Tag Archives: Frankfurt Book Fair

Launching the anthology, mapping outlets, and a big win

We’re super proud of three new videos:

22 Oct 2013: This 8-min documentary on how and why Pelican Park High bought study materials through us is so affirming for us. It helps answer the doubts that can haunt you when you’re wondering whether you’re moving forward at all.

1 Nov 2013: Similarly, this 8-min documentary on how and why Minuteman Press sponsored books for Silverstream Secondary.

18 Nov 2013: We created a short 1-minute promo from the Pelikan park video on why schools should buy study materials through us.

But the real hjighlight event of the last few months has to be the launch event of the Paperight Young Writers Anthology on 7 September 2013. (See the blog post here and photos on Facebook.)

20140429_frankenstein-mapBack at the ranch, at the end of October we finally integrated our outlets map onto our product pages, to offer the ability to find outlets and compare prices of books at them per product.

This new product-page map explains the concept behind Paperight much better, too, which frees up other messaging space.

At the same time, we also created a range of new screencast videos for our help site (released 21 Oct 2013), produced on 4 Nov 2013 a new printable product catalogue, including improved CSV-based workflow to make future updates quick and easy, and made (on 13 Nov) some useful guides for schools and sponsors on how to work with us.

Marie and Nick have also been producing loads of Facebook posts about our books and outlets.

Out and about

  • On 10 Oct 2013 I pitched at the Accenture Innovation Awards in Joburg, and won! More on that below.
  • 9 to 13 October 2013: Tarryn, our COO, visited the Frankfurt Book Fair, and also won an award. More below.
  • 24 Oct 2013: I spoke at the launch of market research company Yellowwood’s white paper on transformative innovation. Here’s text and video.

  • 6 Nov 2013: “Tough Truths about Selling to Publishers”. I spoke at the inaugural Footnote Summit, a South African digital-publishing conference. I was worried I might offend some people, but my worries were unfounded: people really appreciated my honest, and my talk led directly to one important publisher signing up, and another giving us much better books.
  • 11 Oct 2013: Nice PR opportunities off back of Accenture win, including this breakfast TV show (skip to 3:10 for me).

New supporters

20130903_122743_window-dressedWe noticed on 4 Sep 2013 that local copy shop Top Copy had devoted their entire front facade to Paperight books. It’s great to see one of our champion copy shops devoting their prime ad space to our books.

We identified 46 separate media pieces about us, including these highlights:

Big wins

Five great wins in the last three months:

Our roadmap for the next 3 months

October and November sales were very low, so for the next three months we’re shifting focus to our Feb/Mar 2014 universities promotional campaign, headlined #textbookrevolution, and emphasising the need for universities and publishers to move away from their traditional, bloated supply chain (where 70% of the retail price of a textbook goes to the supply chain alone), and towards Paperight.

Footnote Summit and investment discussions

On the tail-end of our frustration at the long lead time in getting publishers signed up, Arthur was asked to speak at the Footnote Summit. He spoke at the summit about the tough truths we’d learned about selling to publishers. His talk was very well received, and while we were concerned that the points we covered might be taken badly, it seemed that they resonated with those championing the cause in their larger publishing companies (it even prompted a long-awaited registration or two).

One of the outcomes of the Frankfurt Book Fair in October was that I met two potential funders for Paperight. In November, Arthur and I had conversations with both of these leads. While, ultimately these discussions did not lead anywhere, it was incredibly useful to find out what potential investors are interested in, and what kinds of questions they are likely to ask.

I continued to work on our translation project applications, meeting with partners who may be able to offer advice on moving forward. We were turned down by JK Rowling’s agents, who were reluctant to move ahead with a new distribution model, but who invited us to reapply when we could work around those concerns (or relieve them). We facilitated the transfer of Future Managers’ titles, uploaded Xhosa Fundis titles, signed on with Worldreader to distribute the Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology on their platform, started planning an #authorsforaccess campaign with Marie (this later went onto the backburner), and tested document conversions using automated PDF-PDF.

