As companies experiment with the idea of digital textbooks (look at Inkling for a perfect example on the iPad), new and affordable models for distribution will be thought of along the way. Amazon announced this morning that students will have the opportunity to save up to 80% on textbooks by renting them from the Kindle Store. The 80% discount applies to the initial 30-day renting period, which students can adjust to fit the length of their short or long semesters (normally eight to sixteen weeks at my community college). You can rent books for up to a year, but at that point I'd just buy the book.
What's interesting to me is how Amazon is tackling the ability to retain your notes. My biggest fear with digital textbooks is that they aren't cheap enough to buy (I can always sell a textbook back and get up to 60% back of what I initially paid), and that any notes I've taken will be lost if I've written in the margins. This same concern is expressed by Amazon, whom have tied these features in with Whispersync. All of your notes will be kept in the Amazon Cloud, where you can pull notes back down and read related passages even after the rental period of your textbook is up. I find this intriguing (particularly so if notes are easy to take in the first place).
I've always purchased textbooks from Amazon, but now they raise the question of whether I should rent a digital book. Textbooks are available to read across devices from the iPad, iPhone, Mac, and the Kindle itself (along other devices that support Amazon's Kindle app). Students who want to remove a couple of six pound textbooks from their backpacks (and save their backs) might want to invest in a slim messenger back and an iPad instead, but with the Kindle you know there will the issue of finding pages (with its weird take on page numbers), and its unclear how well graphics and margin notes will be presented. Maybe one of you dear readers would be bold enough to take the dive? Have you purchased digital textbooks in the past? Let us know in the comments!