It's easy to forget that this ecommerce behemoth started out selling books, although not necessarily textbooks. These days Amazon is engaged in a lively trade buying, selling, and renting textbooks. Reviews for this end of Amazon's business are little different from the overall take on most textbook websites. The book buyback process is a minefield for the industry, and one that Amazon has not escaped despite prices that are generally among the highest. One key difference: Customers don't receive money for buybacks, just credit, which is certainly useful when ordering next term's books but also gives Amazon a hold on its customer base. As with competitors, some Amazon textbook reviews air differences of opinion concerning the condition of books sent in for buyback. For the most part, though, reviews of Amazon's textbook operations indicate that the value owed was credited to customers' accounts quickly and most consider the prices to be fair.
Distribution is what made Amazon's name, and Prime membership insures free two-day shipping on textbooks and everything else. The company offers college students a starter Prime package that's free for six months and then only $49 a year, as opposed to the usual $99. This may seem like just another unneeded expense, but Amazon pads the deal by offering Prime members access to music and instant streaming of movies and TV shows, as well as a large number of Kindle books that can be "borrowed" for free. Students who opt out of membership have three shipping options: free shipping that can take one to two weeks; standard shipping, at $3 per shipment plus 99 cents per item, which takes about one week: or two-day shipping, at a cost of $10.99 per shipment and $1.99 per item. Shipping without a Prime membership is not cheap.
When searching for a textbook on Amazon, there are options. Purchases of new books come directly from Amazon. Opting for used books sends buyers to the marketplace, which hosts third-party sellers. The same applies to book rentals, where the prices vary by state. When renting a book through Amazon, read the fine print carefully. According to a report by Inside Higher Ed, books may not be transported across state lines, a policy that may reflect Amazon's fierce battle against state sales taxes. Students who ship a rented book back from one state after taking delivery in another are obligated to pay the book's full price. The rental period typically runs 180 days but may be extended up to one year. Short-term extensions of 15 days are possible. Many books can be purchased or rented in digital format, and can be read through a Kindle ereader or a free app that's compatible with nearly any device.
Overall, Amazon's textbook offerings aren't a bad deal, but they do pull you into the Amazon universe. If that's where you like to orbit, by all means, hitch a ride. But there's a whole big galaxy awaiting exploration.