How Does Amazon Rentals Work?

Amazon runs a specialized online store named Amazon Rentals that offers textbook rentals. It is hardly surprising that there is a big market for textbook rentals. The cost of buying a textbook has been going up and up.

It is not uncommon for a single college textbook to cost more than $300. If you take 4 classes per semester, you could easily spend more than $1,000 per semester just on buying textbooks. Renting textbooks can be a much cheaper alternative.

Amazon Rentals is a textbook rental service where Amazon allow students to rent textbooks for one semester at a time and save up to 90%. Students can also rent textbooks on a monthly basis.

To start renting, simply go to Amazon Rentals, search for your books, and rent them.

You may get new or used books. Most books can be rented for one semester at a time, and you can extend your rental by paying extra or even buy your rental. If you fail to return your rental by its due date, you will be charged extra fees.

You get free return shipping for your rentals as long as you print out and use the return shipping labels generated by Amazon. Depending on the type of your rental, you can return the book within 15 or 30 days and get a full refund.

Make sure you take good care of your rental books. If you return them damaged, Amazon may charge you damage fees that can be very substantial.

What to Know Before Renting

Before you rent your textbooks from Amazon, there is some important information you should keep in mind:

  • Class instructors typically require a specific edition of a textbook. As such, you need to make sure you have the correct edition of that book. Different editions of textbooks have different ISBNs, so it is better to search by ISBN
  • Some books are available in multiple formats such as paperback, hardcover, and loose leaf. You can choose any format you like as long as it is the right edition. However, it is possible that not all formats are available for rental
  • Most textbook rentals are based on semesters. For example, if you rent in March, your due date for returning your book will be the end of the current semester, which is typically sometime in June
  • Besides semester-long rentals, some books are also available for monthly (30-, 60- or 90-day) rentals
  • The due date of your book rental will be clearly displayed on the product detail page of that book
  • You must return your rental by the stated due date or you will be charged extra (see the section below for more detail)
  • Not all textbooks are available for rental, so you may not always find what you are looking for
  • If you are not satisfied with the book you receive, you can return it for a full refund within 30 days for semester-long rentals or 15 days for monthly (30, 60, or 90 days) rentals

How to Rent (Step-byStep)

  1. Go to the Amazon Rentals homepage
  2. Make sure you are signed in to your Amazon account
  3. Search for your book by typing its name or ISBN. In order to make sure you have the correct edition, it is better to search by ISBN
  4. On the search results page, books that are available to rent will have the words “to rent” displayed below their titles
  5. Click on the book you want to rent on the search results page
  6. Double check the title, author, edition, and ISBN of the book to make sure you have the right edition
  7. Make sure you are renting and bot buying the book by clicking on the Rent – instead of the Buy used or Buy new – radio button
  8. The Due Date of the rental will be clearly stated under the Rent radio button
  9. Make sure the price and due date of the rental is acceptable to you. Then, click Add to Cart
  10. You can put multiple items – whether they are rental items or not – in your shopping cart in a single order
  11. Go to your shopping cart. Click on the Proceed to checkout button in the upper right corner of the screen
  12. Confirm your shipping address and payment method
  13. Review the shipping options. Orders of more than $25 on Amazon will most likely qualify for free shipping. As most book rentals cost more than $25, your book rental will almost certainly qualify for free shipping. However, free shipping tends to be slow and takes 5 to 8 days to arrive. There are faster shipping options that cost money, typically around $10 or more per book for 2-day shipping. Very often, Amazon will preselect one of these non-free shipping options as the default shipping method for your rental order. If you do not want to pay for shipping and are OK with the 5 to 8 days free shipping speed, you can deselect the default paid shipping method and select the free shipping method instead
  14. Click on the Place Your Order button in the upper right corner of the screen
  15. You are all set. Your rented textbook will be delivered to you using the shipping option you chose

Tip: Keep the packaging box that your rental book arrives in. When it is time to ship the book back to Amazon at the end of the rental period, you can re-use that box and save yourself the cost and trouble of buying a new packaging box.

Every textbook rental has a “return period” within which you can return the book for a full refund. For semester-long rentals, you may return them during the first 30 days of your rental period.

For monthly (30-, 60-, or 90-day) rentals, you may return them during the first 15 days of your rental period.

If you return the book after the applicable 15- or 30-day period, you will not receive any refund of the rental fee, even if you return the textbook before its due date or subsequently purchase the textbook.

How to Buy Afterwards

After you have rented a textbook, you may change your mind and want to buy it instead. Amazon Rentals allows you to do so easily through its rental management feature.

  • You cannot buy your textbook immediately after you have rented it. Instead, you have to wait for a certain number of days. This number of days varies by the type of rentals:
    • Semester-long Rentals: After the first 30 days of your rental
    • Monthly (30, 60, or 90 days) Rentals: After the first 15 days of your rental
  • Make sure you have a chance to fully examine the condition of your book before buying it. Amazon rental books can be either new or used depending on availability. That means your rental book can be a used book. You may not want to buy a used rental book that is in less than pristine condition

To buy your Amazon textbook rentals, follow the step by step instructions below:

  1. Examine your textbook rental closely to make sure it is in a good enough condition for you to buy
  2. If you are sure you want to buy your rental book after examining it, go to the Amazon Rentals homepage
  3. Sign in to your Amazon account
  4. Click on Manage Your Rentals at the top of the screen
  5. You will see a list of all the books you are renting
  6. Select the textbook you wish to purchase and then proceed through the checkout process

Tip: You will not be able to use Amazon gift cards to pay for the purchase of a textbook rental. Amazon says that this functionality is “not currently available.” As a result, you must use a credit card, debit card, or checking account to pay for any rental purchase.

