College textbook rental startup BookRenter is announcing an interesting new venture today, pivoting slightly from the singular focus on rentals to a broader market. Rafter is launching as a network of software services which basically allows college administrators and educators to better control cost and manage course materials and products for their students. BookRenter will continue to operate, but as a division of Rafter.
As BookRenter and Rafter CEO Mehdi Maghsoodnia explains to me, the sourcing of course materials is actually a challenge for many professors and administrators for a number of reasons. First, discovering the best course materials for a particular subject has been a process that has taken place largely through word of mouth and offline conversations. Second, there are major complexities in accessing the rights to content as well as fulfillment.
Maghsoodnia is bringing this entire process online. BookRenter has already been working with schools (over 500 to be exact) to license its textbook rental platform, so the company says it is aware of the challenges that these schools face in the fragmented course materials sourcing and fulfillment market.
Rafter partners with universities to provide the Course Materials Network, which manages content discovery, supply, distribution, pricing, and commerce of everything from textbooks, lab instruments, online education software and more.
Rafter’s course materials discovery platform leverages eight years of adoption, bibliographic and economic data to give professors insight into adoption patterns, prices and content of more than 11 million textbooks and other course materials. Discover will also provide course material adoption information and reviews by educators across the country to enable them to share best practices and make more informed content adoption decisions. Rafter Discover includes information on editions, publication dates, inventory, life cycle, adoption patterns and current market pricing.
While BookRenter has been growing, a broader scope could be a more strategically sound move as textbook rentals giant and learning platform Chegg has become a formidable opponent. Armed with massive amounts of funding, the textbook rentals giant is expected to pursue an IPO this year, and has been extremely acquisitive. Rafter could find a place in the education technology market as a comprehensive sourcing platform for educators.