Chegg, Fending Off Rivals, Overhauls Textbook Rental Site to Include Class Scheduling and Homework Help

3/24/11Follow @wroush

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helping students figure out the most efficient class schedule, with the right kind of competitiveness and the right people in the class.” By the fall, CourseRank will include full course catalogs for 1,000 campuses across the U.S., Rosensweig says.

Cramster is a network of students and educators who can help users with actual class work. Founded in 2003 and based in Pasadena, CA, the operation has online modules that walk users through the solutions to the problem sets included with hundreds of textbooks, as well as a Q&A section where students can get help directly from experts. Cramster “doesn’t just give them the answer, but helps them learn how to solve the problem,” Rosensweig says.

But there’s more to the integration of Chegg, CourseRank, and Cramster than is apparent from the new site, according to Rosensweig. “It’s not just a new look and feel—what won’t be obvious is the significant investment in the technology underneath,” he says. For example, now that Chegg knows which courses CourseRank users are registered for, it can instantly show them the textbooks assigned for those courses, boosting its rental business. “Each of these things jump-starts the others.”

Rosensweig emphasizes that the Chegg platform isn’t complete, and that the company will continue to add services that make students’ lives easier, even as it prepares for the day when e-textbooks finally kill off its physical textbook rental service. “We entered this business fully understanding that in however many years, print textbooks are going to evolve into digital,” he says. “I think you should view Chegg more like a Netflix or an Amazon. When Amazon launched, it was the world’s largest bookstore, but I don’t think anybody believed for one second that it was just going to be a bookstore. [Chegg] is not about the textbook rental business, it is about creating value for students—and the more value we can create, the more business we will have.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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