Students need to embrace the future now

Diann SelmanAwesome Paperight intern Diann Selman talks about how Paperight could help her and her fellow university students deal with the heavy costs of academic textbooks.

A few years ago, I was accepted into the University of Cape Town, the top educational institution in Africa. From the day I was accepted, I couldn’t wait to get immersed in its academic vibe. I arrived on campus bright and early on my first day in impatient anticipation of my work. With reading list in hand, I hurried along to the university bookstore to purchase a few of the nine novels I needed. (They sure weren’t kidding when they said English students had to go through a lot of varied reading!)

But when I got there, I literally gasped as the assistant told me the price of each. I went to another nearby bookstore. Their prices were even more absurd. Dismayed after my first day, I went home to think long and hard on a solution.

Continue reading Students need to embrace the future now

We need an office manager–bookkeeper

Update, 5 August 2012: This position has now been filled. Dezre Little starts at Paperight on 6 August. Welcome, Dezre!

Paperight is changing the way people get books, so that we can put every book within walking distance of every home, anywhere. We need a smart, dedicated, energetic, meticulous, super-friendly person to join us by managing our office and keeping our books.

If this is you, you’re likely to have at least a year or two’s experience in a similar role. (For the bookkeeping, a working knowledge of accounting practices will do, if you’re great in other areas, and you’re always learning new stuff.) You’re so inherently organised, meticulous and efficient that you don’t know how to be anything else. And you tend to solve problems before anyone knows they’re there.

You’re also lovely with people, so you’ll be great at fielding emails and calls. Some of these will be customer-support calls for, so you’ll be a clear communicator, and super confident with websites and web-based applications already. Everything admin-related could fall to you: from travel arrangements to setting up events to liaising with suppliers and more. If anything will help us move faster, it’s up to you to know it first and make it happen. And when our teams need help with getting important stuff done, you’ll always pitch in.

If you’re this person, we are really looking forward to hearing from you.

Apply by emailing team at paperight dot com. Your email cover letter is much, much more important than your CV. So make it count. Be honest and friendly. Help us know why you are the team member we should have hired already. (We’ll be more impressed by a thorough LinkedIn profile than a regular CV, by the way.) If you have a blog or Twitter account, let us know – an outward-looking life, online or otherwise, scores extra points. We’ll then have a phone conversation or IM chat with people we think may be a good fit.

We’re based in Claremont, Cape Town. This will be a contract position for a few months (same as everyone else on the team). We haven’t decided how much we’ll pay you, because this will depend on your experience, and what energy and expertise you can bring to the team.

When the position is filled, we’ll say so here on this post. Till then, it’s open.

“No textbooks? I’ll print them for you…” – an article from the Mail & Guardian

Zakes Ncanywa was the man behind Paperight’s first ever registration in the Eastern Cape. With ambitions to open Paperight-powered copy shops and internet cafés throughout the rural Eastern Cape, Zakes has been a valuable resource of knowledge about what the residents of the many resource-strapped towns and villages throughout the country’s poorest province need most urgently.

Sensing a half-decent story, I travelled to Zakes’ maternal hometown of Peddie, and spent some time discovering why millions of people throughout the Eastern Cape – and the rest of South Africa, for that matter – have so much trouble finding access to valuable information that most urban dwellers take for granted, as well as discovering what makes one of the Eastern Cape’s most forward-thinking young entrepreneurs tick.

Given that Peddie is in the heart of Ngqushwa, a poor district of 92 000, deep in what is becoming entrenched as South Africa’s poorest province, I was expecting the problems to stem more from a lack of money or jobs than anything else.

But the problems in Peddie are more about infrastructure than they are about personal economics, with mismanagement and a lack of governmental resources exacerbated by layer upon layer of infrastructural deficiency, which are all vividly illustrated by Ncanywa’s fledgling enterprise.

The story of Zakes Ncanywa is now available to read on the Mail & Guardian website right here.

Paperight outlet poster: Siyavula Everything Maths CAPS Grade 10!

Are you a Paperight outlet? If so, then here’s a new poster for you to print and put up in your business to advertise to your customers. Simply click here for a PDF of this poster that can be printed up to A3 size and displayed in your business!

Everything Maths is a curriculum-compliant Grade 10 Maths textbook from the wonderful team at Siyavula. Siyavula textbooks are authorised by government for official use, and collaboratively authored by many of South Africa’s very best teachers. This year they have released their textbooks for Grade 10 and, as the new CAPS curriculum comes into effect, will be releasing lots of new textbooks for other grades, too. (Which will, of course, all be available on Paperight!) The best bit? They require no licence fee to print for your customers!

For the full range of Siyavula textbooks (including textbooks for the current Grade 11 and 12 curriculum) available on Paperight, click here!

Happy printing!

Paperight’s new explainer video!


Paperight has a beautiful new explainer video. (Woo!) Lovingly crafted by the animation geniuses at Cape Town’s Sea Monster and narrated by the lovely curling voice of novelist, poet and dramatist Sindiwe Magona (in both English and Xhosa), our little 38-second clip aims to explain our sometimes-complicated business in a way that anyone can understand.

