Category Archives: About Paperight

What a(n award-winning) week!

Arthur appreciating the Accenture Apex award trophy.

Great news: Paperight won two massive innovation awards last week. Woo!

Paperight took first place at the Frankfurt Book Fair Contec Startup Showcase in Germany last Tuesday, before we picked up the Apex award for the most innovative small company in South Africa at the Accenture Innovation Index Awards in Sandton on Thursday evening.

The Contec Startup Showcase was held as a precursor to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest and most internationally-represented publishing industry event. Paperight beat out competitors from around the world, impressing a panel of judges with both our technological innovations and our social mission.

The Accenture Innovation Index Awards was launched to promote business growth and new enterprises in aid of job creation in South Africa. The awards were open to any organisation, irrespective of industry or size, and were judged on each organisation’s innovation ecosystem – from human resources to branding, from marketing to product development. Paperight was named as the winner of the Apex award, awarded to an organisation with an annual turnover under R40 million. The winner of the Zenith award, given to an organisation with an annual turnover over R40 million, was awarded to First National Bank (FNB).

These awards come after Paperight won major publishing innovation awards in New York City and London earlier this year

So, again, a massive thank you to our partner publishers, outlets and supporters around the world. We are changing the face of publishing for the better in South Africa and abroad.

Improving our privacy policy

Any time you use a website, it gathers info about you (it’s often also called ‘user data’). Sometimes quite a lot of info. So good web businesses have a public policy explaining what info they gather and how they use it. It’s usually called a privacy policy.

We published our privacy policy a year ago. We were still figuring out how best to do this, and over the last year we’ve talked and received feedback about our first version. We’re now making some changes to improve it, mainly to the parts that apply to publishers.

None of the changes mean that we gather more info or use it in new ways. The changes only clarify what we do in better terms, so that our publishing partners can rest assured that we’re being sensible with their info. Continue reading

Join us at the Open Book Festival!

open-book_logo_20130724The excitement is building in the run up to the Open Book Festival, one of the premiere events on the South African literary calendar! Set in Cape Town, the event brings local and international writers together to talk about things that matter – and we’re going too!

On Saturday the 7th of September 2013, we’re hosting a panel discussion titled “Young Writers, Big Futures” to explore the successes of the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology 2013 and the challenges of developing writers in South Africa. Hosted by our CEO Arthur Attwell and featuring an appearance from esteemed author (and our foreword contributor) Niq Mhlongo, this is a great opportunity to come together as a big Paperight family and celebrate our mission of bringing every book within walking distance of every home.

So, we’d love you to join us. The event will be held at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town on 7 September and tickets are going for R30 per person. Come around, say hi, meet some of our great young writers, and see for yourselves what we’re up to. For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, click here.

Brace yourselves: matric exams are coming!

Paperight matric packs: accessible learning at last!

Paperight Matric Exams coverOut of the over-1 700 brilliant books we have on Paperight, the ones that sell the most are our packs of past matric exam papers. We think it’s because they are probably the most easy and accessible way for matric learners to get their hands on these valuable learning resources. (Don’t believe us? Click here to find our how it took us six months to source all the exams ourselves!)

Paperight’s matric packs are cost-effective for both learners and copy shops. All subjects come in multi-year and single-year versions, with each containing all papers, answers and addenda for a subject in a given year or years. They are also relatively high-volume documents, helping outlets’ machines keep printing. Everyone wins.

(They’re also awesome to sponsor and give to needy schools.)

Paperight past matric exam packs are available for all languages and subjects from 2008 to 2012. Click here to see all Paperight multi-year exam packs and here to see all Paperight single-year exam packs.

Oxford University Press and Mindset Learn study guides: taking it to the next level

If matrics need some extra help with their exam preparation, we also have the best study guides around from Oxford University Press and Mindset Learn.

OUP Exam Success coverOUP’s Exam Success series of high school study-guides emphasise a holistic approach to studying, offering mock exam questions, practical studying suggestions and timetables to learners, helping them to maximise the amount of knowledge and insight they gain from the time they spend in front of their books. Exam Success guides are available in 15 subjects in English and Afrikaans, as well as for a selection of languages and English literature set works. Click here to find them.


Mindset Learn’s Revision X-Sheets and Comprehensive Study Notes offer super cost-effective supplementary learning, available in ten subjects in English. Click here to find them.

We’re helping more matrics get prepared for the most important exams of their lives, and outlets can get in on the action. Get in touch with us if you want us to make you designs for flyers and posters to advertise them in and outside your shop!

Adopt a school and bring matric success to underprivileged schools


It is no secret that the education system in South Africa is not where it should be. The assistance of the private sector is desperately needed in many neighbourhoods where schools are under-financed, in disrepair or under-resourced.

