The #textbookrevolution hits Twitter!


"Twitter" by Flickr user Andreas Eldh. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Licence
“Twitter” by Flickr user Andreas Eldh. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Licence

Over the first two weeks of March 2014, Paperight hosted two LIVE Twitter debates for students, publishers, teachers, lecturers, booksellers and all interested parties to share their views on the subject of textbook availability and high prices. With the help of Kelsey Wiens and Eve Gray from UCT, the #textbookrevolution gathered a fantastic cross section of opinions and criticisms to help us move the campaign forward.

Our first debate, held on the 6th of March 2014, attracted mainly industry players who steered the debate towards how prices can be cut and what restraints exist that are preventing this becoming common practice. We also welcomed teachers, a smattering of students and a variety of student welfare organisations to the mix. The following points were raised and debated:

  • The need for more SA academics to chip in and write textbooks for their students rather than relying on expensive foreign equivalents
  • When SA lecturers write textbooks, there is a tendency to prescribe the same textbook even long after it is out of date which needs to be addressed
  • Digital or paper resources? On this point, the opinions were equally divided with most conceding to fall into the middle ground that both need to exist to be most effective
  • The high cost of the supply chain (printing, storage, transport and waste)
  • How students manage when they can’t afford to buy their prescribed textbooks

The success of the first debate necessitated a second one, held on the 13th of March 2014. This time around we pushed for more students to take part and we were not disappointed! Particularly by University of Pretoria students who chipped in en masse to share their personal experiences of buying their textbooks. The Tuks SRC started the debate with a bang sharing a photo of a textbook that costs R1035.95 and asking students to comment – shew! What a kicker to get students talking about downloading .pdf’s of textbooks, paying extortionate prices, sharing textbooks with friends, dealing with library short loans and even relying on student loans that don’t actually cover the cost of their textbooks. Even Van Schaik’s weighed in to explain the bookseller/publisher side to the students. Having them involved kept the debate moving along, and meant that the results are multi-faceted and really illuminating.

Tweets flew in thick and fast over the hour of the debate – so fast in fact that we struggled to keep up and even managed to get the hashtag #textbookrevolution to trend in South Africa! Amid all the tweets about Oscar Pistorius, South Africans were also debating a better future for school and university students. This is not the last of the #textbookrevolution. You can get involved too: simply log into Twitter, search for the #textbookrevolution, and have your say.

So keep tweeting about it, share the petition and sow the seeds of debate among those you know because every #textbookrevolution supporter carries this campaign even closer to success. As a collective of individuals eager for a better option, we can help countless future South Africans achieve their full potential. Viva la #textbookrevolution!

Getting to know CAPS

The lowdown on CAPSStarting this year, public schools and some private schools in South Africa have fully switched to the CAPS curriculum, with the first batch of CAPS-educated learners matriculating at the end of the 2014 school year.

With all of the changes to the South African national curriculum in the past decade or so, CAPS might seem like just another confusing acronym for parents and teachers to remember, and another annoying policy shift that requires everyone to buy new textbooks and start over. CAPS really isn’t that complicated, though, but it’s important to understand what it’s all about.

CAPS stands for Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements. Simply, it is a revision of the current National Curriculum Statement (NCS), and introduces more streamlined and comprehensive sets of guidelines and assessment criteria for each subject in each grade. The purpose of this is to make teachers’ jobs easier, giving them clear guidance on what to do. It also makes learners’ lives easier, by establishing clearly what it is they are to learn in fine detail and how their work will be assessed.

Overcomplicated terminology is also out the window, making it so much easier for parents, guardians and learners themselves to understand exactly what they’re doing: for example, the old terms “Learning Outcomes” and “Assessment Standards” are done away with, and have been replaced with “Content” and “Skills”. Even better, primary school learners will no longer study “Literacy” and “Numeracy”; they will now do “Language” and “Mathematics” instead.

The upshot of all this – the new terminology, the week-by-week planning for classrooms to follow – is that everyone needs new textbooks that are completely aligned with the new curriculum. Luckily, Paperight has a great selection of CAPS textbooks available at any of our outlets nationwide.

X-kit Achieve!

The X-Kit Achieve! series from Pearson has been developed based on meticulous research and feedback from learners and teachers. These study guides offer exercises which cover understanding, application and problem-solving skills. They also include concise explanations, plenty of practice and sample test and exam papers with answers. Available for Grade 10 and Grade 11 students.

Study & Master Study Guides

Cambridge University Press’s Study & Master series have been specially developed by experienced author teams to meet all the requirements of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). These new and easy-to-use courses not only help learners to master essential content and skills, but also gives them the best possible foundation on which to build their knowledge in each subject. Guides for seven subjects are available through Paperight for Grade 12 students.

Everything Maths

Siyavula’s Everything Maths textbook for Grade 10 students is not just a Mathematics textbook. It has everything you expect from your regular printed school textbook, but also comes with online video lessons and explanations which help bring concepts to life. Summary presentations at the end of every chapter offer an overview of the content covered, with key points highlighted for easy revision. All the exercises inside the book link to a service where you can get more practice, see the full solution or test your skills level on mobile and PC.

