RedShelf: Affordable E-Textbooks

RedShelf is a platform that allows students to access e-textbooks. The company started in June 2010, when the co-founders Tim and Greg were asked by a professor to create a digital course packet. They developed the e-reading technology while still in college, and started forming partnerships with campus bookstores. Now RedShelf has more than 160,000 titles and 160+ bookstore partnerships.

Campus bookstore partners allows those bookstores to offer e-textbooks online and in their stores, in addition to course materials, merchandise, and more.

The platform is simple. RedShelf is accessible on any browser-based device, and delivers affordable e-textbooks.

According to Shannon Godfrey, the Sales & Marketing Director, RedShelf “provides tools that mimic how students interact with traditional print books while providing the east of digital for searching and navigation.”

Some of RedShelf’s features include:

  • Search in a book
  • Highlight key text
  • Ability to enter text
  • Add notes
  • Bookmark pages
  • Look up word definitions
  • Draw in the book

The drawing tool, in particular, can be used so students can remember important concepts, by drawing a star or symbol in the margin. Godfrey said students also circle answers of end of chapter questions and “might also underline a concept or strike out a concept based on feedback the professors give regarding what concepts will be covered in the mid-term or final.”

RedShelf users can sign up for a free account, though they will have to pay for access to most of the content on the platform. Once they have access, users can print pages, depending on the restrictions publishers have set.

Students can either pay for lifetime access to the materials or limited duration options, such as 90-days, 180-days, and 360-days. Limited duration options have deeper discounts, and according to Godfrey could be up to 60% off compared to traditional print books.

Users can also choose to publish on RedShelf, with no fees or cost of conversion. They can publish:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Textbooks
  • Manuals
  • Documents
  • Lecture notes
  • Essays
  • Short stories
  • Articles
  • Basically any type of content

RedShelf focuses on partnerships with professors adopting the platform within their courses, and content creators get paid each time they sell a book. RedShelf takes a percentage as a fee and pays the remaining amount to the publisher. How much a content creator gets paid depends on the price of the book and the negotiated rates between RedShelf and the publisher. Content creators also have the option of only allowing access to their materials to a specific school (white label) or have it available to the entire RedShelf marketplace.

“Typically our professor course packets are available to their school location since it’s materials that are custom for a specific class,” Godfrey said.