Paperight: turn your copy shop into a book shop, pay less for books

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In a time where digital books and distribution are vying for mindshare as the best weapon in the fight against illiteracy in Africa, Paperight is reviving the traditional paper textbook in an innovative way.

Launched in May this year, Paperight is aiming to repurpose the humble copy shop — plentiful stalwarts in most small towns — for printing affordable books, while protecting the rights of authors and publishers.

“Paperight is essentially a rights clearing house,” says founder Arthur Attwell, a former publisher who developed the business as a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow. “We negotiate printing rights with copyright owners and offer a payment mechanism that allows any copy shop, NGO, school or library with a printer/copier to distribute legal copies of books.”

Incidentally, the Shuttleworth Foundation is also backing Yoza, a project enabling the reading of short stories on phones. Ventureburn recently checked in on the progress of a similar project called FunDza.

Paperight partnered with Realmdigital, to develop the web-based system which hosts a growing library of text books, study material, fiction and other content that bypasses the production, distribution and retail cost associated with print publishing.

Attwell estimates that Paperight books could be 20-30% cheaper than their conventionally distributed counterparts. “Publishers can choose their own rights fees and Realmdigital has built a platform that makes it easy for printers to include this cost, and Paperight’s fee, into the final cost of printing a book for a customer.”

Paperight allows copy shop owners to search for and download books for their customers on request. Books cost prepaid Paperight credits. The Great Gatsby for example, costs 1.50 credits (± ZAR12.55 or US$1.50). On printing, the copy shop’s prepaid account is debited and the content is delivered in PDF format for printing.

To discourage illegal copying, each book is watermarked with the name of the buyer and the print shop, along with a unique URL for a website where readers can find additional content.

Attwell says he’s often asked why he’s pushing paper when digital formats are the future: “I’ve worked in digital for five years and I truly believe it is the future. But I’ve concluded that we need a solution that works for everyone today. Paperight is that solution.”

For his part, Realmdigital CEO Wesley Lynch says he believes Paperight “promises to be one of the great developmental technologies coming out of Africa, with global potential. I hope the publishing industry gives it the support it deserves.”

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