Posts Tagged ‘ chegg ’

eBook Review – Chegg – The Update

The last time I checked in on the eTextbook platform at Chegg, it was February of this year; what a difference six months has made! While the original system was impressive, the changes are even more so and they are going to help set Chegg apart in the digital arena. Here’s what’s up:

iPhone Reader: Taking advantage of the retina display on iPhone, the new-and-improved Chegg app now has a direct tie to the eTextbook platform. This experience is fully optimized and provides a crisp-and-clean interface that is easy to navigate and easy on the eyes. Want to take it for a spin? The app has a sample eTextbook, so try it for yourself. Let me know what you think.

Notepad: In the first review, I mentioned the notes feature, but the new notepad is a totally revised experience. Clip a quote, grab a picture, or insert a Wikipedia definition into your note page and start a digital record of the notes and parts of the book you find most interesting. This is particularly helpful when going back to study for a test.

Homework Help: The old system had a Q&A component. The new system has deep integration with the Homework Help social interaction that Chegg is really promoting this fall.

Highlights: When I buy a used book, I typically look at the highlighting from the previous owner to see if s/he did a good job calling out useful content. The new highlight feature in Chegg tech allows you to see passages of the book that have been highlighted by other users. I thought this was a great use of digital content, kind of like getting the wisdom of all others who have used the same text.

While You Wait: While this isn’t a feature of the digital book itself, it is a nice feature of the larger process. Now when you order your textbook rental, if you are worried the book will not arrive by the first day of class, you can pay $0.99 to get a digital copy of the book for seven days while you wait for the print copy.

Chegg is setting the bar high for eTextbooks. As I have mentioned in past posts, Chegg needs a digital strategy to ensure its future now that it has serious competition from many rental companies trying to emulate what Chegg started a few years ago. You can tell by recent updates that the folks at Chegg get it, that they understand that they cannot rest upon their rental laurels and that they must continually innovate and that such innovation must come in the form of an interactive digital hub that is mobile friendly.

Back to School 2012

All the excitement of back-to-school is building. This is the season, make-or-break time for many in the textbook space. As we all finish up the changes to our sites and we tweak our plans accordingly, many in the industry are thinking “What will the big announcements be?” Hey, they call me the Textbook Guru for a reason, so here is what I foresee:

eBooks: We will see lots of announcements over the next two weeks about updates to digital platforms. Almost every eBook provider I have spoken with is planning new-feature releases prior to back to school. And they are already starting.


Kno Elsevier


Acquisitions: Rumor has it that there will be an acquisition in the textbook space. While I have had this confirmed from a few reliable sources, they have all asked to remain off the record so I can’t say what is being bought and sold.

Rafter Buys Hubedu

Rentals: I expect textbook rentals to continue to be a story in this back-to-school rush. At this point, rental has been around long enough for almost every major player in the space to have a rental program, which makes it a lot different than a few years ago when we only had a handful of players dividing up the rentals pie.

And More . . . The press loves to follow stories. With Chegg making a major push into the college hub and Rafter making waves with their new model, we are sure to see new story lines pop and the press chase as we get into rush.

Is it really news that students spending on textbooks have droped by $12 over 2 years!  Really?

When is rush you ask? Well, if you did already know, here is a chart that I feel represents how the month of August will play out in terms of textbook sales.


Good luck and may your rush business be as hot as the weather this summer!

eBooks Platform Reviews: The Wrap-Up Show!

As we get deeper into summer, I wanted to spend a moment and recap the eBooks platform reviews we’ve covered over the past six months. This project stems from a discussion I was having about eBooks and the different reader technology on the market. While speaking about each provider, I realized that I had never purchased a book, downloaded it, and tried it, I’d only read hardware specs and handled some devices, but I’d never really knuckled down with a text from start to finish. How could I speak about the different products being used if I hadn’t tried them myself?

First, I tried to think of who the major players were specific to the college textbook space. Then for each book, I wanted to experience it as a student. That said, I never asked for a free copy and instead I went to the company’s website or app, selected a book, and downloaded. While exploring each book, I tried to pay particular attention to the features that were touted by the provider so that I could comment on them (good or bad). By trying to place my mind inside the mind of a student, I was able to look at each book and its overall application in the college setting.

