In addition to briefing Nick for a new product catalogue, I also pitched the idea for an updated poster archive. Looking through our old archive, it was easy to see how the Paperight brand identity had changed substantially over time and how much better our poster messaging had become.
I pitched for 6 new poster designs to highlight categories of books that would most likely hook customers in store, namely:
matric study materials
manga Shakespeare series
Bettercare nursing titles
O’Reilly tech manuals
The blank band at the bottom of the poster designs allowed Nick to easily insert outlet details as required, yet remained unobtrusive enough that the posters could be displayed as is.
Some of these designs would also be used for display in specific departments at universities during the #textbookrevolution campaign. Versatility became one of our greatest concerns at this point in order to cut down on the previously haphazard design system that often left Nick with unnecessary volumes of work to get through.
Around the same time as the updated poster archive’s launch on the Paperight help site, we also launched a blog post detailing the facts around the change of the school South African national school curriculum to CAPS. This aimed to preempt outlet queries about what on the Paperight site would still be relevant to customers.
Effectively, as 2014 is the first matric class to write all CAPS exams, there are no past papers to add to paperight.com for sale. In the meantime, we have uploaded CAPS aligned study guides to suit the needs of the new curriculum. Despite this fact, students will also need to refer to past papers as practice and NSC papers will still be useful when it comes to revising specific theorems in the core subjects, such as maths and science.
We have received a smattering of concerned queries from outlets who have not read the blog post and we have reassured them as best we can. It appears they have been influenced by the concern felt by parents in this year of complete overhaul. Despite their trepidation, sales of NSC matric past papers remain steady and sales of CAPS study materials are on the rise.
We hit the ground running in January with preparations to support the launch of the #textbookrevolution in February. We reformatted all A4 one-up documents – I created the detailed list of documents for Philippa to work through, and assisted by adjusting crop marks of these for easy conversion. I also supported Philippa’s uploading and document processing efforts by sourcing pricing and metadata information. I finalised the DocRaptor compatible CSS, and bug fixes, and we went live with the DocRaptor adjustment.
Other activities included a call with Louise from Bookstorm, a meeting with Hetta from UNISA Press to finalise contracts, and finishing uploading of the backlogged documents.
The disappointing news for the month was from Harlequin: they declined a partnership with us, saying that they were unable to pursue this opportunity for the time being.
Good meeting today with Crain Soudien, Deputy VC at UCT, and while he’s supportive of what we’re doing, it’s clear we’re not going to get high-level backing at UCT in any concrete form. At that level, the university has to be too cautious and avoid dictating policy to lecturers on textbook adoptions. We’re going to have to win our way in through lecturers and specific textbook adoptions. More reason to make our textbook database valuable, and tie in mapping to OERs. But there may not be a business model that gets us any real revenue from providing access to OERs.
Marie and I had the opportunity to go through to Stellenbosch for most of the day to train up some of our existing outlets. Even though they had been trained in person by Yazeed and had been guided in depth over the phone by Nick and Marie, they were still battling to use our website and our services effectively.
We had received some complaints from customers that they had waited more than a week and had not received even a quote from the outlets. The outlets were defensive saying that they had not received sufficient training and did not have sufficient time to explore the services themselves.
The experience that we had with the outlets was not isolated to the ones in Stellenbosch. We have had many phone calls from frustrated customers who have complained that copy shops had either not replied, taken days to deliver their order or not provided the service that they wanted. This made things quite complicated for us as some outlets would give excellent service and were committed to serving their customers and others seemed to find the opportunity to work as a Paperight outlet a burdensome event.
Some outlets even admitted to turning customers away. One of the more frequent reasons for outlets turning customers away was the fact that new staff members had not been made aware of the Paperight service and therefore advised that they could not assist.
We have been saddened that some of our customers have walked away dissatisfied as we had little control over the level of customer service received. The customers who have been to our top outlets and received great service have all walked away satisfied with the end product.
Each day we are striving to improve these gaps by communicating with our outlets and preserving the relationships which share our values and serviceability.
