Plugging along in our eBook review series we come next to Chegg is one of the biggest online textbook retailers and boasts one of the largest rental libraries available.  They are also one of the largest names in eBooks, and growing. To get up to speed on our eBook reviews, you can check out our past reviews of Kno, Inkling, and CourseSmart.

Lets get started with the purchasing process. Setting up my account took roughly 5 minutes start to finish, a new record so far. Chegg gives you the option to buy or rent physical textbooks, or to rent your eTextbook.

Just ordered the book on your first day of class and need it right away? Chegg has you covered with a free 7 day rental of the electronic version of your book while you wait for the physical version to show up. If you ask me this is a pretty smart feature for them to add. Chegg knows that students will wait until the last minute to order books and this save everyone by delivering the student a product while they wait for the physical book.

If you’ve rented an eTextbook, you have 14 days from the date of purchase to return it, which makes sense since there is no shipping period. This is the same 2 week return period offered by Kno and CourseSmart, although their rental periods vary. I have to admit it seems a bit odd to have to ‘return’ an electronic book, but with such long rental periods it may be even more odd to have need for the text after it’s been returned.

One big leg up for Chegg is that it’s platform is build on HTML 5. There are a lot of behind the scene things that make HTML5 better than HTML but the main advantage for Chegg is that you can read your eBooks from literally any device with a browser and an internet connection. No downloading apps or making sure you’re using Firefox and not Safari or Chrome since HTML 5 will display the same on any platform, which makes reading your books easy and convenient.

What Chegg doesn’t offer is offline viewing. In our modern world, this is becoming less of a set back as you can get an internet connection in more and more places, but the convenience of guaranteed access all the time is no small thing. Obviously this makes enforcing your rental time limit more difficult for Chegg, but other platforms like CourseSmart seem to do just fine with this capability. In the end though you must decide how often you’ll need access to your eBook when you don’t have an internet connection.


Chegg has many of the features we’ve come to expect from electronic books. Zoom is a handy tool and I particularly like the way they added it to the interface. Rather than a slider bar like the one standard on most programs, Chegg uses a visual button system like this.

When taking notes, Chegg uses the ever popular ‘sticky note’ visual. Your notes are attached to the page you’re viewing by placing a small yellow sticky note icon in the margin. Clicking this icon reopens the note. Bookmarking is done with one click to the bookmark button in your user interface. You can easily browse bookmarks through the ‘Go To’ button which pops up an overlay that displays all bookmarked pages as scrolling thumbnails. I like this visual way to browse your bookmarks, but it could get confusing if you bookmark heavily.
The Chegg Search bar is the most dynamic and well thought out search tool of all the eBooks so far. First, it ‘predicts’ or ‘suggests’ search terms based on what you have typed in so far, much the same way Google does. Also, instead of opening a new page or taking over your current page, the search results are displayed in a tall, narrow overlay bar that extends down from the search bar (see below). This is convenient if you are referencing the page you are on to find the right result to jump to.

Highlighting is easy as well and comes in yellow and purple colors. However Chegg knows that some people go to town on their books with a whole case of highlighters and pens, so they’ve also included the option to add green or blue dotted underlines to text. This is the first eBook I’ve tried that offers underlining in addition to highlighting, which I’m sure will really come in handy for organizationally minded students.
Another standard feature that Chegg offers is ‘Look Up’ which is basically a dictionary tool. You can select any single word from the text and look up a definition. Similar to the handy overlay for search results, your definition is returned as a small bubble that pops up next to the word, so no leaving your spot in the text.
One of the most in depth and potentially most useful features that Chegg offers is called ‘Ask a Question’ which allows you to query experts on something you don’t understand. Say you come to a passage about the Nitrogen cycle and don’t understand part of it. You can highlight the text in question and click ‘Ask a Question’ which will copy the text over into the pop up question field. Here you can type out your specific questions and submit it to Chegg and get a response from a real person who knows the subject. Chegg says questions are answered ‘usually within 2 hours’ which isn’t a bad turn around, but presumably would be longer during mid-terms and finals when question volume would be higher. Afterwards, your questions and the answers from Chegg are stored under ‘Questions and Answers’ in the upper right of your interface for reference later.
This kind of innovative feature is what makes eBooks so exciting. They are a dynamic platform that only needs to mimic the paper books they are displaying, but they are not bound by the same restrictions and this proves it. It also distinguishes Chegg from other eBook retailers by combining the book store with tutoring services. I think there is a lot of potential for Chegg to grow this part of its business by offering more in-depth tutoring as a subscription service for students looking for extra help.