The eBook platforms I covered include:
iBooks Publishing

I was never looking to pick a winner and that remains the case in my approach. Each platform has unique positive and negative features. The one thing that really surprised me was the primitive social features integrated into the eBooks and the lack of thinking “off the page.” The truth is that eBooks have a long way to go. What we have today begins to engage the student in a new way but all the platforms are simply an extension of the physical book. While features such as video, 3D, note cards, highlighting, and more are currently standard features, the book is still stuck in its “chapter” format (that is, it’s a digital version of a print book with a few interactive features that don’t rely on pen-and-paper but mimic them). Until the textbook is truly unbound and digital courses are created from scratch, we will be limited by the small-scale book-mimicry advancements we can make in eBooks.

Meet Chegg – The College Hub

Over the past three years, both education insiders and venture capitalists have watched with interest as Chegg has grown and developed. In 2010, the company raised more than $140 million, spending an estimated $50 million of that money on six acquisitions over a two year time period. But where was the textbook-rentals company going?

When Chegg leapt onto the scene and pioneered the textbook-rental market, the company effectively changed the market, and reports now estimate that rentals represent 15-20% of all textbook purchases. With new players entering the field, the ability to grow a company through this channel was slowly closing and this young company had to find a way to reinvent itself.

The addition of Dan Rosenweig, he of Yahoo! and Guitar Hero, set to transform the company from a one-trick rental pony to a college hub assisting students with scheduling classes, finding tutors, sourcing affordable textbooks, completing difficult assignments, and more. Beginning this week, students will get a look into the new

The release started with an article in Business Week  and was followed up with a personal invitation from Mr. Rosenweig to all current Chegg customers in the Chegg Salad email newsletter. It’s too early to tell if students will embrace the Facebook-like cloud and social features that allow them to store all their course information in one single place, but the move is significant as it positions Chegg to provide all the services form the companies they have acquired all in one single location.

A look back at past posts on Chegg
eBook Review: Chegg
What Going on At Chegg
Chegg Addresses Final Pieces to the Puzzle
Chegg Makes Big Moves to Reposition Itself

Bookrenter is Now Rafter

While Chegg has been sharply focused on building a media empire well beyond textbooks and rentals, it’s now clear that BookRenter has taken the hint and is now getting in on content-management and the course-material adoption process. Today the company announced that its now be called Rafter, they will continue to run the site Bookrenter as public brand under the new corporate umbrella. Along with the re-branding they have released a new set of software services that allows educators and college administrators to control and manage course materials using a cloud-based computing platform.

The new system relies upon the company’s eight years of adoptions and bibliographical and sales data to paint a picture of the patterns for more than 11 million titles. The newly named Rafter is hedging its bets that these tools will better enable the adoption process to produce cost-savings for students and colleges. More details on the product can be found at

This announcement is undoubtedly the first of many of its kind as CAMEX approaches and the many companies servicing the even-more departments of the college bookstore compete to deliver (or at least announce) the next big thing.

eBook Review: Chegg

Plugging along in our eBook review series we come next to Chegg is one of the biggest online textbook retailers and boasts one of the largest rental libraries available.  They are also one of the largest names in eBooks, and growing. To get up to speed on our eBook reviews, you can check out our past reviews of Kno, Inkling, and CourseSmart.

Lets get started with the purchasing process. Setting up my account took roughly 5 minutes start to finish, a new record so far. Chegg gives you the option to buy or rent physical textbooks, or to rent your eTextbook.

Just ordered the book on your first day of class and need it right away? Chegg has you covered with a free 7 day rental of the electronic version of your book while you wait for the physical version to show up. If you ask me this is a pretty smart feature for them to add. Chegg knows that students will wait until the last minute to order books and this save everyone by delivering the student a product while they wait for the physical book.

If you’ve rented an eTextbook, you have 14 days from the date of purchase to return it, which makes sense since there is no shipping period. This is the same 2 week return period offered by Kno and CourseSmart, although their rental periods vary. I have to admit it seems a bit odd to have to ‘return’ an electronic book, but with such long rental periods it may be even more odd to have need for the text after it’s been returned.

One big leg up for Chegg is that it’s platform is build on HTML 5. There are a lot of behind the scene things that make HTML5 better than HTML but the main advantage for Chegg is that you can read your eBooks from literally any device with a browser and an internet connection. No downloading apps or making sure you’re using Firefox and not Safari or Chrome since HTML 5 will display the same on any platform, which makes reading your books easy and convenient.