Publisher Registrations

  • Passion (2/11/2013)
  • Lorisha Educational Publishing (4/11/2013)
  • Bunya Publishing (13/11/2013)
  • Wordsmack Publishing (14/11/2013)
  • Lorca Damon (15/11/2013)
  • Siber Ink Publishers (20/11/2013)


Frankfurt Book Fair and CONTEC Startup Showcase win

October saw us participating in the CONTEC Startup Showcase in Frankfurt. The showcase formed part of the CONTEC Conference which was attended by industry leaders in digital publishing, and focused on the connection between content and technology. Paperight was expected to offer a 3-minute pitch, against five other innovative start-ups in digital publishing. We were selected as the winner of the showcase by a panel of judges.

As was the case after our London Book Fair win, the discussions had after the award announcement, and in the tea breaks just before, were very productive, with a lot of excitement about our project and aims. In particular, the Brazilian publishers in attendance (Brazil was to be the market-focus for the book fair that year) were very enthusiastic about the possibilities for Paperight in the Brazilian and wider South American market.

My focus for the fair was on publishers who could provide content that was in line with our current marketing focus. Namely, early childhood development materials (for children) and research (for teachers/caregivers), core textbooks and study materials for grades 10, 11 and 12 learners, core reading material for first and second year university level students, and trade fiction for young adults.

I had many productive conversations, and furthered negotiations with several big publishers (including Elsevier, Harlequin, and Bloomsbury). While I was optimistic about the possibility for Bloomsbury signing on with us, and while they were very receptive in our meetings, they later decides to hold off until after their South African distributors, Jonathan Ball, had had a chance to pilot the system.

We continually found that it was imperative to follow up on marketing material like this, be it with outlets, or schools, as often things would fall through the cracks otherwise.

While I was away, Philippa held the fort, and continued the process of uploading documents in the backlog queue, and Marie completed content tagging. Following my return from the fair, I completed the usual feedback reports, and followed up on the posters we’d distributed to schools (to make sure these had been put up and the flyers handed-out). We continually found that it was imperative to follow up on marketing material like this, be it with outlets, or schools, as often things would fall through the cracks otherwise. Dez and I also completed the Gifted Citizen Award Application on Arthur’s behalf.

Given the difficulties in getting content timeously, specifically as a result of the long lead time when signing publishers, we revisited the discussions (recurring over the last year) of creating our own content. It was around this time that we had been talking to Pearson about making their backlist (some of which included important African literature titles) on Paperight, only to find that this would not be possible due to the fact that font-licensing issues meant that these would have to be re-typeset, and the cost of this was just not a viable option. In our in house discussions about increasing the pool of books published/available in African languages, we began to envision a translation project for popular international YA titles into isiZulu and isiXhosa. This lead to my applying for rights to translate Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games (a project that is still on going). Another of our projects for content creation revolved around matric exams, and the fact that the changes in curriculum meant that past exam papers would no longer be as relevant for students. We contacted Siyavula about a collaborative project to develop a bank of open CAPS-aligned maths questions for grades 11 and 12, but while supportive of the endeavour, their current commitments precluded any involvement on their part. Instead, we looked into hiring an intern to assist us in the creation of a question bank.

We’d increasingly been concerned that we were not close enough to reaching sustainability, and we’d ultimately need to shrink the team in order to extend the funding runway.

October was also the month in which we decided to plan for and prioritise a university marketing campaign as a “Blaze of Glory”, last ditch effort to see if we could gain enough traction in the university market to avoid having to make a serious pivot within the next six months. We’d increasingly been concerned that we were not close enough to reaching sustainability, and we’d ultimately need to shrink the team in order to extend the funding runway. As a team we started brainstorming the #textbookrevolution. Part of this planning lead to us focussing our attention on university prescriptions. I set up a database of prescriptions, and worked with Oscar to flesh this out.

Publisher Registrations

  • Short Story Day Africa (25/10/2013)
  • Jacana Media (30/10/2013)
  • A Poet’s Tree (30/10/2013)

Uploading Accent Press and Cambridge University Press titles, and finalising Pearson agreement

Throughout September we continued to work on uploading the backlog of documents on to Paperight. This included the upload of all the Accent Press titles, which we pushed to get on in time to run the planned erotica and romance campaign. That marketing project was subsequently cancelled, you can read more about why here.

We did a big overhaul of DropBox, to ensure that archiving was happening smoothly and that everything was in the right place. We uploaded the Cambridge University Press titles, and met with them to further discussions about getting prescribed textbooks on Paperight. We also met with Pearson to finalise the signing of our agreement with them – a big win.

Our other big event for the month was the launch of the Paperight Young Writer’s Anthology at the Open Book festival. You can read about that in more detail here.