I have been very impressed with the Chegg platform as a whole. Their selection is impressive, prices are on par with their competitors and the eReader interface is simple, intuitive and robust. Of all the services I’ve seen so far, Chegg seems to be the most conscious of the way students purchase and use their textbooks. Generous return policies, complimentary eBook rentals while you wait for shipped books and innovative interface features make Chegg a strong leader in the field.
With eBook services being so proprietary, it can be difficult to commit to one, but Chegg is one that I would not hesitate to jump on board with. I think if you’re looking to make the move to digital, Chegg is a strong contender to check out because they put a lot of importance on the user experience. It takes about ten minutes from the time you first hit their site to the time you’re reading your first book, and if you change your mind it’s easy to go back. Most of all though, I think Chegg is innovating the market with services like ‘Ask a Question’ and as their library and customer base grow, there’s no telling how how far they can go with their platform.
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21 Responses to eBook Review: Chegg

  1. [...] look back at past posts on Chegg eBook Review: Chegg What Going on At Chegg Chegg Addresses Final Pieces to the Puzzle Chegg Makes Big Moves to [...]

  2. [...] eBook platforms I covered include: Chegg CourseSmart iBook iBooks Publishing Inkling Kindle [...]

  3. [...] As the Chegg engine grew and more competitors entered the rentals marketplace, company decision-makers knew that they need to be something more than just a rentals company. The market was begging for a solution to eBooks. While I don’t think eBooks are necessary right now (they represent just 3-5% of textbooks sales in higher education), it is clear that a digital strategy (beyond eBooks) is necessary going forward. Chegg made some serious investments into digital, and as I have discussed in my earlier reviews, the results are pretty impressive. [...]

  4. Michael Hinderman says:

    Chegg’s ebook’s suck. I cannot load the book at school or even at home. The book loads up when I’m at work, but is so laggy that I have more trouble reading the book than doing the work. I am not impressed at all with the ebook, and will get my money back ASAP.

  5. Bob Jordan says:

    I agree with Michael, just another paid advertisement. I’ve worked in the Computer Science field for 9 years, I understand HTML5, I’ve used CourseSmart and I currently have an eBook at chegg. The reader is slow, the search functions have not located key phrases or words. I understand testing, I’ve tested the eBook on multiple systems (XP,Vista and Windows 7)the same result.

    • thetextbookguru says:

      Thanks for your comment. I can 100% assure you that this is not a paid advertisement or article. to learn about each of the programs I download books and used them. While I don’t have the technical skills you posses, I do appreciate your review and feedback on this or any of the reviews I have done.

  6. Harlie says:

    so far, Chegg has been an amazing rental experience. can’t wait to rent from them again!

  7. Phil Andy says:

    Please review the table of contents. An example of the divergence is where CourseSmart has individual sections while Kno has only the chapter titles. You should also go over any note tools – switching to notepad on a laptop is not fun when taking notes. I would also like to see your perception on how the tools “window” with some pictures. If I can side by side my work and a textbook, I would also like to do this with etexts.

    You should also try these services on netbooks and the $250 Walmart laptop, or at least tell us what systems you’re doing all of this on – why is there a discrepancy between the speed you’re seeing and the lethargy “we’re” seeing?

    Based on that I agree with the rest, this feels like an ad. However, I did notice you went over the lack of offline view which is a dealbreaker for most of us despite the world of perma-online. The reason is obvious, just look at all the offline options Google offers in their products. Still, thank you for going over what to expect on a basic level from Chegg.

