Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Amazon Tries Taking the Kindle to School, Again, With Textbook Rentals

Amazon, which dominates the e-book market, has stayed out of the electronic textbook market. Until now: The company has opened up a textbook store for its Kindle platform, where it is renting “tens of thousands” of titles for the upcoming school year.

Amazon will let students (or anyone) buy textbooks at a steep discount to their print list prices, and will charge them based on the amount of time they plan to hang on to the book.

The bookseller says it will generally require a minimum rental period of 30 days, and it will allow students to extend that period at their discretion. Renters will continue to be able to access notes and highlights they’ve made in their texts even after they’ve “returned” the books.

The only surprise here is that it took Amazon this long to get into the business. It introduced the Kindle in the fall of 2007, and since then a flood of start-ups, like Chegg, Kno and Inkling, have targeted the market. Barnes and Noble already has its own e-textbook store.

But while Amazon introduced the high-end Kindle DX, aimed at the college market, in 2009, it has yet to make much headway there.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work