Shuttleworth-funded Paperight wins O’Reilly Startup Showcase

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South African startup Paperight has been named as one of the winners of the O’Reilly Tools of Change Startup Showcase in New York City.

Paperight, a print-on-demand service that allows photocopy shops to legally print books, is funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation. Founded in 2011 by Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow Arthur Attwell, Paperight claims to have more than 200 outlets throughout South Africa, offering over 1000 fiction and non-fiction titles as well as the country’s most comprehensive database of past matric exam papers.

According to the company, its aim “is two-fold: to increase access to books and to encourage entrepreneurship, by enabling copy shops and other organisations to become legal print-on-demand bookstores”.

Paperight was chosen as the Most Entrepreneurial publishing startup in this year’s competition, for its ingenious solution to widespread book shortages in the developing world.

“African countries have very few bookstores and ebooks are spreading very slowly,” said Attwell. “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 help legalise that process,” he added.

The company was one of ten finalists for the Startup Showcase, which offers young companies in publishing the opportunity to show off their work at Tools of Change, a publishing technology conference.

“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.”

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.

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