The textbook rental company Bookrenter is spinning out its technology platform today to help campuses get a better handle on course materials -- not just textbooks, but all manner of digital content. The new company is called Rafter, and among its offerings is a nifty little tool called Rafter Discover. Any educator can use it -- not just those whose campuses are Rafter clients -- in order to make smarter decisions about course material selection. The tool helps peel back some of the mystery that shrouds the textbook industry -- with pricing, adoption, textbook lifecycle, and reviews. (You can read my story on today's news over on Inside Higher Ed)
Is it enough to help shake up the textbook publishing industry? Stay tuned, I guess.
Things to be on the look for: campuses now feeling that they, rather than publishers and copyright holders, can be the power-players (as in, forcing students to buy digital content as part of their tuition and fees).
Also noteworthy: the California State Senate recently introduced Senate Bill 1328 that would require more data transparency around textbook usage. Will more pressure come from legislatures to "fix" the textbook problem or will it come from upstarts like Rafter or, as I wrote about last week, will it come from student-focused endeavors.