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Bill Gillies - Editor

NetFlix rental model cuts the cost of textbooks

After paying hefty amounts for tuition and room and board, many university students feel their financial spirits are completely crushed when confronted by sky-high textbook prices.  While ebooks are often cited as a promising solution, a Silicon Valley company is successfully applying the NetFlix model of renting products by mail to help students slash their textbook costs.

Profiled in the New York Times, says that students can save 65-85 percent of the cost of buying a book by renting it instead. The company calculates that it has saved students more than $40 million since it began renting books in 2007.

As an added bonus for N-Gen eco-sensitive students, for every book that is rented, bought or sold, Chegg will plant a tree through a partnership with American Forests Global ReLeaf® Program. “More than 20 million trees a year are destroyed to make books. By planting these trees, together we’re helping to use the earth’s resources more efficiently. So far, we’ve funded over 750 acres – that’s over 500 football fields- or 300 city blocks!”

As the Times notes, there is plenty of secret sauce to Chegg’s business, including logistics and software to determine the pricing and sourcing of books, as well as how many times a given book can be rented. The savings can vary from book to book. A macroeconomics textbook that retails for $122 was available on Chegg for $65 for one semester; an organic chemistry title retailing for $123 was offered for $33. (Round-trip shipping can add $4 to a book.)

The Times spoke to Alan Bradford, a senior at Arizona State University, who read about Chegg in a campus newspaper in 2008 and calculated that his bill for books that semester would have been $334 with Chegg, far less than the $657 he paid. Since then, he has ordered about a dozen textbooks from Chegg. “Nobody likes paying for textbooks,” he said.

Tags: School/College


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