured around that of an online subscription allowing students to download temporary copies of textbooks from the Amazon web site. The digital books can be read using a Kindle, a computer, a tablet, an iPad, or a smartphone running the Kindle App.
The rental subscription model will allow students the option of specifying a rental period from as short as 30 days to as long as 360 days. This may result in significant savings to the student. For example, a typical text book that retails in a bookstore for around $200.00 could cost around $57.00 for a three-month rental subscription (a 72% cost savings). The press announcements stipulated that students may continue to rent the textbooks after the expiration of the contract for an additional fee as well as purchase the text outright.
Like other e-reader devices, students will be able to make margin notations and highlight using the Kindle Whispersync technology. In addition to being able to highlight passages and jot notes in the margins, Whispersync allows readers to keep all their notes, even after the rental expires.
The battery life of the Kindle is superior; it is common to go four days without a recharge. The Newest Kindle is .36 inches at its thickest and weighs in at about two ounces. Moreover, Amazon has made significant improvements to the reader. For example, eye strain is reduced by using an electrophoretic display and they have been working to address accessibility issues.
Earlier in the year, Amazon announced an assistive technology called the Kindle for PC Accessibility Plugin. It is available for free download through Amazon. This plugin provides text-to-speech reading with adjustable voice settings, a voice-guided menu navigation, font size adjustments, a high contrast reading mode, keyboard navigation, and accessibility shortcuts. In addition to the plugin, Origin Instruments offers some new devices for the Kindle to assist those mobile impairments. While there is still work to be done in terms of accessibility, the new e-textbook option by Amazon is yet another resource for all students to save money and bulk as they head back to school.
Resources: “Amazon Announces Digital-Textbook Rentals” (July 20, 2011) By Jie Jenny Zou.
Kindle for PC Accessibility Plugin