RedShelf platform promotes educational innovation


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Greg Fenton, founder of Red Shelf, said that the company’s attitude toward content distribution is like Netflix for textbooks and educational material.

By Operations Assistant

New print editions of textbooks are typically released every few years, but digital content distributor Red Shelf allows publishers to update their textbooks every semester based on the information students find most helpful. 

Red Shelf currently offers more than 271,000 e-textbooks on a proprietary e-reader software. It partners with 400 college bookstores across the United States.

In 2011, co-founders Greg Fenton and Tim Haitaian, who have known each other since high school, both quit their jobs and moved to Chicago to found Red Shelf.

“We were the first generation to use digital technology on campus and most of our experiences were just horrendous,” Fenton said. “We wanted to solve that problem.”

In addition to providing the textbooks in an affordable, digital format, Red Shelf’s software platform has an array of features to aid in the learning process, said sales manager Kyle Uhelski.

“The old-school model is that you have one course with just one book,” Uhelski said. “Now, there’s a lot of supplemental material available that allows the student to learn in many different  styles.”

Red Shelf’s features include searchable text, the creation of flashcards from highlighted text and note-sharing capabilities that allow students to collaborate.

“Collaboration is what’s most exciting,” Uhelski said. “I imagine a day when everyone is sitting together with their [e-textbooks] open, sharing and interfacing.”

Because of the use of data analytics and real-time feedback, publishers benefit from delivering their content digitally as well, Fenton added.

Fenton cited soaring textbook prices and the shifting culture as factors that make digital media so attractive.

One of the company’s goals is to offset the secondary market of used textbooks that detracts from publishers’ sales, therefore driving up their prices, according to Fenton. By allowing publishers to reach students directly while matching the prices of used textbooks and providing increased functionality, everyone will benefit, he said.

“Twenty years from now, can you imagine backpacks with actual books in them?” he said.

Haitian added that Red Shelf plans to include a larger selection of textbooks and partner with more college campuses. 

Additionally, the company plans to implement multimedia content and encourage more student interaction, according to Uhelski.

“I envision that instead of one piece of content that’s bolstered by supplemental material, the educational landscape will feature many different types of educational material from academic and non-academic sources,” he said.

To learn more about Red Shelf visit