So long and thanks for all the fish

My last official day at Paperight was the 15th of April 2014, but after a glorious week in Tankwa Town, I returned to do some freelance jobs that Arthur needed to be done.


I was most happy to be able to be part of choosing and announcing the Cover Art Competition winners, finally. The winners are:

1st place: Neill Kropman (21) of Red & Yellow School of Magic for Robinson Crusoe, Huckleberry Finn and Heart of Darkness
2nd place: Lucelle de Villiers (21) of Stellenbosch University for To the Lighthouse
3rd place: Ivan de Villiers (21) of Stellenbosch University for Walden

We’ve Tweeted, posted on Facebook and released a blog post about the results here.

Then I put together a press release to send out to local media. Most media outlets have been chomping at the bit for WDCCT stories so the story has gained some extra interest. The World Design Capital marketing team has also circulated the news. They were particularly impressed by the quality of the designs. As if we would have chosen duds though, really?

I have also had the opportunity to work on the Textbook Database. A new project for Paperight, but by no means a great change of tack, the Textbook Database will be a complete list of prescribed books for all courses across all major South African universities. Tedious though the data capturing may be, this kind of comprehensive list doesn’t exist and will have extraordinary value. This list adds to Paperight’s goal of inclusivity within the book trade and increased access to books. It also falls neatly under the banner of the #textbookrevolution.


If I could say one thing that I have learned during my time with this dynamic team, it’s that start-ups are not for sissies.

In other news, I am emigrating to France on the 17th of June so my time at Paperight is drawing to a close for good. If I could say one thing that I have learned during my time with this dynamic team, it’s that start-ups are not for sissies. I am immensely grateful for the chance to test myself and learn from an impressive group of young people who have already proved themselves in a tough industry.

And to think that major industry players are reluctant to hire young people, even though the quality of young professionals in South Africa is mostly untapped, for whatever reason. I found Paperight after being told by three major publishing houses in South Africa that they did not offer internships for graduates (paid or unpaid) and that as a rule they do not hire young people because the book trade, in their words, is a dying industry. Well, with that attitude, they’ve struck the last nail in their own coffin.

One day I hope they will see the mistakes that they’ve already made and realise that books will never really go out of fashion. With approximately 48 million people who don’t buy books in South Africa, there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure that everyone has equal access to such a simple resource.

I am very proud to have been part of a project that has already gained incredible traction in changing perceptions about the culture and benefits of reading. Paperight has also served to expose the negative attitudes and influences that exist within the book industry, as well as highlighted certain shady practices that perpetuate a system of exclusion.

Everybody should join the Paperight party. They always have cake. Ciao for now.

An inclusive business model

Paperight combines increased opportunities for publishers and entrepreneurs alike, as well as affordable and inclusive access to educational material.

Over time, we developed a handy list of Paperight’s benefits for use in promotional materials and award applications.

Paperight creates long-term benefits by

  • Boosting literacy and education by making books genuinely accessible
  • Creating simple and low cost entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals
  • Boosting existing printing and publishing businesses, by giving them additional products, increasing the value of the printing services that they provide by giving them access to publishers and book printing and providing them with marketing materials
  • Expanding publishers access to poorer and a wider range consumers, over a larger market area, while still earning the same licence fees
  • Reducing the environmental impact of transporting, shipping books and documents, and the wastage caused by unnecessary printing and returns
  • Saving the costs of travel and risk of book shortages for publishers, universities and the individuals who are in remote areas.
  • Bringing the world of books to anyone’s doorstep: rich or poor, rural or urban helping to create equal education opportunities
  • Selling print-outs which are on average cheaper than traditional books
  • Reducing delays in textbook and student material delivery
  • Protecting the publishers, individuals by reducing illegal copying, while redesigning the product in order to be sustainable
  • Increased livelihood opportunities by extending the business model to include the poor.
  • Increasing business opportunities for existing copy shops throughout Southern Africa.
  • Promoting past matric exam papers and additional study material to students
  • Sustaining the marketplace for publishers and authors
  • Opening the market to international copy shops and book stores
  • Assisting educational institutions and distance learners in South Africa and internationally to receive study material, expanding access to educational materials
  • Creating employment opportunities through growing copy shops
  • Building market value by giving copy shops a wider range of books and access to international products at an affordable price, thereby giving them a competitive advantage.