What Chegg doesn’t offer is offline viewing. In our modern world, this is becoming less of a set back as you can get an internet connection in more and more places, but the convenience of guaranteed access all the time is no small thing. Obviously this makes enforcing your rental time limit more difficult for Chegg, but other platforms like CourseSmart seem to do just fine with this capability. In the end though you must decide how often you’ll need access to your eBook when you don’t have an internet connection.


Chegg has many of the features we’ve come to expect from electronic books. Zoom is a handy tool and I particularly like the way they added it to the interface. Rather than a slider bar like the one standard on most programs, Chegg uses a visual button system like this.

When taking notes, Chegg uses the ever popular ‘sticky note’ visual. Your notes are attached to the page you’re viewing by placing a small yellow sticky note icon in the margin. Clicking this icon reopens the note. Bookmarking is done with one click to the bookmark button in your user interface. You can easily browse bookmarks through the ‘Go To’ button which pops up an overlay that displays all bookmarked pages as scrolling thumbnails. I like this visual way to browse your bookmarks, but it could get confusing if you bookmark heavily.
The Chegg Search bar is the most dynamic and well thought out search tool of all the eBooks so far. First, it ‘predicts’ or ‘suggests’ search terms based on what you have typed in so far, much the same way Google does. Also, instead of opening a new page or taking over your current page, the search results are displayed in a tall, narrow overlay bar that extends down from the search bar (see below). This is convenient if you are referencing the page you are on to find the right result to jump to.

Highlighting is easy as well and comes in yellow and purple colors. However Chegg knows that some people go to town on their books with a whole case of highlighters and pens, so they’ve also included the option to add green or blue dotted underlines to text. This is the first eBook I’ve tried that offers underlining in addition to highlighting, which I’m sure will really come in handy for organizationally minded students.
Another standard feature that Chegg offers is ‘Look Up’ which is basically a dictionary tool. You can select any single word from the text and look up a definition. Similar to the handy overlay for search results, your definition is returned as a small bubble that pops up next to the word, so no leaving your spot in the text.
One of the most in depth and potentially most useful features that Chegg offers is called ‘Ask a Question’ which allows you to query experts on something you don’t understand. Say you come to a passage about the Nitrogen cycle and don’t understand part of it. You can highlight the text in question and click ‘Ask a Question’ which will copy the text over into the pop up question field. Here you can type out your specific questions and submit it to Chegg and get a response from a real person who knows the subject. Chegg says questions are answered ‘usually within 2 hours’ which isn’t a bad turn around, but presumably would be longer during mid-terms and finals when question volume would be higher. Afterwards, your questions and the answers from Chegg are stored under ‘Questions and Answers’ in the upper right of your interface for reference later.
This kind of innovative feature is what makes eBooks so exciting. They are a dynamic platform that only needs to mimic the paper books they are displaying, but they are not bound by the same restrictions and this proves it. It also distinguishes Chegg from other eBook retailers by combining the book store with tutoring services. I think there is a lot of potential for Chegg to grow this part of its business by offering more in-depth tutoring as a subscription service for students looking for extra help.


I have been very impressed with the Chegg platform as a whole. Their selection is impressive, prices are on par with their competitors and the eReader interface is simple, intuitive and robust. Of all the services I’ve seen so far, Chegg seems to be the most conscious of the way students purchase and use their textbooks. Generous return policies, complimentary eBook rentals while you wait for shipped books and innovative interface features make Chegg a strong leader in the field.
With eBook services being so proprietary, it can be difficult to commit to one, but Chegg is one that I would not hesitate to jump on board with. I think if you’re looking to make the move to digital, Chegg is a strong contender to check out because they put a lot of importance on the user experience. It takes about ten minutes from the time you first hit their site to the time you’re reading your first book, and if you change your mind it’s easy to go back. Most of all though, I think Chegg is innovating the market with services like ‘Ask a Question’ and as their library and customer base grow, there’s no telling how how far they can go with their platform.

What’s Going on at Chegg?

I recently read an article Forbes ran about Chegg and I wanted to highlight a few stats I found noteworthy.

  •  Chegg’s estimated 2011 revenue of $200 million was up 38% over 2010.
  •  Chegg is still seeing 93% of their income from textbooks (new, used, ebooks, and rentals).
  •  CourseRank, which Chegg acquired in August 2010, has grown from 50,000 users to more than 400,000 users.
  •  Cramster, which Chegg acquired in December 2010, has doubled its user base.