Book review: how we’re using GetSmarter to get better at photography!

“As children, people learn incredible things without even realising that they’re learning because, for the most part, that learning is cloaked as play. As they get older, the sand boxes and crayons and multi-coloured clay get packed away and they’re told that, in order to learn, they need to be serious.”

1048544_10152943050545481_1249675551_oA very rare and very welcome tone, being encouraged to play around while gaining valuable tips is what you get when you pick up the GetSmarter Digital Photography course manual. Created as an accompaniment to the GetSmarter Digital Photography course that is run through UCT, this manual, comprising of 10 modules, is incredibly useful to anyone who wants to learn a thing or two about the art of picture taking even if the course is not in their budget.

Take me for example. Over the last few months, I’ve been taking a manual photography course at an art college in Woodstock and I have relished every moment. From producing photograms, and developing film, to working in the dark room with enlargers, developing prints and playing around with blue and copper toners, the entire experience has been really rewarding. There is only one thing the course does not cover in enough depth: how to take a beautiful photograph.

1048869_10152943050715481_1383428797_oRather than fork out for another course, I set off to find this information elsewhere and stumbled upon the GetSmarter guys. Digital photography and manual photography may differ in their technical aspects (cameras used, photo developing techniques, photo sharing methods etc), but the same rules of artistic mastery apply in both mediums when heading out to capture an image. Knowing about the ISO and aperture necessary to capture images in different light conditions makes a phenomenal difference to the final result. Similarly, composition, despite being the least technical aspect of picture taking, is actually the hardest aspect to get right and one of the elements that has to be mastered to get that striking image.

Of the 10 modules on Digital Photography offered by GetSmarter, I found 7, 8 and 9 to be the most useful to what I was looking for. Module 7 covers the art of composition by extolling the virtues of vanishing points, leading the eye, symmetry and ‘less is more’. Module 8 covers the tricky aspects of portraiture, as well as including a great, brief history of the use of portraiture and some great classic examples of what these images look like when done correctly. And finally, module 9 covers landscape photography, which is the subject matter that I find the hardest to capture. How do you deal with peculiar light conditions and how do you capture an enormous, beautiful space without losing all of the natural contrasts and visual depth? It is easier said than done, but I’ve certainly learned a few tricks to keep in mind for future attempts.


In addition to these, the entire manual covers everything from capturing motion in photographs, to lens advice, playing with shutter speed, experimenting with exposure times, making the most of your flash and a brilliant introduction to editing techniques using Photoshop. I learned a lot and most of all, I will continue to play until I manage to capture images the way that I want them to be. The best thing is that I am more than happy to keep trying.

– Marie-Louise, Paperight Marketing Coordinator

Attention! For R90, you can get all 10 modules from Jetline Thibault Square in Cape Town who are a Paperight registered print-on-demand bookstore. You can also get individual modules for about R25 each. Go to or SMS +27 (0)73 724 2501 to find your nearest print-on-demand bookstore!

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?

So, how long have people been copying books in South Africa?

12229361The answer might astonish you.

In his enlightening new book The Hidden History of South Africa’s Book and Reading Cultures, published by UKZN Press (and regrettably not yet available on Paperight), Archie L. Dick offers us this juicy tidbit of knowledge about how books were shared and circulated in the early days of the Cape colony:

“[…] copying and circulation culture was widespread at the Cape throughout the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth century. Common readers and writers copied and distributed handwritten pietistic works, hymn books, school books, and children’s stories. Even after printing arrived, only one copy of an almanac was sold in each of the Cape’s districts, Lady Anne Barnard complained, because ‘all the inhabitants read or copied out of that one'”. p. 20

So, it seems the twin problems of agreeable circulation methods and of readers pirating texts – and denying publishers their profits – has existed since the advent of the Cape colony, and the city that Paperight happily calls home.

Why, then, has it taken us so long to figure out a permissive solution to the fair Cape’s (and, for that matter, South Africa’s) book circulation woes? It isn’t even a vaguely new problem!

How Paperight is helping to fight piracy: the case of Aloe X


This is Angelo: rugby player, DJ, and shop assistant at Aloe X, a copy shop and Paperight outlet perfectly situated near Rhodes University campus on High Street, Grahamstown.

Angelo (and Aloe X) likes Paperight. Dozens of students come into Aloe X every week to look for – and print out – textbooks that they need for their studies, but can’t afford from the town’s only academic bookstore (which, by the way, is just down the road.)


Because of this, Aloe X is one of our most active Paperight outlets, and probably the most active outlet in South Africa relative to the amount of people who live in its immediate vicinity. Word spreads fast here: students walk into Aloe X with their smartphones in hand to message their friends to come along if  the books they need can be located on the Paperight website.

