Imagine being able to afford whatever book your child needed whatever the cost, no problem. A South African start-up called Paperight is making this wish come true with a print-on-demand service that allows photocopy shops to legally print books.
And now the innovative company is a winner of one of the world's most prestigious publishing innovation competitions - O'Reilly Tools of Change Start-up Showcase.
Paperight, which is funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, was chosen by a panel of esteemed publishing industry judges as the Most Entrepreneurial publishing start-up for its ingenious solution to widespread book shortages in the developing world.
"African countries have very few bookstores and e-books are spreading very slowly," said Paperight CEO and founder Arthur Attwell, who represented the company at the competition.
"Photocopy shops, however, are everywhere, and in most places in Africa, they provide an important social function by photocopying books that people need, but can’t find or can’t afford to buy. Paperight was started to help legalise that process," he added.
The company was one of 10 finalists for the Start-up Showcase, which offers young companies in the publishing sector the opportunity to show off their work at Tools of Change, the world’s premier publishing technology conference. Paperight was the only finalist to come from outside of the United States or Europe, and the first ever to come from South Africa.
"This win is a tremendous achievement, especially for a company from South Africa," Attwell said.
"With any luck, it will increase publishers' awareness of the massive problems facing Africa in terms of access to books, and allow us to make their books available on our system."
The two other winners at the Start-up Showcase were children’s publisher Borne Digital and dynamic map visualisation software developers CartoDB, both from the United States.
Although their website was only launched in May 2012, Paperight already has over 200 registered independent outlets in South Africa, selling books from over 40 registered publishers. Publishers, on average, make as much or more from a Paperight sale as they would from a traditional bookstore or e-book sale.
The outlets can print from Paperight’s database of over 1000 books and other documents, including textbooks, fiction, children’s books, self-study courses and past matric exam papers. So, even in tiny Peddie in the rural Eastern Cape, or in far-flung Mokopane in Limpopo, people can walk into their local copy shop and have a book printed out for them while they wait.
“Our vision for Paperight is to put every book within walking distance of every home,” said Arthur Attwell, Paperight’s founder and CEO. “That starts here in South Africa, because millions of people in our country don’t have access to books.”
Publishers and photocopy shops can sign up to Paperight for free – and to become independent outlets - at www.paperight.com.