Chegg rolls out digital textbooks for rent

Faith Merino · August 18, 2011 · Short URL:

Will it be enough to compete, though?

It’s a well-known fact that college students are cheap.  It’s one of the few times in life where you’ll find yourself periodically brainstorming the pros and cons of donating eggs versus auditioning at amateur night at Centerfolds (I always came to the conclusion that I needed to do some serious ab work before I tried to hustle my goodies at amateur night).  What you might not know is that college students are also lazy and will go to great measures to avoid having to do things like get up early, walk very far, or carry books.

Chegg had the first issue covered by offering book rentals, but now it’s tackling the second issue by offering digital textbook rentals.  The company announced the new offering on Thursday, and CEO Dan Rosenweig explained: "With the growing adoption of e-readers and tablets, Chegg is fulfilling its promise to students by providing them with the content they need in the formats they want- and with help from our publisher partners -  at a price they can afford."

A Chegg spokesperson said that the platform currently offers “tens of thousands” of digital titles, with plans to have as many as 40,000 by the end of the year.

Interestingly, the titles can only be accessed through a Web browser, which means that if a student rents a digital textbook through Chegg, he or she will have to have an Internet connection in order to read it.  This doesn’t strike me as much of a digital solution, considering the fact that that student could easily go elsewhere for digital textbooks, like Kno, Inkling, or Amazon, and read those titles offline.

The upside of the new offering is that Chegg’s digital titles aren’t device specific.  Inkling and Kno are available on the iPad, while Amazon’s digital textbooks are available on the Kindle (note: students can also access their Kno books through Facebook).  Students who get their titles through Chegg can read them on any Internet supported device.  But, of course, that means study time at the local coffee shop could get pretty expensive if it doesn’t offer free Wi-Fi.

But Chegg is no dummy.  It didn’t get to where it is today by half-assing anything.  The company says it will roll out offline support in January, so students will have a more affordable option in the spring semester.

To get the digital textbook ball rolling, Chegg has partnered with Cengage Learning, Elsevier, F.A. Davis, Macmillan, McFarland, McGraw-Hill,Oxford University Press, Rowman & Littlefield, Taylor and Francis, and Wiley, among others.  Additionally, the company has introduced a new “read while you wait” feature for their physical titles so that students can read their books and stay current on their homework while they wait for their physical books to arrive in the mail. 

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