Blended Learning, Domestic, International, Private education, Public education, Publishers, Required, Startups, Students, Technology, University & College - Written by on Saturday, January 28, 2012 11:06 - 0 Comments

Chegg Trots Out Its HTML5 E-Textbook Reader, Challenging Inkling, Cengage, Kno, et al…

by Stanford EdTech via CreativeCommons

Ahead of Apple’s big e-textbook announcement this month, existing textbook rental firm rolled out its own eTextbook Reader. Expect a development war between publishers like Cengage, McGraw Hill, Pearson, Inkling, Kno as the battle for market share and technology heats up. Chegg uses a cloud-based technology that allows students to call up their eTextbooks on any connected device. Some critics call it simple, boring, but good. We welcome comments from student users below. Chegg’s reader uses HTML5 and has many interactive features, including:

  • Instant Definitions: Select any word or short phrase and instantly see the dictionary and Wikipedia definition.
  • Always-on Q&A: Search any text and select “Ask A Question” to instantly connect to Chegg’s Homework Help service.  Chegg’s community of subject matter experts answer questions, often in fewer than two hours.
  • Key Highlights:  Turn on a view of the most important content from each eTextbook, crowd-sourced from other users’ eTextbook activities.
The company writes in its announcement:

Optimized for computers and iPads, Chegg’s eTextbook Reader utilizes HTML5 to deliver a highly interactive user experience, offering access to the most relevant textbooks on any connected device. Led by recently acquired engineering team, 3D3R, the eTextbook Reader was created with the student in mind to offer easy navigation, enhanced highlighting, note taking, search and an advanced set of features including:

We asked the Chegg team some questions via email on the news. Angela Pontarolo, Chegg’s Communication Manager, responds below:

WA - How was this announcement related to the Apple announcement?

AP – On Wednesday, January 18th, Chegg announced the launch of its new eTextbook Reader, providing students with a cloud-based service to access their eTextbooks on any connected device. Led by recently acquired engineering team, 3D3R, the eTextbook Reader was created over the last year with the student in mind to offer easy navigation, enhanced highlighting, note taking, search and an advanced set of features.

WA - What eReaders does this work on? Any that it does not work on?

AP – Optimized for computers and iPads, Chegg’s eTextbook Reader utilizes HTML5 to deliver a highly interactive user experience, offering access to the most relevant textbooks on any connected device.

WA - How much does it cost to use for an institution?

AP – The eTextbook Reader is free and can be accessed when students go to and purchase their desired eTextbooks.

WA - Was Chegg not available on eReaders before?

AP – Chegg’s eTextbook option has always been accessible on any of today’s browsers and are optimized for Macs, PCs and iPads.

(WA – In other words, we interpret that as, “No. Not really available before except in simple, PDF-type formats).

WA - Any sales or pre-order data?

AP – As a private company, we do not disclose sales.

(WA – Boo.)

Here is a video from Chegg on its new e-Reader…


Here is what other media – including some who reviewed the product – had to say about the Chegg eReader.

Venture Beat writer Meghan Kelly writes:

Digital textbooks are quickly replacing the traditional, heavy, and cumbersome books of semesters past. This is especially the case as laptops replace notebooks and the sound of clicking becomes expected white noise against the teacher’s voice. Many companies have taken to converting textbooks to PDFs, but that’s it, they’re just PDFs. It’s the same clunky textbook, just now without the weight. Companies such as Kno andInkling are trying to insert interaction and beauty to the textbook, but need to build a user base and grow textbook offerings. Even Apple seems to be poised to announce its own plan for publishing textbooks.

Chegg, however, saw an opportunity to serve its 4.5 million users by creating an HTML5 digital textbook reader, that can work on any device and utilizes both its suite of education tools and the students who use them.

The reader is pretty standard, which may be to Chegg’s benefit. Pages in the textbook look like they would in a textbook, you can highlight text, add notes in the margins, and it will sort your highlights and notes into study guides for you to reference. It also connects you to Chegg’s homework help product, allowing you to ask a question about a certain piece of content, and receive an answer from the Chegg community. It also lets you see the most pertinent areas of text by pre-highlighting what areas of a page the Chegg community is interacting with the most. The reader is free, though the textbooks obviously are not. And because it is built in HTML5, you can access it from iPads, Androids, laptops, library computers, phones, wherever you are.

Via Venture Beat


Angela Moscaritolo writes in

Apple, meanwhile, is making an “education announcement” tomorrow at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum. The Journal weighed in, claiming that Apple is set to unveil iPad-optimized textbooks. Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had reportedly been meeting with textbook publishers prior to his untimely death in October. The paper also cited a line from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs in which the former CEO said books should be “digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time.”


Jessica Vascellaro at The WSJ writes:

Chegg has about 40,000 digital textbooks now and has signed contracts with all the top publishers. To participate, all a publisher has to do is “drop a PDF at our doorstep and we do the rest,” he says. Prices range from $20 to $120– 30% to 40% off the price of a new textbook.

Competitor Kno says it offers around 150,000 titles from around $5 to $100 per book, with rentals costing less. This week the company, co-founded by Osman Rashid, a former co-founder of Chegg, announced new interactive flash cards and a dashboard for students to better track their study habits. In addition to its iPad app, the company also offers a more basic online reader.

Inkling, which takes a different approach of rebuilding titles specifically for iPads, has around 110 books available today with many priced at around $100 per book, with individual chapters from $1.99. Its books boast bells and whistles like “interactive assessments” that provide feedback as students progress and 3D molecule models. The service currently requires users to download an iOS app, but the company is also developing a Web-based HTML5 version, according to a person familiar with the matter.


James Trew at Engadget writes:

Someone’s about to get schooled, and if it’s not the youth of America, then it’ll be one of the companies rushing to release educational products this week. While Kno takes the interactive approach, and Apple typically keeps us guessing, Chegg hopes its new online reader will capture students’ imaginations. The HTML5, cloud-based platform clearly thinks it’s portability the kids want, working on almost any connected device. There are interactive features, such as an “Always on Q&A” where questions about material can be answered by the community and — for the lazy — a “Key Highlights” option, which uses crowd-sourced data to spotlight the popular sections — much like on Amazon’s Kindle. We all know, however, that the tech-ucation battle was convincingly won some time ago. Hit the PR after the break for the full rundown.

Via Engadget

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