BibliU Modernizes the Higher Education Experience Using Amazon QuickSight


BibliU Ltd. is a UK-based startup dedicated to providing higher education students an alternative to traditional textbooks. “University textbooks are expensive. Our goal is to make sure the cost of learning materials is not a barrier to higher education, that everybody has the same opportunities to succeed, and that there are no hidden costs of education,” says Michael Soselia, BibliU’s director of growth and marketing.

To address these challenges, BibliU developed an innovative eTextbooks software platform that integrates with library and university systems and provides students affordable and convenient textbook content on any device.

BibliU launched in 2014 as a business-to-consumer (B2C) organization focused solely on delivering affordable textbook content to students. But in 2017, the company shifted to a business-to-business (B2B) model and began providing the anonymized data it obtains from the use of digital textbooks to publishers and educational institutions. Although BibliU’s primary focus remains helping students succeed, company leaders discovered the insights they could distill from data were of value to textbook publishers and university administrators. “A significant benefit of digital over physical content is the insight that can be derived from it,” says Dan Hunt, head of data at BibliU. “For example, we can measure usage trends across cohorts of students and sections of content, right down to the pages students get stuck on. This level of insight provides a direct path to action for academics, who can adjust their approach as they see how students are engaging—something that would never be possible with physical content. Going beyond reporting, data empowers us to tailor the learning experience to suit the needs of each student on our platform, whether through personalized search results, content recommendations, or more advanced personalization.”

That data also allows higher education institutions and publishers to improve or change material and to help students who are struggling. For example, university content managers can see which books are used the most and measure return on investment on those titles. Professors can see how students are interacting with material, which is a great indicator of future success. Administrators can measure student engagement and make changes where necessary. “Marketing this value proposition to relevant stakeholders was a huge opportunity for us,” says Soselia.

Shot of two young women using a laptop together in a college library

Our lean infrastructure and operations make us very competitive. That would not be possible without AWS.”

Michael Soselia
Director of Growth and Marketing, BibliU

Delivering Insights at Scale with AWS

BibliU selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its primary cloud provider due to “the variety of services and regions that were available on AWS at the time,” says Daniel Engelke, chief technology officer and co-founder at BibliU. The company takes advantage of Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store its data and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for MySQL to set up, operate, and scale MySQL deployments in the cloud, as well as other services such as Amazon Elasticsearch Service. It also enlisted the help of the AWS EdStart program for support and guidance in building the business. AWS EdStart helps entrepreneurs quickly build the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions. “We benefited hugely from the AWS EdStart program,” says Soselia.

The AWS EdStart team helped BibliU augment its lean team and introduced company leaders to Amazon QuickSight, a cloud-powered business intelligence service. “QuickSight hits the sweet spot in the market—providing a reliable, hosted dashboarding tool while maintaining a session-based pricing model that scales predictably right from the first user,” says Hunt. “The in-memory cache for reports also allowed us to decouple our reporting layer from the data warehouse, which led to substantial savings on compute cost in our data warehouse. Add to that the robust domain- and row-level security, dynamic provisioning of accounts via API, and feature-complete reporting including custom URL actions back into our app, and QuickSight stood clear from the crowd as the best reporting tool for us.”

Using Amazon QuickSight and working with AWS EdStart enabled BibliU to expand its user base and truly democratize reporting without concern for resource limitations.

Helping Students Get the Most Out of Higher Education

BibliU used AWS services and the help of the AWS EdStart program to seamlessly scale and improve security, which enabled significant growth. Today, BibliU provides more than 40 percent of British universities with digital access to textbooks and research materials, and the company works with more than 2,000 education publishers.

The startup is also delivering on its mission to make affordable electronic textbooks available to university students. BibliU now has over one million titles in its library, and its platform has enabled users to perform millions of searches and interactions. “Building on AWS, we were able to process over 50,000 titles in a single day at our peak, something we would not be able to do without a distributed system,” says Engelke.

In addition to improving the student experience, BibliU offers universities and publishers the data they need to help students get the most out of course materials and to adjust those materials as needed to ensure higher levels of comprehension and engagement.

Meanwhile, the company’s digital platform is well positioned for potential long-term changes in consumption. “When campuses closed suddenly in the spring, students needed access to resources quickly. Because we were already prepared to deliver those materials digitally, the institutions we work with hit the ground running,” says Soselia.

BibliU recently received $10 million in funding, and Soselia says it will use the investment to scale in its major markets. The company plans to build on AWS as it does so. “Our lean infrastructure and operations make us very competitive. That would not be possible without AWS.”

About BibliU Ltd.

BibliU is a UK-based startup that partners with universities across the world to deliver accessible and affordable learning materials to students. BibliU developed an eTextbooks platform that integrates with library and university systems and provides students affordable, convenient textbook content on any device.

Benefits of AWS

  • Scales and secures its solution to enable fast growth
  • Provides data to customers via a cost-effective interactive dashboard
  • Delivers over 1 million titles to universities in the US and UK
  • Works with more than 2,000 education publishers

AWS Services Used

Amazon Simple Storage Service

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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Amazon QuickSight

Amazon QuickSight is a fast, cloud-powered business intelligence service that makes it easy to deliver insights to everyone in your organization.

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Amazon RDS for MySQL

MySQL is the world's most popular open source relational database and Amazon RDS makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale MySQL deployments in the cloud.

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AWS EdStart

AWS EdStart, the AWS educational technology (EdTech) startup accelerator, is designed to help entrepreneurs build the next generation of online learning, analytics, and campus management solutions on the AWS Cloud.

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