SA publishing start-up wins UK award


18 April 2013

A South African start-up is stirring up the world’s publishing industry with its innovative approach to book distribution.

Paperight, a network of independent copy shops that print books, was awarded the Digital Minds Innovation Award this week at the London Book Fair, one of the world’s most prestigious publishing events.

Copy shops use to instantly buy licences and print out content for customers on demand, while publishers use it to access new markets and to sell in places where no bookstores exist.

Paperight, which is based in Cape Town and funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, beat seven other shortlisted candidates after a short presentation – and won thanks to a popular vote.

“We’re incredibly honoured to have this support from the world’s leading minds in digital publishing,” said Paperight founder and chief executive, Arthur Attwell.


‘Solving problems of book distribution’


“It shows that as publishers we’re serious about solving the real problems of book distribution, getting the knowledge we create into the hands of people everywhere, no matter where they live or how much they earn.”

Paperight announced on Tuesday that O’Reilly Media, one of the world’s leading publishers of technology books, had recently signed with Paperight to increase access to their books in the developing world.

“The irony of the digital revolution is that while democratising knowledge production, it has increased the gap between the Internet-haves and have-nots,” Attwell said.

“If you’re not online, you can’t learn about technology, and you can’t close that gap.”

Attwell believes that deals with publishers such as O’Reilly will help change that. “Many of our printing outlets directly supply schools and computer training centres, and these books will give them a huge advantage.”

The deal will allow 150 Paperight outlets in South Africa – many in rural villages and poor townships – to legally print out O’Reilly books for their customers on demand.


Increasing access to books


Some of the O’Reilly books that will soon be available on Paperight include Learning Web Design, Programming C# 5.0, and Learning Java. Titles from the Head First series will also be available, including titles focusing on PHP & MySQL, Python and Excel.

South African publisher New Africa Books also signed up earlier this month. NAB imprints include David Philip, Spearhead and New Africa Education.

This deal means popular South African works – such as Mamphela Ramphele’s autobiography A Life – will soon be available from Paperight outlets.

O’Reilly named Paperight the “most entrepreunerial start-up” at its Tools of Change Start-up showcase held in New York in February because of the “creative solution they’ve developed to convert copy shops into a new distribution channel”.

Paperight has also been recognised locally, receiving a seed grant from the SAB Foundation at their innovation awards in November last year.

Books are generally around 20% less to print at a Paperight outlet, although that depends on individual outlets.

SAinfo reporter



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