So, here it is. We hope you enjoy it.

Paperight Matric Exam Packs (Languages)

Get matric past papers from Paperight!

Do you need to prepare for your matric exams but can’t find past papers to help you study? You can find comprehensive collections of official matric past papers, memos and appendices on Paperight! Here are links to all of our matric exam packs for language subjects:

Afrikaans: HL • FAL • SAL ( EC | FS | GP | KZN | LP | MP | NC | NW | WC )

English: HL • FAL • SAL ( GP | KZN | LP )

isiNdebele: HL • FAL • SAL

isiXhosa: HL • FAL • SAL ( EC | GP | WC )

isiZulu: HL • FAL • SAL ( GP | KZN )

sePedi: HL • FAL • SAL ( GP | LP )

seSotho: HL • FAL • SAL ( FS | GP )

Setswana: HL • FAL • SAL ( GP | NW )

siSwati: HL • FAL • SAL

tshiVenda: HL • FAL • SAL ( GP | LP )

xiTsonga: HL • FAL • SAL ( GP )

A technical overview of Paperight site architecture

This is an unusually technical post for us: a description of what the Paperight website is made of. We’re very proud of the fact that Paperight is built from scratch using open-source technology, in part so that we can publish the code openly one day. (When we have the capacity to manage a public open-source project). I asked Shaine Gordon, lead developer at Realm Digital, to describe how the site is built.

From the outset, was designed with the goals of efficiency, scalability, speed and security.

This lead to the decision to use Java/JSP (GPL) as the starting point.

Apache Tomcat 7 (Apache Licence 2.0) was selected as the Java container, being the industry standard when it comes to ease of setup, and performance.

For the architecture, SpringSource’s Spring Framework (Apache Licence 2.0) was selected. This again was chosen due to its industry standard performance, efficiency, and large support community.

The front end runs on Spring MVC 3.1, using Apache Tiles for layout management. This is secured using Spring Security 3.1.

For domain object management and persistence, we chose to use JPA (Java Persistence API), backed by Hibernate, using JTA (Java Transaction API) transaction management to ensure data can be retrieved and persisted reliably.

For indexing and searching content, Apache’s Lucene was the framework of choice. This was then seamlessly integrated with Hibernate, using Hibernate Search (LGPL 2.1).

One of the core requirements was the ability to alter and watermark PDF documents on the fly. For this we chose Apache’s PDFBox (Apache Licence 2.0). Its ability to process documents quickly and it’s free, open licence made it the natural choice.

The backend management system requires large amounts of data to be processed, for example for product imports. This should be relatively transparent to admins, and also provide sufficient feedback on failed jobs and errors. To this end, we again chose SpringSource projects: Spring Batch and Spring Integration. Spring Integration is a Java “Spring-way” implementation of the famous “Enterprise Integration Patterns”.

The result is that runs on a stack of 100% free and open-source software, without in any way compromising reliability or performance. It could be argued that our choices actually increased reliability and performance, relative to proprietary alternatives.

Silulo Schools Workshop

Last week, Paperight’s Outlet Relations team held a workshop for high school principals from the Khayelitsha area at the Silulo Academy at Khaya Bazaar, Khayelitsha. The aim of the workshop was to introduce principals to both Paperight and Silulo, one of Cape Town’s biggest copyshop and training academy chains, and the opportunities they present to students by helping them acquire education materials, like matric exam packs and textbooks from Paperight, that can be bought and printed at any one of Silulo’s dozen internet cafes  in the Western Cape.

Our partnership with Silulo represents our ongoing commitment to bringing access to books and learning materials to areas traditionally neglected by commercial booksellers and book distribution models.

The (unexpectedly long and fraught) story behind Paperight’s Matric exam packs

Inside the Western Cape Department of Education.

Past exam papers are one of the most valuable resources that any student preparing for their matric exams can have. A long set of difficult exams is a daunting task for anybody, but by reading through or practicing their knowledge and skills on past papers, matric students can become familiar with the questions and challenges that await them in the most important year of their education.

The South African Department of Basic Education (DBE) ostensibly has links to all past papers somewhere in bowels of their complicated and policy-heavy website. But, contrary to expectations, they aren’t completely available or accessible.

As a company obsessed with both education and ease of access, one of the first things we wanted to do at Paperight was to offer complete and organised packs of past matric exam papers and memos that Paperight outlets could freely print out for their customers. After six months, we’ve finally done it. Some might think this isn’t the biggest deal, and up until six months ago, we didn’t think it’d be a huge task either. What transpired, however, was something altogether much more difficult than we ever could have thought.

The first hurdle we found was that a substantial portion of the links to papers on the DBE’s website – as many as 110 of them – either don’t work or, equally as often, take you through to an incorrect document. E-mails and phone calls to employees at both the DBE and the Western Cape Department of Education (WCED) were mostly responded to with the insistence that all of the papers and memos were indeed online. Others that understood the issue and were kind enough to give us their time asked for a list of papers we needed, but then found they couldn’t help us.

