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Monday, August 19, 2013

Amazon Restricts Rental Book Travel

Warehouse Deals, an Amazon.com subsidiary, was launched as a place where consumers could find deals on returned, warehouse-damaged, used, or refurbished products. It has offered print textbook rentals since last summer, but has added a new policy that prohibits students from taking rental titles from one state to another.

The policy on renting a textbook from Warehouse Deals is spelled out on the terms and conditions page at Amazon.com. It states, “You may not move the textbook out of the state to which it was originally shipped. If you wish to wish to move the textbook out of that state, you must first purchase the textbook.”

These conditions only apply to books rented from Warehouse Deals, and Amazon did not respond to requests for comments from Inside Higher Education. Two competitors in the online textbook rental and retail field—Chegg and Rafter—have no policies that prevent students from taking rentals across state lines.

The policy may not appear to make sense, unless it’s viewed in the light of Amazon’s efforts to avoid charging state and local taxes, according to Kenneth C. Green, director of the Campus Computing Project.

“Presumably the concern is that if Amazon owns rented textbooks that cross state lines, state authorities could argue that Amazon has an official business presence in the state—a business presence that would require Amazon to collect and pay state sales taxes,” Green wrote.

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