Patrick Wall, Style Editor

It has bankrupted some. For others, it has forced them into jobs working long hours. No, it’s not Wall Street. In fact, to some, it might be even worse.


Of all the routines students go through at the beginning of each new term, book buying is easily the most dreaded. Parents groan as they empty their bank accounts and students lament having to carry what often feels like a bag full of bricks to class each day.

But students across the country and across campus have found a new way to get the books they need and save money at the same time. Enter

Founded in 2007 by Aayush Phumbhra and Osman Rashid, Chegg started as a classifieds site for college students but quickly took its current form. The site refers to itself as the “Netflix for textbooks,” an apt description. The site allows students to rent the textbooks they need without having to purchase a book they might not otherwise use after the semester ends.

Students can search books by title or by professor. From there, they are shipped via UPS. The savings are eye-catching: Phumbhra said that the most popular book rented from Mason is a math book listed at $134. Chegg offers it for $35. Without using any of the math found in that book, it’s easy to put the savings together.

The site has certainly come a long way. The site, whose name is an allusion to the ancient “chicken and egg” argument, now reaches over 6,400 campuses nationwide. Phumbhra hopes the site will reach all of the nearly 8,000 colleges in the country by next year.

Mason students have responded positively to this concept, having rented over 2,000 books. The service has grown largely through word of mouth, something the bigwigs at Chegg have noticed. “It’s a very important campus for us,” said Phumbhra.

As well as the folks at Chegg seem to know their customers, it is no surprise that they have used the Internet to find new ways to connect with students. Chegg boasts a burgeoning Facebook and Twitter presence.

Perhaps continuing the nature-inspired namesake of the company, Chegg works with conservationists Global ReLeaf to create a green initiative. After checkout, students are given the opportunity to plant a tree for every book rented, purchased or sold. At that point, students select if they would like to plant their trees in Guatemala, Cameroon or Lake Tahoe. To date, the partnership boasts over one million trees planted.

If Phumbhra’s ambition is any indicator, figures to be a household (or dormhold) name before long. For him, the appeal is all about the savings. “You can save $500 or more. We listen to our students and provide exceptional service. Plus, we plant trees,” he said.