As students went back to school earlier this month, many struggled to shoulder the financial weight of their required textbooks.

But some found a way out through textbook rental companies, which allow shared access to textbooks on a semester-long basis while dramatically reducing the upfront cost of learning.

Now, Chegg.com, one of the first social education platforms, is upping the ante by facilitating the short-term rental of digital textbooks as well.

In order to accomplish this, Chegg partnered with a number of publishers, including Cengage Learning, Elsevier, F.A. Davis, Macmillan, McFarland, McGraw-Hill, Oxford University Press, Rowman & Littlefield, Taylor and Francis, and Wiley, to create electronic versions of their text books.

TechCrunch reports that the company will be steadily rolling e-textbooks on its platform with the goal of offering millions of e-textbooks to students by the end of the year. 

Why Go Digital?

Some consider print textbook sales to be a sophisticated rackett: schools agree to "require" the latest edition of a book, causing resale values for previous editions to plummet, and publishers cut the school a deal on bulk purchasing.

Not only is this system wasteful (think of the trees!) it places an additional burden on already cash-strapped students and their families.

“Our goal is to connect students to the resources and tools they need to help make them be more successful throughout their academic life,” said Dan Rosensweig, president and CEO at Chegg. “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.”

The switch to digital textbooks is only one facet of an important shift in the academic process: a trend toward customized learning.

Learning environments, as well as the tools used within them, need to evolve to meet the needs of a better connected, more technologically savvy student. Printed books are outdated by the time they hit the shelves, their information stagnant. Digital textbooks can be updated in a matter of hours, saving paper and presenting information in context rather than a vaccum.

Are E-Books Really Better?

Students who download the e-textbooks from Chegg will enjoy an enhanced reading experience, complete with a one-click subject navigation.

Much more than an online version of a printed text, students will be able to utilize the digital textbooks in much the same way as a physical book, but with the added benefit of highlighting, taking notes and searching directly in the book.

Additionally, Chegg's e-textbook offering will include a “read while you wait” tool, where students can access their textbooks online while they wait for their hardcopy textbook to arrive (a lifesaving feature for those who like to procrastinate).

What do you think about Chegg's new offering: Positive trend or marketing scheme? Discuss.

Beth Buczynski


Beth Buczynski

Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in beautiful Colorado. She loves sharing so much, she wrote a book about it. "Sharing Is Good" is a practical guide

Things I share: Transportation (I love my bike!) Office space (yay coworking!) Money (Credit Unions do it better!)