Paperight has this week started an Adopt-A-School campaign, the idea for which came about when Minuteman Press Cape Town owner Rob Brickhill contacted Paperight to assist him in finding a school in need of extra support.



“I wanted to find a school that is really in need of help,” Rob said. He had recently registered with Paperight and realised that he had direct access to study materials to assist the schools he wanted to assist.

After some searching, Paperight introduced Rob Brickhill to Silverstream Secondary School in Manenberg on the Cape Flats. Last year the school suffered the lowest matric pass rate in the Western Cape in 2012, with a disappointing 34.2% of its matric class managing to pass.

It’s not surprising then to learn that living circumstances for many students at the school are particularly difficult. “We have some learners who live alone in shacks nearby whilst their parents are in the Eastern Cape”, said Mrs. Essa, a teacher at the school.


Rob Brickhill and Mrs. Essa discussed the requirements of the school and provided the matriculants with Grade 12 study guides and teaching guides to assist the teachers with improving their productivity. With the assistance of private companies and donors like Minuteman Press Cape Town, the school will be able to help their matrics make a success out of their schooling careers and the rest of their lives.

By partnering with Paperight, both private individuals and photocopy shops can make a massive difference to the lives of hundreds of learners and teachers in desperate need of quality educational resources. We offer packs of past matric exam papers, Oxford University Press Exam Success study guides and hundreds of other books on our print-on-demand system.

If you are would like to get involved by adopting a school and supplying them with much-needed educational supplements, or would just like to find out more about our programme and what it takes, please contact us at or 021 671 1278. 

What makes a Paperight outlet a good bookstore?

Paperight now has over 160 active outlets throughout South Africa. Naturally, some of these outlets are more active than others, and some are better at selling Paperight products than others. This post is to show you what sort of thinking and marketing is going into some of the most successful Paperight outlets.

Marketing: where do we stand?

Curiously, most Paperight-registered outlets have not used any form of marketing to advertise their print-on demand book service, which is strange, seeing as advertising is (rather obviously) the most effective way to inform customers about your services.

Below is a list of the number of sheets of A4 paper printed by selected outlets when selling books via Paperight.

  • Urban Eastern Cape Outlet: 19822
  • Urban Western Cape Outlet: 14740
  • Rural Eastern Cape Outlet: 12422
  • Franchise store #1: 9529
  • Franchise store #2: 7998
  • Franchise store #3: 7424

All of these stores were selling respectable amounts of books with simple advertising, like posters. But the top three on that list got much bigger returns than franchise stores – which have much bigger advertising budgets and much more swish marketing potential – because of these simple things:

At the Rural Eastern Cape outlet, the owner, who runs the outlet out of his home, went to meet with teachers at schools and spoke with students in person. The Urban Western Cape Outlet’s improved sales came after a High School principal approached them after discovering them on Paperight’s outlet map and purchased past matric exam papers for their small matric class. (This initial order also led to a follow up order less than 2 months later.) The Urban Eastern Cape Outlet placed Paperight posters strategically at the entrances of nearby schools and within their outlets. They also trained the few staff they have to use the website efficiently in order to provide great customer service.

Tapping into new markets

When students came to the Urban Eastern Cape outlet to purchase past exam papers, they also discovered that that outlet offers IT training courses. Those students have since shown interest in partaking in the courses after completing high school. If this outlet didn’t advertise effectively, those students may never have gone to that outlet and may never have known that they offer IT courses.

The same is true for your outlet. Many outlets may feel that this is not their market – but we say that it can be. Why limit your slice of the pie? A high school student may come to your store for past exam papers today; next year they may return to buy their university setworks and textbooks from you; a few years later they may return to have their thesis printed; the year after that they may return to buy Write the Winning CV; when in business they may return to have their corporate printing and marketing materials printed.

We don’t see a student, we see an opportunity. Paperight is an opportunity to attract customers to your core business via a market which you otherwise may not have had access to: the bookstore market.

Traditional bookselling is starting to fail

Unfortunately for many, traditional bookstores are fast becoming unsustainable. More and more people in South Africa’s small book-buying public are switching to e-books, taking away a large slice of income from bookstores. E-books however, cannot overcome inaccessibility to books in developing nations of Africa, Asia and South America. Especially not in a world starved of electricity to feed its needs.

On the other hand, bookstores cannot continue to keep doing business as usual and still expect to keep their doors open. Bookstores stock their shelves with books hoping that customers would buy them but, if they don’t get sold, those books get pulped. We all would like to believe that they are given to the less fortunate to stock libraries in areas where books are scarce, but the reality is that in many cases they are simply pulped or recycled.

