Chegg, the Silicon Valley startup best known as a textbook rental site but now trying to become a broader “student hub,” is set to launch its first paid app at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday.
Created for Windows 8 (s MSFT), the new Textbook Solutions app for tablets and PCs includes the answers to 2.5 million problem sets in 2,000 of the most popular college textbooks. For the next couple of weeks, the company, which says it reaches 30 percent of U.S. college students, is running a promotion so that students can try the app for free. But, ultimately, it will cost $14.99 a month, although Chegg is exploring alternative pricing models so that students can pay by the chapter.
The app not only offers the answers (which are usually not provided by the textbooks), as well as the process for deriving those answers, it includes access to Chegg’s community Q&A product, formerly called Homework Help.
“It’s a companion to the most popular textbooks,” said Anne Dwane, Chegg’s chief business officer. “These are answers that wouldn’t be in the book otherwise… and it’s interactive – students can leave comments and answers for the community.”
Over the past couple of years, Chegg has acquired several startups, including CourseRank, Cramster and Zinch, to develop what it calls the “student graph,” or a social network for connecting students around all aspects of their academic lives.
The company makes the bulk of its revenue from textbook rentals and sales but, as its acquisitions show, it’s attempting to develop ways of making money throughout the school year (and not just during the periods students tend to purchase and rent books). This latest app is a step in that direction.
To date, Chegg has offered an iOS app for renting, buying and reading textbooks, as well as one for creating flashcards – both free. It has also launched an HTML5 eTextbook Reader that can be used on nearly any Internet-connected device.
Given the iPad’s popularity among students and the criticism surrounding Windows 8, it may seem curious that the company chose to launch its first paid app on Microsoft’s latest platform. No doubt, Microsoft wants more traction in the college market, but what does Chegg get out of it? It turns out that in addition to launching the app on Windows 8, Chegg will receive added promotion from the Microsoft Windows UCrew ambassador program. The company said that, starting next week, UCrew ambassadors will give demos on about 500 college campuses nationwide. Chegg also confirmed that an iOS app is in the works and will be launching soon.