Web site gives students new shopping outlet

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

As Web sites like amazon.com, ebay.com and half.com edge into the college textbook market, chegg.com is offering a new twist to book buying.

Customers using chegg.com can peruse classified ads posted by other college students for everything from textbooks and technology products to concert tickets and tutoring services. Students are able to post these ads for free.

“We really feel college students have a lot of financial burdens,” said Osman Rashid, one of the founders of the Web site, while explaining why they target college students.

To register, uses must have a .edu e-mail address, although some exceptions are made for students coming from institutions without .edu e-mail addresses. After registering, users can switch to another e-mail address. Chegg does this to ensure the site is used by college students, Rashid said.

“You can trust another student a lot more than anyone else out there,” Rashid said.

Users can specify whether they want to search items posted by students from their schools or schools everywhere.

The Web site offers a “Hatch of the Day,” which is a deal on merchandise like iPods and Nintendo Wiis. While Rashid wouldn’t reveal how the Web site is able to offer merchandise at these cut prices, they say it is in the best interest of the retailer to offer merchandise for the site.

“We want to show retailers what they can offer to students,” he said. By selling things on a Web site like this, “it generates a buzz so that other people become (interested) in buying your product.”

The site also sells new textbooks at a discounted price.

Chegg.com was founded at Iowa State University by a group of students who were tired of “getting ripped off by the bookstore.” The name comes from the idea of what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Rashid compares that to selling textbooks online: you have to get people to post ads in order to get people to visit the site, but you need to get people to visit the site in order to make people interested in posting. Rashid said that at any given time there are 50,000 people on the site.

While Matt Luedke, sophomore in Engineering, has not used chegg.com, he said he prefers buying textbooks online.

He started buying textbooks online the second semester of his freshman year when he realized how much he could save.

“It was cheaper,” he said. This semester, he said he saved $50 on a textbook for a general engineering course.

“We’ve definitely felt the result of people going online to buy books,” said Brian Paragi, textbook manager for T.I.S.

While he said it is hard to determine how much of an impact online deals have because of textbook inflation and enrollment fluctuation, his store has felt a difference in sales the past few years.

Paragi said T.I.S. combats this with their rewards card, which allows customers to earn points for each purchase they make. The points can then be used to win free prizes. T.I.S. also gives an additional five percent for each resold book.

Most of T.I.S.’s revenue is generated from textbook sales. During recent years when sports teams have gone to the NCAA tournament or the Sugar bowl, the store tends to sell more sportswear.

But, even in those years, textbooks still make up most of their sales.