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If you haven’t heard of Paperight, the network of independent copy shops that print books, it’s time to pay attention: the South African startup is capturing the imagination of the world’s publishing industry. On the heels of being named one of the winners of the O’Reilly Tools of Change Startup Showcase held in New York City, the startup from Cape Town was awarded the Digital Minds Innovation Award at the London Book Fair — one of the world’s most prestigious publishing events.
The showcase held Sunday night at the Digital Minds Conference, a precursor event to the London Book Fair, was a pretty big deal. The event that inspired conversation about evolution, innovation and disruption in the publishing industry, included keynote speakers such as authors Neil Gaiman and Robert Levine, as well as Will Atkinson, Sales and Marketing Director at Faber & Faber.
Paperight, funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, beat out seven other shortlisted candidates by popular vote. The audience favoured Paperight’s solution to book distribution problems in South Africa: by allowing photocopy shops to print books cheaply, quickly and — crucially — legally, Paperight is increasing access to books where they have never been physically and financially accessible before.
The second big win for the startup this year comes on the back of a seed grant from the SAB Foundation, awarded as part of their own Innovation Awards. Unlike Paperight’s win at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Startup Showcase however, where Paperight was the only shortlisted innovation from outside Europe and North America, this time Paperight also beat stiff competition from the Middle East.
“We’re incredibly honoured to have this support from the world’s leading minds in digital publishing,” said Paperight founder and CEO Arthur Attwell. “It shows that as publishers we’re serious about solving the real problems of book distribution, getting the knowledge we create into the hands of people everywhere, no matter where they live or how much they earn.”
Paperight has over 150 active outlets in South Africa.