The print-on demand service which you provide, partnered with Paperight’s system of delivery, is the ideal solution to for the growing gap being left in the market. With print-on demand, there is no need for large amounts of books to gather dust on shelves. Books are only printed as customers need them, which also means less wastage and pollution. You are in the position to offer print-on demand books today without any changes to its existing business.

All that is left now is letting everyone know that you are part of the world’s largest network of print-on demand bookstores. So, get in touch with us if you need materials for your outlet, or how about you print out a Paperight catalogue, or check out our poster archive?

Our new help video: Getting started with Paperight

Need a little bit of help navigating the Paperight website? We’ve got something for you.

The new Paperight help video covers the entire Paperight registration process, how to top up an account with credits (including the 2 different payment options), the process of finding a document, buying the license and how to download. The option to change general account settings is shown, including how to add another user or multiple users to the account.

It’s the first in a series of simple help videos that should answer your basic queries and concerns about getting the Paperight website to work well and efficiently for you.

Want to suggest something for us to cover in our next video? Feel free to drop us a line at

Interview: Arthur in The Citizen

I enjoyed chatting on email to Genevieve Vieira of The Citizen recently for her story about Paperight. Here’s the full text of the interview.

How and when did you first come up with the concept for Paperight?

At Electric Book Works (my other company), we’d been trying to use ebooks to make reading easier and more affordable for people. But it wasn’t working, there are too many barriers to online access for most people. During a research project into print-on-demand, I realised that the smallest book-printing factory is a copy shop – and copy shops were everywhere, run by ambitious entrepreneurs across Africa. It was suddenly so obvious that they should be bookstores!

Has something similar been attempted in the past?

Nothing on this scale. There have been attempts to print newspapers and maps and sometimes books on-demand in stores, but they’ve always required very expensive machines. Our solution works on any old printer, so any printing business can participate, and we can reach far more people.

Was it challenging to set up an agreement with publishers in this regard?

For most publishers, yes. There have been shining exceptions: publishers who understand immediately that their role in society is to spread knowledge, and Paperight is a viable way to do that properly. But others have struggled to get over their mistrust of copy shops, to realise that copy-shop entrepreneurs want to be their allies and business partners. We’re getting there, though: after a long journey, more and more publishers are getting excited about the possibility of putting every book within walking distance of every home.

Do authors understand the necessity of something like Paperight?

Every author wants more than anything for their books to be read. The old book distribution system just doesn’t encourage that: less than 2 million South Africans buy books regularly. Authors feel that and it saddens them. Every author I’ve spoken to loves the idea that we can make their books available on every street corner.

Will publishers be losing out on profit?

Not at all. That’s the real beauty of Paperight: publishers can often make the same gross margins from Paperight sales as they do from conventional bookstores. Plus, they reach far more people: if they then sell more copies than before, they can lower their prices over time. They can finally break out of this tiny, suburban market they’ve been selling to for all these years.

Why do you think Paperight is so worthwhile in a country like SA?

Like many countries, South Africa is big. We can’t afford to ship regular books everywhere. And most South Africans don’t have Internet access. By turning any copier-printer into a book factory, every copy shop into a book shop, we can solve a problem today that would take years to fix any other way. Schools could get their books today. Hospitals can train nurses today. Small entrepreneurs can get helpful business books today.

Can you explain in a few sentences exactly on Paperight works?

Any copy shop can join the Paperight network by signing up for free on They then put a small amount of money (say, R50) in their pre-paid Paperight account. Then they’re ready to print for customers. We provide promotional posters they can print for their shop advertising the service. When a customer asks for a Paperight book, they use to download and print it out on the spot. The make their usual printing fee, and we pay the publisher from the copy shop’s pre-paid account.

How many different countries has Paperight been implemented in?

We have a few outlets abroad, in Ghana, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the US – but the vast majority are in South Africa, where we focus our efforts right now. We hope to expand to Kenya and Ghana over the next year.

What will this mean for the future of public libraries for instance?

Libraries are so important for growing reading. So we’re very excited to work with libraries. We’re already talking to library groups about their using Paperight both to stock their own shelves and also to be able to sell patrons books right from the library counter. When you borrow a great book from a library, why shouldn’t you also be able to get your own copy right there to keep?

Do you have a list of outlets that are involved?

The best place to find our 150 outlets is on our site at We’re very proud that the entire Jetline chain of copy shops are Paperight members.


ITWeb interviews Arthur Attwell about Paperight

In the wake of our win at the London Book Fair this week, Christine Greyvenstein interviewed me for an article on ITWeb. Here’s the full text of that interview, where I talk about how we’re changing the way people buy books in South Africa, and where we’re going in the future.