    • thetextbookguru says:

      These are not paid ads. In fact, the merchants offered me free copies and I didn’t take them. I tried to evaluate them based on what they were, not what I think they should be. The products will get much better but the truth is they are what they are. If I was to evaluate them based on what I thought they should be it probably would be more harsh but the market currently only has so many options. All my test were done on an iPad 2 and windows pc.

  8. SeanT says:

    I got the Campbell Biology (9th edition) textbook by Reece and it was a tad slow on my iPad 2 and computer but not even really that bad.. didn’t have any real issues. The only other slightly annoying thing on my iPad 2 was the resolution seemed a bit.. off? The words seemed a little fuzzy whereas on my computer screen they seemed fine. I really liked everything else feature-wise, the highlight/underline features and the note taking features as well. But the real deal breaker for me was the realization half-way through reading the first page of chapter 1 that I wouldn’t have this textbook in 8 months when I’m studying for the MCAT. Really wanted to keep this but for a pre-med like myself, I need a permanent eTextbook. Cancellation was at first an issue because there was some sort of glitch where it wouldn’t let me cancel, even though it was still within 30 minutes of the order. However, the twitter support was extremely prompt and helpful. They were able to cancel my order within a total of 5 minutes after I tweeted my issue. I just purchased the physical copy of this book for the same price, brand new, ($93 @ and hope to sell it for around $70 when I’m done. So, its really not a very good value right now to go with the eTextbook, especially when its only for 180 days…

  9. Jesse Schmideke says:

    I just rented an extext from Chegg and the experience has been terrible. Since you have to be online and load the book through their reader its incredibly slow. Not to mention the text is almost impossible to read on my computer. The words are incorrectly blocked through the entire book. It will read, “Th ecat andth edog ranaroun dthe street. ” Never again Chegg, never again.

    • Jesse Schmideke says:

      Not sure if Chegg did this in response to my post, but they appear to have fixed the blocking problem with the text I rented. If this is the case, thank you Chegg.

  10. It’s been interesting reading all of the above comments. It has been difficult finding a reliable, viable and trustworthy review site for ebooks lately.

  11. The City says:

    I will have to disagree with you all. Chegg is great and has come very handy for me. Keep up the good work guys! I support you

  12. Corrster says:

    I am beyond frustrated with chegg. At first I was exstatic. These amazing books all in e-book? What a deal! While I think the concept of buying a book and getting a free e-book copy while you wait is brilliant. But holy crap I wait ten minutes for one single page to load. I have excellent wifi and this is a iPad 2. Then trying my desktop, it was just as bad! I understand keeping it online for the purpose of security, but good god it is almost broken how laggy it is. I will have to ask for a refund.

  13. Luisa says:

    I love Chegg! is one of the best services you can ever receive, the books are affordable and the service is really good. The only thing is that when college students are back to school, the phone line are really busy, so you have to wait a long time to be attended.

  14. Krista says:

    I am *ASTONISHED* by how many people seem to think Chegg is great… I’ve used all these guys – Chegg, CourseSmart, VitalShelf, iBooks, Kindle, Inkling – and Chegg is about the WORST of the lot. First, absolutely nothing is clickable – it’s a freakin’ scan of the book, for crying out loud. That is not, I repeat NOT an ebook!! And if you must Xerox in a text and call it an e-book, low resolution images? You give us low res images? Seriously?! Dreadful.

    Also, it is sloooow. Even at its best (which is abysmal), it hangs and lags and jumps around something awful, and this is consistent across devices (iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad mini, Macbook Pro). On any of the mobile versions, I have to tap-tap-tap the screen, usually ~4 or 5 times, just to get the damn page to turn.

    Prices are too high and rental terms are too short. Many textbooks nowadays will span multiple semesters. Do I get a 365 day option? Of course not. Best case scenario, your rental will expire about a month before finals of the second term. And if you need it for a Spring-Fall combo in the same fiscal year, sorry fo’ ya. Best get ready to rent or buy those low res xeroxes again, my friend.

    Quoting a paragraph (or many) for a paper from a Chegg text? Copy/Paste are a no-go, even through the browser version. Weak.

