RedShelf raises $4M to shake up college textbook market

Walk through a bookstore and you can see $5.99 paperbacks along one wall and omg-how-much? college textbooks along the other. E-textbook company RedShelf today announced it raised a $4 million Series B from Coniston Capital, with participation from existing investors, including the National Association of College Stores.

The company tells me it will use the funding to drive new product development especially to its existing cloud-based e-reader platform. In addition, the company is expanding its development and content partnership capabilities to further grow its market share.

Since its launch four years ago, RedShelf has seen tremendous growth, dragging the learning community kicking and screaming into the current millennium. The company’s goal is to give students access to course materials at a less eye-watering price than today. To do that, the company partners with more than 500 educational bookstores, offering students content at a 60 percent discount compared to the paper versions of the books.

Tim Haitaian and Greg Fenton, co-founders of RedShelf

Tim Haitaian and Greg Fenton, co-founders of RedShelf

The genius twist here, of course, is that while the educational book publishers see 60 percent less revenue per book sold, the e-book market effectively kills the resale market, which means that in year two, three and beyond, the next generation of students have to buy the books again.

With RedShelf’s model, the publishers make more moolah by selling books every year, rather than just when the books disintegrate from use or get yet another edition bump to encourage students to buy new books. In addition, students pay less, always have the most recent edition of the book, e-books are a hell of a lot lighter in your backpack than half a tree’s worth of pages and, well, because they’re digital, the books are easier to search or annotate.

In the end, everybody wins. It’s refreshing to see that the publishing industry continues to innovate in the face of change.