Amazon.com announced Tuesday the launch of a rental service for print copies of college textbooks.
“The e-commerce giant has a digital textbook rental service that began last year,” the Los Angeles Times’ Salvador Rodriguez reported Tuesday. “Amazon said the fees it's charging to rent the print books represent savings of up to 70 percent compared with retail purchase prices. The digital rental prices are often a bit lower. For example, the 2011 textbook ‘Intermediate Accounting’ by Donald E. Kieso is offered in both rental programs. The rental fee is $57 for a print copy or $53.79 in digital form. A new hardcover copy sells for $195.47.”
Also Tuesday, Amazon disclosed that sales of e-books in the United Kingdom have now surpassed transactions involving print books.
“Last year Amazon revealed that e-books had surpassed paperback and hardcover books in terms of overall sales,” Adario Strange wrote Tuesday for pcmag.com. “Now it seems that trend has made its way across the pond, as Amazon's U.K. arm just announced that British readers are also buying more e-books than any other format. In the past, European consumers have been saddled with a reputation that paints them as lovers of all things analog, eschewing a number of digital innovations popularized by Silicon Valley in the U.S.”
Writing for the tech website Mashable, Calin Van Paris cautioned Tuesday that the rise of Amazon’s e-book sales doesn’t necessarily portend a dearth of good books: “Those lamenting the death of literature may find solace in the fact that the average (Amazon Kindle) user purchases four times as many books than they did prior to owning the tablet. So while print may slowly be becoming a thing of the past, the future of reading seems bright.”
Forbes.com’s Martin Sosnoff crunched the numbers of Amazon’s business model Tuesday, ultimately concluding that “Amazon Is No Wal-Mart Yet.”
“(Amazon’s) multipronged assault on bricks-and-mortar retailing is relentless,” Sosnoff noted. “Streaming content for Amazon covers books, films, television broadcasting, games and music — worldwide. This sector probably operates no better than break-even, an initiative aimed at consumers to log onto Amazon for all their everyday consumption as well as hard goods and apparel. Amazon also offers third-party retailers customer order fulfillment. This is a recurring revenue stream that should be highly profitable going forward.”
Indeed, although Tuesday’s dual announcements by Amazon did not reveal what the next big thing will be for this disruptive innovator, the news proves yet again that Amazon is charging full speed ahead to supplant traditional bricks-and-mortar retail business models.