    Want to read using a speed-reading program or RSVP? Not with Chegg. They allow exactly *zero* useful access to your crappy low-res text. Tap-tap-tap-wait-tap-wait-tap-wait is your only option, even if you PURCHASE the book instead of rent.

    Want to use Audible or be able to highlight text and have iPad/iPhone/Mac read aloud to you by speaking the text, as can be done with any other app? Negative, Ghostwriter. Not happening.

    Ready for the grand finale? At least once a week, I open the app and try to login, only to receive an error message: “Sorry, an unexpected error has occurred. Please try again later.” with a cartoon image of a busted up robot. (I find this image hilariously appropriate… I’ve suggested on numerous occasions that they ought to make this their official Chegg mascot and call him “Buster.” I’m not sure if they ever realized I was being 100% serious.) Anyway, most of the time your low-res anti-awesomeness will start functioning again after a few minutes (*fingers crossed*), but usually it tends more toward the hour-ish range before it’s back up and accessible across devices in all its low-res glory. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!! Approximately 48 hours before my first round of major exams this semester, Chegg servers go down….FOR 48 HOURS. No textbook to study for major exam… Too bad, so sad. No offline textbook option, thus no Chegg servers = no textbook for you, grasshopper. And do you get any $$ back as reimbursement for the portion of the rental time you rightfully purchased, but during which your book was inexplicably “unavailable”? Um, nope. Believe me, I asked. Read their Terms of Service. They could be down half a month, and you’ll get nothing — zero, zip, nada — save for a copy/pasted twitter apology (which, incidentally, we know for SURE was not plagiarized from any Chegg text) and Chegg spam ‘aplenty in your inbox advertising the latest crappy xerox releases.

    Fine, give them a break, you might say. It’s not like that happens all the time, right? Well, ~3 weeks later, *literally* three days before midterms a few weeks ago, IT HAPPENED AGAIN. It’s like they have my exam schedule, I swear. UNBELIEVABLE. If I hadn’t managed to miraculously locate a hard copy of the text at the last minute, I would have absolutely LOST MY MIND.

    The only redeeming quality in Chegg is this: Twitter customer service until all kinds of crazy hours at night – which is great, because you’re probably going to need it…

    I could write a book on each of these ebook services, but let me save us all a little time.


    It’s the way forward. This is what each and every e-text ought to be but never ever ever ever is. Finally.
    That Campbell’s Biology text, courtesy of Inkling – it’s just *beautiful.* Honestly, really truly beautiful. Clickable key terms with pop-up definitions, audio pronunciation, and clickable links to jump to other sections where it’s referenced in the text. Clickable links. Clickable images. Every diagram has a ‘test yourself’ button to hide/display labels. Image hotspots and activities embedded right where they ought to be – within the text itself instead of on some $60 pay-for-access companion site. End of chapter practice problems and quizzes. HD BioFlix videos. ALL embedded within the text. I’ve never in my life purchased a text required for school and not felt like I got royally ripped off – hardcopy and ebook alike – until this one. Amazingly, I feel like I got WAY MORE than I paid for here. And even more amazingly, I’ve actually used this book more since I finished biology I & II than when I was in it. Every science class I’ve been in since, this is where I go for the refresher. Genetics, biochem, neural systems, ecology, cognition, perception, etc. It’s pretty awesome to have a book that’s actually still useful after the semester ends. Normally I just Google/G.Scholar for refreshers as needed. This makes my life easier, therefore I am in LOVE. And the best part? If you get the Inkling iOS app, there won’t be a Campbell’s 9th Ed. You buy the book once, their plan is to dispense updates and revisions as literature changes via App Store Update on a continual basis. They’ve already updated twice in the past 6 months. Seriously, there is only one word for this: AMAZEBALLS.

    Your next best option is Kindle version, hands down. But it is a distant, distant second. Otherwise, just get the hard copy – particularly if you’re especially attached to your sanity.

  15. Mister Han says:

    I rented an eBook on Chegg and it is very restrictive. You need an internet connection to access it. It is not easy to get to the page that you want unless you search a specific word. The mobile app makes it very hard to zoom into the text.

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