My other activities for the month were Frankfurt Book Fair related: I applied for the CONTEC Startup Showcase, on Paperight’s behalf. This included writing, refining and filming a video pitch, and submitting the online application. I also set-up a number of meetings for FBF (McGraw Hill, Wiley, Routledge, Hachette, Bloomsbury, Worldreader), and did a lot of travel admin with Dez.

Automated conversion implemented on Dev

A couple of important milestones were reached in June. First of all, PDF-to-Paperight-PDF and HTML-to-Paperight-PDF conversions were implemented on dev, and we set about testing and bug reporting. Specifically, we had to tweak issues regarding page positioning, page numbering. and margins. In the case of HTML-to-Paperight-PDF conversion, this required CSS hacking. We created CSS that would work using Prince XML to create a well-designed, workable PDF output.

Other new functionality had to be tested as well. Our bug testing of the reminder emails for publisher payments led to emails being sent out in error. We had to send all relevant parties an apology and explanations. We linked to this post in the emails, explaining what had gone wrong.

I took over from Philippa as the ‘handler’ for Rondebosch Colour and Copy when she left for her Washington Internship. When I’d been away, each team member had taken on an adopted copyshop, to see whether this added level of support affected sales and competency using the service.

One of my main accomplishments this month was in compiling and submitting a full security audit for Pearson. Their evaluations lead to us scoring 8/10. They were very impressed with our watermarking functionality (we only fell short due to not having been in operation for long enough to do an annual review).

Held meetings with Jeremy Boraine (Jonathan Ball), and Francois van Schalkwyk (African Minds), and approaching of new publishers: The Answer Series, Nali’Bali Sunday Times section, Unisa Press. Pan Macmillan document prepping, and organising of PR material with Nick.  We submitted our application to receive funding for Frankfurt Book Fair  via PASA. We also did the final proofreading of PYWA, and subsequently released it on Paperight.

Publisher registrations

  • Lule Publishers (5/6/2013)
  • Lost Plot Press (9/6/2013)
  • Tawqeer’s Tutoring Service (11/6/2013)
  • African Minds (14/6/2013)
  • Jurassic London (20/6/2013)
  • Ediciones Microtemas (29/6/2013)

New experiments shipped

From September to November we’ve put together a number of new experiments in product mix and marketing.

It’ll be interesting and hopefully valuable to see what works.

We also got out of the office a bit:

We learned a lot of hard lessons about how and now not to describe Paperight to consumers. This and other feedback and experience in October led us to completely overhaul our messaging … and our marketing focus, shifting from pushing ‘Paperight’ to pushing our outlets and backgrounding Paperight.

  • 24 Sep 2012: Well-received panel discussion titled “The Future of the Book” at the excellent Open Book Festival in Cape Town
  • 11 Oct 2012: Our comms manager Nick was on national TV show ‘Hectic Nine 9’, and wrote it up on our blog. Here’s the video. It didn’t go as planned. We learned a lot of hard lessons about how and now not to describe Paperight to consumers. This and other feedback and experience in October led us to completely overhaul our messaging (from standard pitches to site UI) and our marketing focus, shifting from pushing ‘Paperight’ to pushing our outlets and backgrounding Paperight. (More on that in a separate post.)
  • 15 Oct 2012: Content manager Tarryn attended the Frankfurt Book Fair. Here’s her blog post about it.
  • 7 Nov 2012: We announced our Paperight Young Writers Anthology: a collection of writing and illustration by high-school learners to be published on Paperight in 2013
  • 20 Nov 2012: I spoke at the Owl Club, a most venerable institution. Here’s the text of my talk.

A number of people have been talking about us. Some highlights:

Frankfurt Book Fair 2012

October began with the revision of metadata, including adjustment of images on the site, and replacing the English language descriptions of Afrikaans exam packs with Afrikaans ones.

Later in October, I travelled to the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair with the mandate of developing publisher relationships and sourcing content leads for Paperight.

I attended seminars, workshops, and panel discussions given by industry professionals and leaders, with a view to learning more about the inner workings of the publishing industry. I was also able to get a sense for where the industry is, and where it sees itself moving in the future – particularly with regards to developments in the digital sector.

