Play Store textbooks are here, but may not be the best option

August 12, 2013
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Savings? You sure about that?

Savings? You sure about that?

When Google announced that Textbooks would find their way to the Play Store, we were all a bit excited. For the Google-centric student, the ability to have textbooks at their fingertips, on nearly any device, made buying or renting textbooks via the Play Store a very attractive option.

Competitive pricing, however, remains elusive for the Play Store. From music to movies, the best deal for media is often elsewhere. Textbooks are no exception, as established booksellers like Amazon have Google handled soundly.

For the discerning student, simply purchasing the book via Amazon and selling it back to a campus book seller would probably be a better financial decision.

We spot checked a few books, and found that when simply compared to Amazon, the savings via the Play Store often aren’t the best deals a student can get. Game Theory, for instance, was nearly half the price when rented via Kindle. The Play Store rented the book out for six months, at a cost of $25. Amazon rents the same book, but with staggered pricing and durations. Starting at $12.01 for a 30-day rental, the 120-day rental is only $19.60, and can be rented in any 30-day increment. You can also tack on additional time, should you need more time with the book.

Another textbook, Psychology, could be rented for 180-days at $65.99 via the Play Store. The same book, via Amazon, could be rented for a maximum price of $32. Amazon rented a hardcover or loose-leaf book, while the Play Store was obviously a digital edition. Amazon sold the book for $71.81 (hardcover), for those who wish to keep their books or maybe sell them when the semester ends.

The Play Store rental structure is rigid, and some books like Psychology can’t be purchased. For the discerning student, simply purchasing the book via Amazon and selling it back to a campus book seller would probably be a better financial decision. While the selection is there, it seems the folks at Google simply don’t quite understand the needs of students in this respect. Classes rarely last a full 180-days, and accelerated classes can end as quickly as one month. When you consider dropped classes or mid-semester reading assignments, the options outside of the Play Store start making much more sense.

For a pure digital experience, the Play Store is a good choice. The selection is respectable, and they have agreements in place with all major textbook publishers. Though it’s a good start, Amazon has Google facing an uphill battle for the attention of students. Their pricing is better, with more options for renting. The Kindle app is also available on more devices.

Unfortunately, when compared to the competition equally, the Play Store falls well short of being competitive.

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