A South African start-up company has been named as a winner of one of the world’s most prestigious publishing innovation competitions. Paperight, a Cape Town-based print-on-demand service that allows photocopy shops to legally print books, was one of three winners of the O’Reilly Tools of Change Startup Showcase, held this past Wednesday in New York City.
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 in this year’s competition, 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 grow those copy shops into legal print-on-demand bookstores,” he added.
The company was one of ten finalists for the Startup Showcase, which offers young companies in the publishing sector to show off their work at Tools of Change, the world’s premier publishing technology conference. Paperight was the only one of the ten finalists this year to come from outside of North America 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.”
“As it stands, it’s great to see judges and audiences from around the world seeing the value in our work,” he added.
The two other winners at the Startup 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 can make as much gross profit from a Paperight sale as they would from a traditional bookstore or e-book sale.
Publishers and photocopy shops can sign up to Paperight for free at www.paperight.com.
You can see his comments after receiving the award here: (First 3 minutes)
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