As a social enterprise, one of Paperight’s main priorities has been to get essential educational materials to students who need it. The entire business model has been structured to cut out as many obstacles as possible to make this aim simple to implement.
In this vein, we chose to actively search for under-resourced schools that we could arrange book sponsorships for. We also approached profitable businesses and copy shops themselves offering a means for them to fulfill their business CSR (corporate social responsibility) objectives.
We paired three schools with sponsors in 2013. The partnerships were:
Silverstream Secondary School in Manenberg, sponsored by Minuteman Press Cape Town
Imizamo Yethu High School in George, sponsored by Blitsdruk George
Kwamakutha Comprehensive High School, sponsored by DES-ign (licenses), and ITEC and Transforming Minds & Futures (printing)
Yazeed did most of the leg work pulling these projects together and Nick initiated the Kwamakutha/DES-ign sponsorship.
All three sponsorships were arranged with the promise that Paperight would generate PR to match the value of the sponsor’s donation. In all three instances, we delivered on this promise.
Businesses were able to offer invaluable support to 2013’s matric classes that could give the students the confidence and means to achieve access to tertiary education. In the meantime, the sponsors would achieve their CSR objectives and receive great press for their input. All three sponsorships were arranged with the promise that Paperight would generate PR to match the value of the sponsor’s donation. In all three instances, we delivered on this promise. I put together press releases about the sponsorships and sent them off to carefully chosen media contacts, specifically community newspapers.
Community newspapers are particularly interested in stories like this, for obvious reasons, and are the best place for businesses to be seen helping the community around them. Of course, this PR has helped Paperight reach more potential customers too. So everybody wins!
In addition to the three school sponsorships, Yazeed also managed to build a strong relationship with Mr Cader Tregonning of Pelikan Park High School in Pelikan Park. Together, they arranged that Pelikan Park matric students could purchase a comprehensive pack of past matric exam papers from Minuteman Press in Cape Town. The pack would cover all of their essential subjects and they would simply have to order a copy to be printed and delivered in the first term of 2013. To see more about this story, head to the Paperight blog.
This official endorsement from a school has been an invaluable addition to our growing list of supporters and has helped us to show registered copy shops that it is possible to build a sustainable business relationship with local schools. Once a school starts using Paperight and sees the positive results in their pupils, the relationship will be set.
To preserve evidence of our work with the schools close to home, we sent Shaun (our awesome video intern) along with Yazeed to speak to the Silverstream Secondary School and Pelikan Park High School principals. Admittedly, the rest of the team didn’t know the remarkable nature of the relationships Yazeed had built and the following videos really brought home why an idea like Paperight needs to exist in the world. For all our flaws, we have definitely done something right.
The videos have been uploaded onto the Paperight YouTube channel, and linked to from the Paperight blog and Facebook page. They have also been released to media contacts as supporting evidence of what Paperight is about.
Pelikan Park High School
Silverstream Secondary School
In early 2014, we hoped to work with Pelikan Park again to initiate a Paperight Sponsored Brains programme. We aimed to sponsor two nominated matric students with all of their necessary materials for the year and name them as official Paperight ambassadors. They would keep us up to date on their studies and over 3 intervals (roughly May, September and a final update in January 2015) they would produce a piece of writing about how they are doing and what their concerns/interests are at that point. These updates would help us to generate content for news stories about what today’s matrics really need to thrive. In addition, we would also arrange 3 training sessions on subjects of the students’ choosing, for example, personal finances, applying to universities, writing a great CV, career choices etc.
However, this project was abandoned due to the large volume of work required to bring the #textbookrevolution to life.
In December 2013 I was really lucky to be able to attend the OpenAIR and Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest, a 5 day conference held at the UCT Graduate School of Business, hosted by the UCT IP Unit. I was really excited to meet a group of people who were talking about intellectual property in a way I hadn’t previously experienced. The attendees were mostly academics and Creative Commons affiliates. This group is opposed to maximalist protection of intellectual property rights, and they are all about open access and sharing culture. It was certainly a stark contrast with my experience at the US Copyright Office, and made me seriously consider doing an LLM in intellectual property law.
The inside story of our experiment in distributed print-on-demand