Chegg competitor raises $20M

Faith Merino · August 2, 2011 · Short URL:

The textbook rental service comes with low prices and a feel-good donation-per-rental feature

While the debate over whether or not college students want digital textbooks wages on, the textbook rental industry continues to heat up., an Ogden, Utah-based company, announced Tuesday that it has secured a $20 million round of funding from Level Equity, Five Elms Capital, and Cherokee & Walker.

Founded in 2007, has been quietly amassing quite the following, serving customers on over 5,600 college campuses.  Like Chegg, offers a one-month money-back guarantee if a student drops a course after renting a book (Chegg offers a 21-day guarantee while offers a 30-day guarantee).

And like Chegg, offers a feel-good nonprofit donation promise for every book rented.  While Chegg plants a tree for every book rented, donates a portion of all proceeds to Operation Smile, an organization that provides cleft-palate correction surgeries for the children of families who otherwise couldn’t afford it.

Despite their similarities, the two differ where prices are concerned.  For example, “The Principles of Evolutionary Medicine,” which has a list price of $65, is available on for $57.49 for the fall semester and is due back December 18.  On Chegg, the same book (same edition, same ISBN number) is available for $28.49 for the semester and is due back December 23—or you can buy it new for $40.99.

At first glance, it would seem like Chegg offers significantly lower prices on textbook rentals than, but after checking out a few more titles, I saw that that’s not the case.  “Conceptual Physics” is available to rent for the semester on Chegg for $73, while the same book is available on for $52.  Another title, “Psychology,” is available on for $43 for the semester, but on Chegg, the title is $64.

And has another leg-up on Chegg: it allows for shorter rental periods and even customized rental periods.  Students can rent books on for a semester, a quarter, or the summer—all of which come with different price options.  Or students can select their own return date based on when their classes end (if it’s a weird 6-week class or something), and the site instantly calculates the rental price. 

Amazon, which jumped into the digital textbook rental scene in July, offers a similar feature, allowing customers to set their own rental period and calculating the rental price based on those dates.’s flexible rental features and low prices likely account for its sharp growth over the last year, as it more than tripled to 100 employees from 30 one year ago and has had to upgrade to larger offices five times in four years.

The company plans to use the funds from this round for hiring, textbook acquisitions, and other operational expenses.  


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