Students look beyond UShop for textbooks

Kelsey Ruane

Faced with many book-buying options, students are searching for cost-effective alternatives to the bookstore.

One such alternative,, has grown in popularity as college students search for cheaper methods of getting textbooks.

Chegg co-founders Osman Rashid and Aayush Phumbhra aim to help people save money through their textbook rental service, which resembles the online movie rental service, Netflix.

Chegg grew out of Cheggpost – a sort of “Craigslist for college students,” Phumbhra said of the site he helped create in 2005 while a student at Iowa State University.

When he and Rashid noticed that users spent most of their money buying textbooks from each other on Cheggpost, they revolutionized the Web site, making it strictly textbook related.

“The response was phenomenal,” Phumbhra said.

From this, Chegg was born – putting to rest the age-old argument of what came first, the chicken or the egg – the name “Chegg” is a combination of the two words.

Renters can save 65 to 85 percent on a textbook from Chegg, provided they return it at the end of their chosen rental period.

Frank Henninger, director of the University Shop, said that utilizing the University Shop’s used book buyback program is really the better alternative to rental sites like Chegg.

“Used copies are one of the few win-win things in retail,” he said.

Students can receive 50 percent of the original price of a book back from the school store.

Factor in the shipping and handling costs required by Chegg, and the total amount of money spent at the school store often comes to less than that spent through online book rentals, according to Henninger.

However, if professors have not notified the school store that they will require the book again next semester, 50 percent is not the portion that students receive at buyback.

Instead, they receive the wholesale price, which is about 20 to 30 percent.

“College bookstores need to be able to exploit some of the technologies that online businesses are using,” said Rick Sieber, executive director of Auxiliary Services, which oversees the University Shop and Dining Services, among other things.

A book rental program at the University is a possibility for the future, said Henninger.

Mailroom activity is proof that more students are buying online than ever before, Henninger said.

Nevertheless, the University Shop has continued to move about the same number of books that they have in the past, while the number of used books sold has doubled.

Phumbhra said that site traffic on has grown exponentially simply due to effective word-of-mouth promotion.

“The price was reasonable,” said Amy Cho, who rented her psychology textbook from this semester. “I compared it with the book store and Amazon and found the best bargain at Chegg. It was a really simple process, too.”

At the moment, he cannot specifically link the site’s increasing popularity to the nation’s economic downturn, adding that people will always be on the lookout for a bargain, no matter the times.

Chegg’s goal is to continue saving money across the country by expanding its textbook collection, which contains over one million books.

There are users at 4,000 college campuses, and Chegg is the leading business of its kind, despite similar sites, and

For every book rented, purchased, sold or donated, Chegg gives money to American Forests’ Global Releaf program to plant a tree.

According to its Web site, Chegg has funded over 150 city blocks of new trees.

A counter-argument can be made that the “green-ness” of Chegg is negated by the amount of packaging it uses by sending books individually.

“The least [environmentally] efficient way to distribute textbooks is to have them all come separately to your apartment or dorm,” Henninger said.