eBook Review: Chegg

Plugging along in our eBook review series we come next to Chegg.com. 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.

Comments (27)

  1. Pingback: Meet Chegg – The College Hub «

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  4. Michael Hinderman

    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.

    1. thetextbookguru (Post author)

      Have you tried contacting them for support?

      1. Maria

        I have the same problem as Michael. I contacted them and they pretty much said they don’t know but to change my browser and clear my cookies. Still not working. Very disappointing.

        1. thetextbookguru (Post author)

          I have let my contact at Chegg know about these comments and give them the ability to respond to you guys.


    2. Albert Johnston

      Yeah, I’ll agree to this. Let’s perform a list of grievances, shall we? The following are all on my laptop.

      -I can ONLY change the page with my touchscreen. Mouse click does NOTHING other than make the display appear and disappear. And even then, if I attempt to zoom, it usually just makes the text blurry, and doesn’t zoom.
      -This article says there’s a zoom button. Well, I don’t have anything like what it showed in the picture. Probably a change in gui though, since then.
      -Small little detail, but on the home page of Chegg, if you left click your book it opens. Great, right? Well, if you just hover over the book, it shows a menu whose options include “Read now”. Doesn’t work. But whatever. Minor issue.
      -When I want to use the page scroll page thing at the bottom, I can swipe (but not use the mouse) to move it around, and the far left gives me the option to go to the next chapter. Well, it lacks a “previous chapter” at the other end. Again, minor, but fundamental.

      This next part has nothing to do with what the user sees, but if I bring up the dev tools and check out the console, I often rack up around 50 errors and another 40 warnings. Mostly related to function calls to undefined, and most commonly for the warnings: SizeWatcher can’t set scroll position of scroll watchers.

      Oh, and if I do attempt to zoom (which apparently I shouldn’t try to do natively) and it messes with blurriness, scrolling becomes incredibly slow. But that’s probably my fault. You know, the user. For doing something most applications handle just fine.

      Even if there is a button (which I can’t find), your ereader shouldn’t punish users for doing things they’ve practically been trained to expect. We’re all obedient dogs looking for a nice, caring owner, and Chegg’s ereader is a cat person. Either hire a better dev team or fix your broken code. Oh and lastly, I did a quick review of the warnings, and they’re all pretty much errors that your code managed to catch. Good job?

      TL;DR: Chegg, your ereader’s code is broken.

      1. Albert Johnston

        Oh, wait. After posting that, I can’t scroll with my touchscreen anymore. And the console isn’t even having an error. So I can no longer scroll whatsoever, by any means. So that’s fun. Kinda makes my book totally useless. Well, the lower half’s of each page, that is. I can still change page with a swipe. Glass half full, anyone?

        1. UK Graduate

          Cannot scroll at all useless and actually paid for. Waste. Can only see 1/2 page. Tried everything and three to four times… ugh!!!!

  5. Bob Jordan

    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.

    1. thetextbookguru (Post author)

      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

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

  7. Phil Andy

    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.

    1. thetextbookguru (Post author)

      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

    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 @ half.com) 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

    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.

    1. Jesse Schmideke

      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. Platinum Skyyy

    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

    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

    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. Seriously

    I am also frustrated with Chegg! Seemed like a great service at first. Price is fairly consistent for an eTextbook, but it doesn’t do all it says it will! I don’t love having to read it online from their website, but I would even have dealt with that if I could do something basic and IMPERATIVE with a textbook….SEARCH! No search terms will come up for the entire book, even if I am on the same page. I contacted help and did all that they said: I rebooted, I cleared my cache, I got off of my employers network, I switched from IE to Google on the PC, then went home and tried it on my Mac with Safari and Firefox….still no search function! Such a shame. Getting a refund and will never use them for an ebook again.

  14. Ryan

    I have 2 major issues with Chegg.com:

    1) I ordered a new book, with access codes to the online labs I had to do, and paid for it. I was sent a used book with expired codes. When I confronted them about it I was told they were out of new stock so they sent me old ones. Did I pay for an old book? No! So now I'm behind in class because Chegg didn't even bother telling me they were out of stock before taking my money and shipping the book. Which leads me to #2

    2) I ordered 4 books from Chegg, 3 rentals and the above mentioned purchase. I had a coupon for free shipping, I thought great this will save me time and money. Wrong! It only applied to 1 of the 4 books. When I went to check out I selected delivery on the 3rd of the month, the default was the 8th. The page reloaded after I entered my payment information, and defaulted back to the 8th. I didn't catch that until after I hit submit. I thought, no big deal I'll just contact customer service and they will fix it. Wrong again! After 30 minutes on hold I am told that they can't fix the issue, they don't even have access to their orders. Now how exactly does an online company have a customer service department that can't even access their own orders? Isn't that USELESS!? Unsatisfied I asked to speak to a manger. 10 more minutes on hold later the same woman comes back on, not the manager, and tells me that the manager is busy and I can send a letter. My only options were to cancel the order, wait 5-10 business days for my $400+ refund, and start over. I don't have the money to buy somewhere else without that $400 in my account, nor did I have the time to wait that long for my refund. They had me over a barrel, and knew it!

    Lastly after my horrible customer service experience I blasted this company on Facebook where I was told to contact someone to see if they could fix it. I did, and all they did was tell me the exact same thing the customer service rep told me, except at this point it was too late to cancel my order? What a sham of a business this is! I look forward to the day where i try to open http://www.chegg.com and I am told that the link is no longer valid. Horrid customer service, horrible product knowledge, and misrepresentation of products!

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  17. Damon

    CHEGG ebooks suck! Of course nowhere during the purchase process does it mention that you can’t download this book. I purchased the book…NOT! I purchased access to a book that I can not put with the rest of my library and am required to log in to an account online to view it. FYI CHEGG, some of us don’t have internet access everywhere we need to read the book! I will never buy another Chegg book again. I’m really pissed $90 gone!

  18. Marissa

    Some of the negative comments made me not want to buy off Chegg, but because of this article I went with my gut and just purchased a few eTextbooks and they are working perfectly fine! Not to mention the prices are great and makes everything so much more convenient!


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