Project 14: Software Development Phase 3: closing report

The third major phase of software development on

  • adding support for VAT (now that Paperight is VAT registered),
  • A5 document downloads and PDF generation,
  • high-res cover downloads (for outlets who want to produce high-end products and their own marketing materials), and
  • improved product workflow and management features.

General report-back

This project went smoothly although there were delays on our side and Realm’s, mainly in the testing stages, where we had to test some complex VAT-support issues around invoices and statements and couldn’t allocate proper time to this. However, the delays did not have a noticeable impact on our business.

Objectives achieved


Objective Aim Outcome
A5 printing Books that are easier to read, leads to greater customer and PR enthusiasm for the end product Done. This has been just as important as we hoped, greatly simplying outlet’s lives. Lots of positive feedback in discussions with users.
High-res cover downloads Lets high-end outlets create attractive front covers and promotional material We’ve seen some take up of this, particularly for promo material (e.g. Juta used these covers for a store poster), not so much for covers (outlets actually find it too much hassle to print a separate jpg as the cover; so we’re addressing this in a future dev project).
VAT support Provide automated VAT-compliant invoices and statements between us, publishers, and outlets. Done. This is a major statutory requirement. No user feedback yet.
Improved PDF generation Speed up the content team’s ability to get documents online, and reduce the file sizes of downloads Done. The new PDF generation workflow is a huge improvement, drastically cutting doc creation time, and resulting in consistently smaller file sizes than in our old InDesign-based workflow.
Improved document management Ability to control a book’s visibility on the site

Ability to change the 80/20 earnings split between Paperight and rightsholders for specific documents



Objectives not achieved


Measures of success


Planned Outcome
First: do the new features function as expected? Yes.
We expect to see A5 documents outselling A4 documents (with the exception of matric exam packs) by 2 to 1. This is hard to measure because we have sold no documents that are available in both A5 and A4 simultaneously. That said, A5 is outselling A4 overall, even though there are far fewer A5 books than A4 available. This is in part because we’ve changed many of our bestsellers from A4-two-up to A5, and removed the two-up option completely.
We would like to see a noticeable increase in revenue, and as importantly, an increase in the number of outlets actively promoting the service to their customers. Our revenue continues to grow on target by over 40% per month on average.
We would love to see traditional booksellers register as outlets, given that we now offer products that ‘look like books’. All of Juta’s 10 stores and Caxton Books (a major supplier to the schools market) have registered. We can’t attribute this directly to A5, but our pitch to them generally is stronger by being able to offer A5.



Original budget: R139080.00

Actual spend: R139080.00

Returned to pool: R0.00

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Functional specification 6840 6840 0
Software build 3.0 84360 84360 0
Theme support, purchase notification emails, registration form improvement, record and timestamp all logins, company account closure improvments 34200 34200 0
Read only PDF’s, listed publishers titles, outlet GPS locations 13680 13680 0
TOTAL 139080 139080 0


Outputs and deliverables

Functional specification and working software code on


When working on something as complex as multinational VAT support and automated documentation for three-party agency sales (Paperight, publisher, outlet), it’s important that you:

  • write everything down very clearly as you go
  • keep one master document of current thinking in as concise a form as possible (multiple docs or outdated notes are unhelpful and even misleading)
  • work quickly while the discussions and decisions are fresh in the mind.


This was a once-off project. Ongoing maintenance and support will be done on an ad hoc basis with Realm. A future project will move all code to an open-source repository, increasing our options for involving other developers for future maintenance.


Great project, despite some delay (as much ours as Realm’s) and testing issues.

Next steps

We have conducted further development projects with Realm Digital, and will continue to build on an excellent working relationship.