While the textbook market is changing and new players are making waves, Chegg is positioned to withstand and grow in this new market. They’ve certainly become so much more than the leading rental company and while the Forbes piece didn’t touch upon it explicitly, it’s clear that Chegg has a very strong digital strategy with their acquisition of 3D3R and creation of HTML5 textbooks. And they’ve integrated this with their core business of rental as students can now get their textbooks free for 7 days in digital format while waiting for the rental to arrive.

What’s really important about what’s going on at Chegg is how the company continues to promote itself as the brand of choice for college students. With the reach Chegg’s amassed across the different sites they own, nobody can argue that they can deliver a brand message to the college community. It will be interesting to see how they employ this strategy over the next six months and its clear that they are looking to drive new revenue from this channel.

Chegg makes big moves to reposition itself


But what does this mean for the industry, competitors, and a possible IPO?

Late last week, in a press release entitled “Chegg Expands Beyond Textbook Rental Industry; New Educational Services Include Class Scheduling and Homework Help,” the textbook-rental giant discussed its expansion into other educational areas such as homework help and class selection. While many news sites simply reprinted the story, I dug deeper to look at what Chegg has done and the bigger-picture ramifications. 

Let’s start with some history: In early 2010, I made a prediction (and since it never came to fruition, I’m off the hook for having to prove that I made it!). I was positive that Chegg was going to purchase a large marketplace website. To me, it made perfect sense and was a natural fit: if a rental company owned a big marketplace, the company would have access to all of the sellers and most of the inventory, essentially creating a ready-made drop-ship fulfillment model. And in some senses, this has played out, though not exactly as I envisioned. The changes manifested in the form of websites such as providing textbook-rental sites (and other sites as well) with access to the inventory data without the rental sites having to build (or buy) any of the infrastructure.

Based on observations and predictions, I posit that in order for Chegg to go public (the direction in which it the company is apparently headed), Chegg must address three main points:
 1) How it would obtain inventory
 2) How it would engage students during the school year
 3) How it would handle the emergence of eTextbooks

More Rental Options for the College Bookstore, New Survey Results


The battle over textbook rentals is moving off line and into the campus bookstore, and the turf up for grabs includes both institutional and private stores. During our

CAMEX recap, we shared stories about Follett’s new partner program with independent bookstores, as well as a new partnership between Chegg and ICBA and one between and NACS. And the trend continues with other companies following suit.


South Eastern Book Co. Joins Forces with
SEB, through their $10-million investment in CollegeBookRenter becomes an in-store rental player catering to the needs of today’s college students by offering an online textbook rental program. SEB Rental customizes each bookstore’s rental site using the appropriate school colors and bookstore logo. Unlike its competitors that require a 7-10 day turnaround, SEB guarantees that a bookstore’s rental site will be live within three business days of the initial request. SEB provides the necessary customer support and IT assistance and even facilitates customer returns. SEB will assume any losses associated with students’ failure to return textbooks, and bookstores will collect a 10% commission on all textbooks rented through their SEB rental site. SEB Rental offers a store-reporting function and the company provides promotional materials to drive traffic to bookstores’ rental sites and help ensure their success.

CAMEX RECAP – Rental, Digital, and Bankruptcy!

Last week was the annual Campus Market Expo. The 2011 event was held in Houston, Texas, and while this show is for anything and everything college bookstores, the textbook industry favors the expo as a launching pad for new programs, training, and announcements, as well as a chance to set the stage for the August back-to-school season. So what’s the scoop on CAMEX 2011?  What was the buzz? What were the trends? And what were the expectations? Keep reading to find out.
Like general e-commerce, textbook rental was again center stage. In addition to the traditional CAMEX vendors, several online rental companies, including, (through Bookstore Solutions), and Chegg, were present at the show. 

Surrounding the event were several important press releases regarding rental and the rental players:

  • announced its partnership with NACS in order to position the move as uniting online rentals and bricks-and-mortar college stores as the ultimate source for affordable textbooks.
  • BookRenter also had a nice timely release on the company’s stability and immediate intentions as they announced raising a Series-C round of funding in the amount of  $40 million.
  • Chegg announced its partnership with the Independent College Bookstore Association in a new commitment to deliver affordable textbook rentals to campuses nationwide.
  • Follett announced a new online-rental solution for independent bookstores.

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