“It’s gotten to the point where people come up to me in the club and ask me if I can get them the books they need,” Angelo says. “It’s crazy how many people can’t afford books in the book store here, but I’m happy we can do them a service.”


Having a large percentage of people who can’t afford books is typical of many places in South Africa, even in places (like university towns) where people are supposedly well-off. (After all, only 1% of South Africans are regular book buyers, according to the South African Book Development Council.) Paperight outlets not only provide access to books, but also affordable books.

It’s not the first time that students have been walking in here in their droves to look for books. Last year, Aloe X was inundated with students wanting to scan and copy textbooks for their friends. Unfortunately, however, someone in the store decided it would be a good idea to comply with students’ wishes, and began to photocopy high-value textbooks for sale at a fraction of their book store price. Within a week, the shop was visited by anti-piracy authorities. The staff underwent a large overhaul.

“It was bad,” Angelo says. “I wasn’t working here when it happened, but everyone knew about it.”

Angelo, it turns out, was working at the academic book store. While his sales figures were good, when he moved to Aloe X, he recognised that the majority students needed an affordable print alternative. When Aloe X signed up with Paperight near the end of last year, he and the rest of Aloe X’s management saw an opportunity.

At the beginning of this year, Aloe X and Paperight started marketing English and Classics setworks to Rhodes students. Sales have been good, and interest has been booming. A year ago, 15 students a day coming into the store to print out books would have been the stuff of nightmares for Aloe X’s management. Now, with Paperight, it’s the stuff, perhaps not exactly of dreams, but definitely of increased turnover.

“With Paperight, there’s no need for piracy or doing things illegally,” says Angelo.


The only problem right now is that some of the most prescribed books at Rhodes – primarily for accounting, law and statistics – aren’t yet available through Paperight. On the basis of how well Paperight is working for English students, however, it should be a no-brainer.

“If publishers will give Paperight the opportunity to let outlets print out accounting and law textbooks, they will sell like hotcakes”, Angelo says. “There are students who go months – even the whole year – without books because they can’t afford them.”

“Publishers are missing out on a lot of money, man, but it’s worse that students are missing out on books”, he says. “Hopefully soon we can put that right.”

Enter the Papercutz


Paperight Papercuts 5 – 6 Random House Struik Running with Scissors

The inaugural indoor football match for the newly-formed Paperight Papercutz ended in a narrow 5–6 loss to Random House Struik Running with Scissors.

The match was a close affair, with the lead see-sawing between the two sides the entire way throughout. Despite flagging energy reserves, Paperight managed to enter the final stages of the match at 5–5 after being down 3–4 at half-time, but with with 40 seconds remaining on the clock, RHS scored with a neat volley to snatch the victory.


Paperight were spirited in their loss, but suffered a knee injury to Oscar Masinyana and a face-bruising to Tarryn Anderson, both soon on their way to represent the company at London Book Fair next week. (I suppose football matches before big conferences aren’t the best idea.)


Congrats and thanks to Random House Struik for coming to Claremont Arena, our new official home ground, and we look forward to settling the score in the return fixture in Gardens in a month’s time.

Perhaps it’s time for a Cape Town publishing indoor football league?


An old-school ‘photocopier’

Arnie's mini litho press

The earliest photocopiers looked like this. This is a one-colour, mini litho press from the 1970s, still in daily use at Arnie’s Printing, a Paperight outlet in Retreat, Cape Town. In addition to his two photocopiers, Arnie uses this beauty to produce flyers and small posters. He can also use it for old-school litho tricks, like sprinkling gold dust on the wet ink as the pages come off the press to get a golden sheen on lettering.

Philanthropy in SA is looking healthy!

DSCF1574 (640x426) (2)

Our financial manager Dezre recently went to the CMDS Building and Protecting Reserves for Financial Sustainability workshop at the Clock Tower Precinct at the V&A Waterfront. She fills us in on what went down at the workshop, offering important funding tips for South African start-ups, and gives us a wholehearted endorsement of CMDS’ work.

Continue reading Philanthropy in SA is looking healthy!

See you, 2012!

It’s been a quick and busy year. Such has been the rush to sign up new outlets and publishers, help matric learners get exam papers and implement new improvements to our website, we barely noticed that the end of the year was almost upon us.

To break ourselves out of our tunnel-vision workaholism, we booked off a clear and sunny (and windy) Cape summer’s day to go to the beach, play sport and eat way too much food. We decided on Oudekraal, an enclosed, boulder-crusted enclave on the Atlantic Seaboard, just a few kilometres from its much more famous cousin, Llandudno. Tarryn brought glittery cupcakes, Yazeed brought his wife, and Arthur brought a ball that bounces on water. (And a baby.)

It was a much-needed escape from the office, and the perfect way to round off the year. That said, we won’t be closing for any great length over the holiday season – we’ll be too busy preparing for another year of success and books. But for everyone taking it easy over the New Year, stay safe and have a wonderful time.

See you in 2013!

Continue reading See you, 2012!