E-books venture to target UK students

US digital textbook rental service CourseSmart is launching in the UK today to coincide with The London Book Fair.

The company, founded by a group of publishers including Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Macmillan, launched in the US in 2007 and is now targeting UK university students.

Former Random House digital director Fionnuala Duggan is leading the UK business, which claims the service can cut student book bills by 40 per cent.

Students can rent books for six months or more and can make notes on their copy which are saved online. CourseSmart has more than 20,000 e-textbooks and has 2.5 million users worldwide – around 90 per cent of the US high education market.

In the UK, it is aiming to have 7,000 titles by the start of the university term in September. It is also targeting partnerships with UK university faculties to ensure it has the books needed for each course.

Duggan said: "It's like a locker based system. You rent the book and can keep it in one of our online 'lockers' so students don't have to have the responsibility of storing it themselves.

"When the company started in 2007, there wasn't cloud or tablets but the business has grown as the technology has developed."

The company works with 30 publishers in the US, and is planning to work with a similar amount in the UK.

The wider e-books market has been growing rapidly. Digital book rental services already exist with sites such as booksfree.com and bookswim.com and last year Amazon launched a Kindle e-book library for subscribers to sign up for a subscription to rent books.

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