As prices of college textbooks continue to soar, more and more students are turning to textbook rental sites such as Amazon and Chegg to save money each semester. These sites often allow students to rent a printed version of a textbook or view a digital copy of the materials for a specific period of time, usually about 16 weeks. The rental is often significantly cheaper than purchasing the textbook outright and students do have the option, in most cases, of holding onto their copy and paying a buyout price after the rental period ends if they wish to keep it.
Sounds great, right? It is, just as long as you read the fine print. According to a recent article from Inside Higher Ed, students who rent a textbook through Amazon.com’s Warehouse Deals may be forced to purchase the textbook if it is moved across state lines. Although the stipulation is clearly stated on Amazon’s textbook rental terms and conditions page, the links where the information is located are apparently easy to overlook.
According to Inside Higher Ed, experts believe the policy has been put in place to help the company avoid collecting state sales tax, a strategy that gives Amazon a 10% pricing advantage over competitors who are unable to do so and denies states an estimated $11.4 billion in tax revenue per year. To put an end to these types of tax evasion tactics (and eliminate unusual rental policies such as the one above), Congress is working to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act which would “allow states to collect sales tax from online retailers in exchange for simplifying local tax laws.”
In the meantime, students who want to take their textbooks anywhere should probably avoid renting through Warehouse Deals and place their order with Chegg or Rafter instead.