Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP
This Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, photo shows a Google sign at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Google's new textbook service pits it against other major online sellers, such as Amazon and

Google’s announcement last week of Chromecast — a device that streams online content from smartphones and tablets onto TVs — attracted no small amount of media attention given its potential to be a real game-changer at just $35.

But Google announced another product launch Wednesday that received far less attention, even though it will probably affect far more consumers this year than Chromecast: The Google Play store will soon start selling and renting digital copies of college textbooks — supplies college students spend $655 per year buying, according to the National Association of College Stores.

“Although no information was given about pricing, Google said we will see a ‘comprehensive selection of titles’ from five major publishing houses,” Samantha Murphy reported for tech website Mashable. “Textbooks can be purchased or rented for about six months. Content will also be available up to an 80 percent discount. … Some of the major subjects coming to Google's textbook collection will include math, law, accounting and chemistry."

Engadget’s Jon Fingas wrote, “Google Play Textbooks (will be) a dedicated category on the Play Store for learning material. The section will offer titles from the top five publishers, and students will have the choice of renting books for six months in addition to buying them outright. Textbooks should be available this August, and they'll sync across Android, iOS and the Web.”

“The new Google service will compete directly with Amazon, which offers a similar service through its Kindle e-reader devices and mobile apps,” Salvador Rodriguez reported Friday for the Los Angeles Times.

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