How to Extend (+Additional Fee)

If you end up needing a textbook rental for longer than you have originally planned, you can easily extend your rental period online.

  • You can extend semester-long rentals by 15 days or for an additional semester, each for an incremental fee
  • You can extend monthly rentals (30, 60, or 90 days) for an additional 30, 60, or 90 days for an incremental fee
  • The extension fee you need to pay would vary by the length of the extension you choose as well as by the specific book you are renting

To extend your Amazon textbook rentals, follow the step by step instructions below:

  1. Go to the Amazon Rentals homepage
  2. Sign in to your Amazon account
  3. Click on Manage Your Rentals on the top of the screen
  4. You will see a list of all the books you are renting
  5. Select the textbook you wish to extend
  6. You will see a list of the extension periods available to you together with the fee for each extension period
  7. Select the desired extension period
  8. Confirm your purchase

You will not be able to use Amazon gift cards to pay for the extension of a textbook rental. Amazon says that this functionality is “not currently available.” As a result, you must use a credit card, debit card, or checking account to pay for any rental extension.

How to Return Textbook Rentals

To return your rental, Visit Amazon’s Manage Your Rentals page. Choose the item you want to return and click on “Return rental”. Print out a packing slip and put it in the return package.

Print out the prepaid return shipping label and stick it on the return package. Bring it to the carrier shown on the return label and ship it out.

If you do not have a printer, you can try using the printers at your school library or local public library. Other places where you can use a printer (for a fee) include Staples, Office Depot, OfficeMax, UPS, FedEx, and your local copy & print shops

  • There are 2 types of returns:
    • Returning a book during the “return period” will get you a full refund
    • Returning a book before the end of the rental period so that you will not be charged an extension fee
  • Every textbook rental has a “return period” within which you can return the book for a full refund
    • For semester-long rentals, you may return them during the first 30 days of your rental period
    • For monthly (30-, 60- or 90-day) rentals, you may return them during the first 15 days of your rental period
  • If you return a book after the applicable 15- or 30-day period, you will not receive any refund of the rental fee, even if you return the book before its due date or subsequently purchase the textbook
  • Return shipping is free when you use the shipping label provided

To return your Amazon textbook rentals, follow the step by step instructions below:

  1. Go to the Amazon Rentals homepage
  2. Sign in to your Amazon account
  3. Click on Manage Your Rentals at the top of the screen
  4. You will see a list of all the books you are renting
  5. Select the textbook(s) you wish to return
  6. Select Return rental to print the prepaid return shipping label
  7. Print out the packaging slip & return the shipping label.
  8. Pack the book(s) you are returning and include the packaging slip
  9. Apply the return shipping label
  10. Take the package to the carrier listed on your return label
  11. Return shipping is free when you use the shipping label provided

Tip: To avoid incorrect fees, only rentals listed on the same packaging slip should be returned in the same package together. To avoid automatic extension fees, give the rentals to the carrier on or before the due date.

How to Track Your Rentals

To track your Amazon rentals, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Amazon Rentals homepage
  2. Sign in to your Amazon account
  3. Click on Manage Your Rentals at the top of the screen
  4. You will be able to view the status of all of your open rentals as well as your rental history. You can see the Due Date of each open rental
  5. If you want to track the status of the return shipment of a rental, select Track Package next to that rental

How To Contact Amazon Customer Service

For issues with rentals, you can contact the general customer service department of Amazon. There are 2 ways to do so.

  1. Online Chat: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/contact-us
  2. Phone: 1 (888) 280-4331

Amazon Textbook Return Late Fee

If you do not give your book to the return carrier on or before the due date (that is, if your book is not received by Amazon with a postmark of the due date or an earlier date,) Amazon will give you one or multiple automatic extensions and charge you for them.

The type and number of extensions you will get and be charged for depend on the type of your book rental:

Semester-long Rentals:

If your book is not received with a postmark of the due date or an earlier date, Amazon will automatically extend your rental period by 15 days and charge you for a 15-day extension

If the book is still not received with a postmark of the extension due date or an earlier date, Amazon will charge you the purchase price (as of the time of rental) less any rental fees and extension fees already paid.

Once this happens, the book is yours to keep and you do not have to return it

Monthly (30-, 60- or 90-day) Rentals:

If your book is not received with a postmark of the due date or an earlier date, Amazon will automatically extend your rental period by 30 days and charge you for a 30-day extension

If the book is still not received with a postmark of the extension due date or an earlier date, Amazon will continue to extend your rental period by 30 days and charge you for a 30-day extension.

This will go on until you have paid rental and extension fees equal to the purchase price (as of the time of rental) of the book. Once this happens, the book is yours to keep and you do not have to return it.

If Your Rentals are Damaged or Ripped

According to Amazon, if you return your rentals damaged, they may charge you damage fees. To avoid getting charged damage fees, you need to return your book in acceptable rental condition, which means:

  • No water damage (wavy, swollen or discolored, crinkled, stains, rings)
  • No broken spine or binding
  • The cover is not torn or taped
  • No missing, torn, or loose pages
  • No burns, fire, or smoke damage
  • No strong odor of any kind (including musty odor, cigar or cigarette odor)
  • No excessive writing or highlighting

Amazon does not specify much much the damage fee might be, but it could be very substantial.

A user on Reddit complained about being charged by Amazon a $178.33 damage fee for a calculus textbook that cost $38.03 to rent.

Even worse, they swore they did not touch the textbook at all and so could not possibly have caused any damage to the book.