Can you take your textbook across state lines? Maybe not if you rent through Amazon

Textbooks

Here’s a random bit of news textbook-toting students might want to know: if you rent textbooks through Amazon’s Warehouse Deals, you’d better be careful about taking your books across state lines.

As first pointed out by Inside Higher Ed, the fine print in Amazon’s Textbook Rental Terms and Conditions says that, if students rent through Warehouse Deals (an Amazon site for deals on returned, used or refurbished products), students may not move a book out of the state to which it was first shipped unless they actually purchase the book first.

“If we determine that at any time during the rental period you have moved a textbook rented from Warehouse Deals, Inc. out of the state to which it was originally shipped, we may in our sole discretion charge you the buyout price of the textbook and transfer title to the textbook to you, retroactive to the date you moved the textbook out of that state. In such case, the textbook will be yours to keep,” the company says.

Considering the number of students who live in a different state from their school, this seems like a pretty easy rule to break.  But even though you’d think it would be difficult to enforce – how would Amazon know if you brought a book home to study over break or brought it to school after shipping it to your home? – Inside Higher Ed points out that if you a student has a book shipped to her home and then mails it back from a school in a different state, Amazon would have a clear reason to bill her for the entire book.

It may sound like a silly rule, but it apparently all comes back to Amazon’s efforts to avoid collecting state sales tax (which as my colleague Laura Owen has covered before, the company is quite good at). If Amazon owns rented books across state lines, the state could argue that it has a business presence large enough to warrant collecting taxes.

Thankfully, the “books with borders” rule (as Inside Higher Ed calls it) only applies to books rented through Warehouse Deals, not other Amazon textbook rental services.

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