Startup Smackdown: BookRenter vs Chegg

By November 16, 2011

Let’s face it, textbooks are expensive and often not sources of reading pleasure after their purposes have been fulfilled. In a world where Netflix delivers DVDs right to your door for a modest fee, why can’t we “rent” the books we need instead of purchasing and then being stuck with that Physics textbook we will certainly never open again? (Not to knock the Physics buffs out there — there is an undeniable charm to developing a personal library of books in your field.)

In this edition of Startup Smackdown we consider two textbook rental startups, BookRenter and Chegg. These websites facilitate textbook rentals for students looking to save money and avoid further debt. BookRenter offers free shipping both ways and promises up to 80% in savings. Chegg boasts a “21 day Any Reason guarantee,” wherein customers have 21 days to return a textbook they realize they do not need and can enjoy a full refund.

ROUND 1 — How Much Will it Cost You?

BookRenter: It allows you to rent a variety of textbooks for different amounts of time. For example, BookRenter charges $46.19 to rent Understanding Business by William Nickels et al. — $202.00 textbook — for 90 days. Each title has a different rental pay scale depending on the book’s list price.

Chegg: It allows you to rent or buy new and used copies of the text books you need. If a business student were comparing prices on a rental copy of Understanding Business, he or she would find that Chegg charges $50.04 to rent a hard copy of the textbook until December 23rd, 2011 (before shipping).

Winner: BookRenter. Business students (and all students) rejoice!  Both of these sites offer very cheap rentals of the text books needed for coursework.  Although Chegg has a fixed return time — which makes planning convenient — with free shipping both ways you will probably get more bang for your buck through BookRenter.  But keep in mind that deals will vary depending on when and what you are looking to rent.

ROUND 2 — Rental Flexibility

BookRenter: This service offers a flexible time frame for textbook rentals. Customers can rent textbooks of choice for 30, 45, 60, 90, or 125 days at a time.  This allows students to work around their class schedules and have more control over how much is spent and how long the book is in their possession.

Chegg: Although Chegg does not offer the same flexible rental period, it offers different kinds of rental products. You can rent a hard copy, purchase a new or used copy, or download an electronic copy. The prices vary depending on the book and the kind of rental you select.

Winner: This was a very close call as both sites offer different kinds of rental flexibility. But the winner, again, is BookRenter. It provides the freedom to adapt your textbook rental to your student life and schedule through their variety of rental timelines.

ROUND 3 — Awesome Extras

BookRenter: For every textbook rental BookRenter donates a book to First Book — an organization that puts books in the hands of children in need. The site also organizes itself based on popular rentals and categories of textbooks and has a streaming log of recent search keywords. Additionally, it also offers a platform for users to rent and sell their own books to make some extra money.

Chegg: In addition to the bare-bones rental service, Chegg offers a selection of top rented books for users to peruse, 24/7 homework help via an online forum, a database of colleges and college courses that catalog average grades from the Registrars’ offices, scheduling information, course reviews, and Notehall — a related company for buying and selling class and lecture notes.

Winner: Chegg. With an entirely independent spin-off site and catalogs of information on a variety of college courses, Chegg offers students more than just textbooks. Chegg’s extra services give students resources that can allow them to stay on top of their course work and become aware of the different courses offered by many different colleges.

Final Count: BookRenter 2. Chegg 1.

While both of these textbook rental sites offer a chance for students to save money on their course textbooks, BookRenter charms and awes with its promise of free shipping and its flexibility of rental time lines.

Congrats to BookRenter on outsmarting the competition! Now get out there and learn something!