Intermittent accounting

In December 2012 I moved our accounting system over from FreeAgent to FNB Instant Accounting. The reason for the change was to have a better system for managing our books and monitoring our project spending. The main reasons for choosing FNB Instant Accounting were:

  1. The easy importing of banking transactions (automated for most accounts)
  2. The service is free of charge (we are banking with FNB)
  3. The possibility to create multiple sub-ledger accounts (to assist with monitoring project spending).

Getting started wasn’t as quick and easy as we thought it would be. We had some teething issues. As a secondary user on the banking profile with only viewing abilities it wasn’t straightforward to set up. Only the primary account user can see and access the information. This was resolved by creating a secondary user who would then be able to access and use the accounting system. Unfortunately after that the primary user and main account holder, Arthur Attwell, could not access to his own FNB Instant Accounting profile. To date this has not been sorted out.

One of the nice features that FNB Instant Accounting has is the ability to automatically assign transactions to general ledgers using rules. FNB starts assigning some of your banking transactions for you that it recognises before you even start. These include banking charges, telephone expenses and so on. This would have been lovely feature to use. However, we needed to keep track of transactions per project and therefore needed to manually allocate transactions to their various related sub-ledger accounts. I had repeated instances in the early stages where I had disabled the rules and FNB re-enabled them again. After contacting  FNB to have this feature disabled it was fixed by the end of  March 2013.

One thing that I have found incredibly frustrating is the length of time that it takes for the program to load a transaction, refresh and update the data. The pages just hang and it takes ages to capture one manual transaction after another. You can only press save once otherwise you end up with duplicate transactions that you then need to create multiple reverse entries against. For those of us who can multi-task and have two separate screens to work on, this is not too much of a problem. Most of the time this means that the transaction has been captured but it’s best to double check.

Fortunately I had no need to capture invoices in Instant Accounting so I have not experienced issues here. If you need to keep track of debtors and creditors there are some useful discussions available for managing your accounts and VAT returns in Instant Accounting.

More issues that I experienced were with a split transaction that become corrupted while Instant Accounting froze. This meant that I ended up with a trial balance that didn’t balance.  This was resolved with the help of support. After this the bank balance did not match the actual bank balance.  Since I was not able to add or remove transactions that are automatically imported, support was needed to assist here as well. The support team did not let me know when they had made changes and what changes they had made.  These turned out to be wrong and so I needed to go back and advise them again. Since then, they have made an effort to let me know what changes they have made.

I logged into Instant Accounting … only to realise that I was logged into another unrelated company’s profile

One day in January 2013 I logged into Instant Accounting and was pleasantly surprised to see that our income had dramatically increased – only to realise that I was logged into another unrelated company’s profile: Women in Finance. Unfortunately this also meant that I could not access our own accounting profile. I forwarded screen shots to FNB to prove that I was in the wrong accounting profile and they changed  my profile back to having access to Paperight’s financial data.

Trying to find transactions and view historical data is not that great. To search for an amount, you need to know the exact amount you are looking for in order to pick the transaction. Trying to view historical data can be time consuming. FNB Instant Accounting decides for you what you want to search for. Even if you select the previous financial year and select to view all transactions it will still search for transactions within the current year. You then have to clear the filter items it has chosen and start the search again.

The most recent issues experienced were the scroll option no longer working for selecting ledger accounts. It was recommended that I use a different web browser. Later on I was not able to access my ledger accounts at all. Each time I tried to access them Instant Accounting would freeze and log me out. It turned out that I had too many ledger accounts and was asked to delete some of them in order to continue working.

All in all I have been much happier using FNB Instant Accounting than FreeAgent, Wave Accounting or Omni. As long as you don’t need a program that works quickly (especially in the mornings) their system works okay for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Most of the bugs mentioned have since been fixed.

Staying ahead with Google

We were quite diligent in keeping our digital fingerprint up to date and making sure that our SEO was as effective as possible without incurring additional costs.

Some of the ways that we did this was by frequently updating our book metadata fields on our website with additional content, and making sure that we had regular blogs being posted on our sites. We also kept up with Facebook and Twitter.

The fact that we won so many awards and were in so many media releases also made a difference to our presence on the web.

Our strategy was to keep blogging on key focus areas, including key words that we would mention in our media, such as exams, or back-to-school, and then be consistent about how we use them.

We have been very satisfied with the results.