After three months of trawling through provincial DBE websites and numerous emails back-and-forth, we decided to visit WCED personally in Cape Town city centre to get the over-100 papers and memos we needed to compile our packs. It took over an hour of skulking around stairwells and numerous CCTV-surveilled corridors to find somebody who could help us. Taking our flash drive and a list of exams, he disappeared behind a metal gate for twenty minutes. On his return, we thought the wait to have a complete set of exams was over. Alas, not: he had given us the wrong exams.

We eventually gave in and decided to buy sets of matric exams from EduMedia, the WCED’s educational resource arm. They were inexpensive, at R20 each for a full set of one year’s matric exams, but they too were incomplete. They did, however, give us many of the papers we needed that the DBE couldn’t physically or digitally give us for free.¹ Through this patchwork of different sources, we’d achieved our goal, four months later and using the efforts of three well-connected full-time employees.

One question came up between Paperight team members every time we hit a snag: how is the average matric student supposed to do this? Matric students should not be forced to go through undue inconvenience or cost to simply access a complete archive of past papers to help them prepare for the culmination of their schooling careers.

Accessibility is the main problem. Not only do the most comprehensive sets of matric papers available cost money, they are also mostly only accessible in South Africa’s major centres. (EduMedia, for example, only has one physical branch, in Mowbray, Cape Town; matric exam papers aren’t listed on their online shop.) Even more fundamental than this, however, is that most of the avenues for students that the DBE or other bodies provide for them to get their study materials from are either costly, or reliant on broadband internet access through a computer, something to which large swathes of the South African population still have little or no regular or affordable access. Added to the fact that these online resources are predominantly in English and provide a hodgepodge of uncompiled and disorganised documents, a huge percentage of South Africa’s students are presented with major impediments, over and above any other challenges they might be facing.

Paperight, however, is making matric exam papers easier to access. By putting de facto bookstores, potentially in every town in South Africa, through internet cafés, schools and copyshops, matric students can access and print out complete ready-prepared packages of all the past paper resources they need, literally at the click of a button. While it might not be a perfect system (Paperight is, at this stage, a service that requires an outlet to have an internet connection, after all) it’s a vast improvement on the systems that currently exist: Paperight exam packs are readily-available, comprehensive and free to access. No more digging in the bowels of unintelligible government websites, no more trudging through irrelevant policy documents and jargon-laden text, and no more shelling over money for something that should be easy to access.

So, with great pride and relief, we’re very happy to say: if you or someone you know needs matric exam papers, you can find a full list of our available exam packs here.

¹Not to mention that the EduMedia packs only supplied us with papers that have been used in the Western Cape. For papers for province-specific subjects, such as First Additional and Second Additional Languages, we (and learners, by extension) were forced to rely on the DBE, with typically poor results.

Paperight Matric Exam Packs (Non-languages)

Get matric past papers from Paperight!

Do you need to prepare for your matric exams but can’t find past papers to help you study? You can find comprehensive collections of official matric past papers, memos and appendices on Paperight! Here are links to all of our matric exam packs for non-language subjects:

Accounting Exam Pack English | Rekeningkunde Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Agricultural Science Exam Pack English | Landbouwetenskappe Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Agricultural Technology Exam Pack English | Landboutegnologie Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Agricultural Management Exam Pack English | Landboubestuurspraktyke Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Business Studies Exam Pack English | Besigheidstudies Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Civil Technology Exam Pack English | Siviele Tegnologie Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Computer Applications Technology Exam Pack English | Rekenaartoepassingstegnologie Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Consumer Studies Exam Pack English | Verbruikerstudies Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Dance Studies Exam Pack English | Dansstudies Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Design Exam Pack English | Ontwerp Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Dramatic Arts Exam Pack English | Dramatiese Kunste Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Economics Exam Pack English | Ekonomie Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Electrical Technology Exam Pack English | Elektriese Tegnologie Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Engineering Graphics and Design Exam Pack English | Ingenieursgrafika en -ontwerp Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Geography Exam Pack English | Geografie Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

History Exam Pack English | Geskiedenis Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Hospitality Studies Exam Pack English | Gasvryheidstudies Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Information Technology (IT) Exam Pack English | Inligtingstegnologie Eksamenpakket (IT) Afrikaans

Life Sciences Exam Pack English | Lewenswetenskappe Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Mathematics Exam Pack English | Wiskunde Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Mathematical Literacy Exam Pack English | Wiskundige Geletterdheid Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Mechanical Technology Exam Pack English | Meganiese Tegnologie Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Music Exam Pack English | Musiek Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Physical Science Exam Pack English | Fisiese Wetenskappe Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Religion Studies Exam Pack English | Religiestudies Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Tourism Exam Pack English | Toerisme Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

Visual Arts Exam Pack English | Visuele Kunste Eksamenpakket Afrikaans

If you have any questions about our matric exam packs, feel free to drop us a mail at