CG: What exactly does Paperight do and how did the website start off?

AA: In short: Paperight enables any photocopy shop to print out and sell books legally. Photocopy chops are ubiquitous in Africa; they’re little hubs of economic activity. But till now they’ve never been used as legal, print-on-demand bookstores. By making this happen, we’ve put bookstores in places where books have literally never been sold before (like rural Peddie or Khayelitsha’s CBDs), accessible to people who can’t get to bookstores and can’t get online themselves to read or buy books.

The website is just our tool: copy shops have a pre-paid account on, and use the site to instantly download books for printing as walk-in customers ask for them. We deduct small licence fees from the shop’s account for each print-out, and pay that to the publishers – less 20% for us.

After three years of research and prototyping, we launched our official site in May 2012. Investment from the Shuttleworth Foundation made that possible.

CG: What benefits does the Paperight service offer?

AA: For copy shops, they get to offer a whole new service to their communities. Already copy shops around the country have earned tens of thousands of rands in extra turnover by using Paperight. For their walk-in customers, the benefits are lower-cost books (on average 20% less than traditional editions) and more importantly, much-reduced accessibility costs: we cut out the travel, delay and frustration of trying to find a book at traditional bookstores, which are often poorly stocked.

For publishers, we offer a new market. People who buy from Paperight outlets are not the same people who buy from Exclusive Books, for instance. We’re creating new readers that will sustain the book industry in the long run. Right now, it’s been estimated that less than two million people buy books regularly in South Africa (excluding school textbooks bought directly by government), and that number isn’t growing fast enough to sustain local bookstores. Our Paperight outlets could reach another 40 million, and that’s just in South Africa.

CG: This is not the first award that Paperight has won, what are some of the others and what are your feelings on the success of the website?

AA: Last year we won a seed grant from the SAB Foundation Innovation Awards, and earlier this year we won ‘Most Entrepreneurial Startup‘ at the prestigious Tools of Change for Publishing conference in New York. This week’s Innovation Award at the London Book Fair is a further endorsement of what we’re doing from the international publishing industry.

To be honest, getting there wasn’t easy: I’ve been pitching Paperight to publishers since it was a prototype in 2009, so it’s been a four-year journey to get this recognition. I think, over those years, publishers have become more adventurous, and more aware of their social responsibility to spread the knowledge they curate. And the website we launched last year has made a big difference, too: it’s fast and clear, and we’re improving it all the time.

CG: What are some of the challenges start-ups face in the beginning?

AA: Oh, there are so many and they’re different for everyone. First, it’s hard to literally survive while you’re getting going. Your priorities as founders are very simple: put food on your table, and get sales. Both are hard. It’s lonely making hundreds of decisions every day without any idea of what will and won’t work. Paul Graham has simple advice to startups: “If you can just avoid dying, you get rich. That sounds like a joke, but it’s actually a pretty good description of what happens in a typical startup.” I live by that. We’re not even close to getting rich, but we’re still here, and after all this time the momentum is finally growing.

CG: What are some of Paperight’s plans for the future, building on an already successful concept?

AA: Our first priority is just to get better at what we do, right here in South Africa. We can make a real difference to the delivery and affordability of school and university books, so we’re working with publishers and copy shops on making that happen. And we hope to grow in Kenya and Ghana in particular in the next year.

Paperight in Parliament

Coat of arms of the Parliament of South AfricaWe’re over the moon and deeply honoured to have been congratulated by the South African National Assembly – Parliament – for our recent win in New York. Even more special than the congratulations was Parliament’s support and encouragement, and their appeal to all publishers to join us to make books more accessible to all.

Here’s what was said and agreed to in the Minutes of the National Assembly on 28 February 2013:

8. The Chief Whip of the Opposition moved without notice: That the House -

(1) notes that Paperight, a Cape Town based print-on-demand company received the O’Reilly Tools of Change Start-Up Showcase’s award for Most Entrepreneurial Publishing Start-Up in New York City on 14 February 2013;

(2) further notes that Paperight, a company funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, received this award for its ingenious solution to widespread book shortages in the developing world through a service that allows photocopy shops to legally print books, consisting of more than 200 registered independent outlets in South Africa;

(3) recognises that Paperight was one of 10 finalists, the only company nominated outside the United States of America and Europe and the first ever to come from South Africa;

(4) acknowledges the difficulty that millions in South Africa face in accessing published works;

(5) further acknowledges the importance of making published works easily accessible to millions of people throughout Africa; and

(6) congratulates Paperight and encourages publishers to register with Paperight in making their works accessible to all.

Agreed to.

Thank you, South Africa! We’ll be sure to live up to your expectations.