Students can now rent costly textbooks from Amazon's new Kindle Textbook Rental service, getting a discount of up to 80 percent.

Textbooks can be rented through Amazon's Kindle Textbook Rental Service for periods of as short as 30 days or as long as 360 days, with fees differing based upon the length of time a textbook is rented.

Once the initial rental period is up, students can re-rent textbooks again if they need to for periods as short as one day. Students will also be allowed to continue to access any electronic notes or highlights they made after the rental period ends by visiting Amazon's Web site.

With Amazon's new service, students will be able to rent available textbooks as ebooks from the Kindle Store instead of purchasing them outright at much higher prices, reading those on the Kindle or other tablet, laptop or smartphone devices that run the Kindle app. Rental books can also be read on smartphones and tablet's running Apple's iOS, Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and Google's Android operating system.

We've done a little something extra we think students will enjoy, said Dave Limp, vice president of Amazon's Kindle unit. Normally, when you sell your print textbook at the end of the semester you lose all the margin notes and highlights you made as you were studying. We're extending our Whispersync technology so that you get to keep and access all of your notes and highlighted content in the Amazon Cloud, available anytime, anywhere -- even after a rental expires. If you choose to rent again or buy at a later time, your notes will be there just as you left them.

High textbook costs have long been a problem for students at schools where they have to purchase them, including private schools and colleges and universities.

Amazon's Kindle Textbook Rental will function like a library, in that students will pay only for the privilege of borrowing their books. Traditionally, students have had to buy textbooks at retail prices, selling them back later at deeply-discounted prices. Even used textbooks are often sold at prices close to retail, making the exchange a costly proposition for students and their families.

Amazon says tens of thousands of textbooks are available for the 2011 school year from its Kindle Store, from textbook publishers including Wiley, Elsevier, and Taylor & Francis.

Students can chose the length of time they wish to rent the books, from periods offered of between 30 and 360 days, and they will pay only for the time they need the book.

The only drawback to the Kindle Textbook Rental program may be that a Kindle or other e-reading device is needed, so students not having one must get one, and that not all textbooks will be available, especially at first. The advantage, however, is significant savings for students who have a Kindle or who can get one, and can find books they need in the program.

If a new textbook costs $250, for example, students can now rent it through the Kindle Textbook program for $30 for 30 days.