The publishers with whom I met broadly fell into three categories:

  • Those who are already making their material available on Paperight (in order to build upon an existing working relationship).
  • Those who we have already contacted about Paperight, and who are keen, but who have not officially provided us with material or signed contracts (in order to ‘close the deal’, and foster trust).
  • Those who are hearing about Paperight for the first time (in order to build contacts and establish relationships with potential rightsholders).

I developed a number of connections and potential leads, and learnt a lot about pitching the Paperight concept to publishers, and fielding their questions about the service.

Things I learnt:

  • Having a stall ties you down as one team member has to constantly stay there. It also does not necessarily provide a strong ROI, as the people who we want to talk to are not usually going to be the ones walking up to stands.
  • Obviously, having more than one team member working the floor allows you to cover much much more ground – especially when these efforts are targeted and coordinated. Our friends in the Snapplify team were able to generate 5× the leads that I was.
  • It is important to have a ‘hit list’ of publishers/people that you want to target, so you know who your big fish are. I did this to some extent, but could have done it better. I think this task is simpler when you have a clear idea of what the fair looks like, and who will be there, as well as a focused strategy around the leads you want to generate and nurture. This is something that I will work on for next year/time.
  • Info sheets would be useful to leave with publishers who you are talking to for the first time. A number of people actually asked me if I had an info sheet for them, especially towards the end when everything is mixing together in your brain, or when the decision makers have left and the minions cannot convey the ideas properly.

Publisher registrations

  • Delshande Trading (11/10/2012)
  • Masoka Dube (30/10/2012)

(The image at the top of this post is by munckster on Flickr, licensed CC-BY-NC-SA)

My fellowship newly underway

So, I’m three months in to my Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship, which is three months into building Paperight full-time. If you don’t know, Paperight is a website that turns any business with any printer into a print-on-demand bookstore. So, what have I been doing with that time?

The first thing has been to get a working demo, or prototype site, up and running, so that we can show the service to others, test some ideas, and develop our vocabulary and sign-up documents in a live environment. So I knocked that together in WordPress during September, along with a bunch of back-room workflow tests and documentation. It’s been hugely valuable.

With that done, it was time to start talking seriously to rightsholders, licensing agencies and content aggregators. So in October I headed off to the Frankfurt Book Fair and London to speak to a wide range of people. And the response was, almost entirely, overwhelmingly positive.

Two years ago, when I first asked publishers about the Paperight concept, they were cautiously optimistic, but many were worried about how their books would look, and how much they would cost to consumers. Luckily for us, since then Amazon Kindle has shown that most readers just want stories and info, and that easy, affordable distribution is often more important than high-end production values when you’re growing a market. Suddenly a book printed out on A4 paper seems just fine. Especially if it’s on every street corner in countries you’ve never sold in before.

So there were far fewer concerns from publishers about Paperight in 2011 than in 2009. Where there were concerns, they have been really helpful in tailoring our message. I certainly have a much better idea of what makes publishers interested in using Paperight. One key issue – which I discussed recently on the Paperight blog – is that Paperight can compete with piracy on accessibility, convenience, and often in total cost (energy, time, money).

Rightsholder agreement

Our messaging is captured largely in our rightsholder agreement, which is really short, and in plain language. It took a lot of time and effort to get it that way. This is really important to us, because Paperight is built on the idea that the once arcane world of rights and licensing can actually be managed simply, and anyone can participate in it. I went through the distribution contracts of a bunch of other businesses, took the most important concepts, and boiled them down to simple sentences and paragraphs. The input of Foundation alumnus Andrew Rens was really valuable here, too. It’s something we’ll constantly evolve, but I’m pleased with the way we’ve started.


Another important area of our messaging is pricing. Most people find it hard to believe it can be cheaper to print a book out than to buy a copy that the publisher printed in its thousands. But now we can show in most cases that that isn’t true. In the video that goes with this post, I give a concrete example of how a publisher can earn as much from a Paperight sale as from a conventional book sale, and yet save the consumer more than 25% on the retail price of the conventional edition.


My conversations with rightsholders and others have also led to discussions about putting a range of non-book content on Paperight, including newspapers, exams, sheet music, classifieds and administrative documents.

The process of prioritising and prepping this content will fall to our content manager.Tarryn-Anne Anderson joined us in November to work on this. Over the next couple of months, she’ll also be putting together a print catalogue of books and documents we think people will like, and we’ll put that catalogue in copy shops around the country. It’ll include textbooks, novels, past matric exam papers, how-to guides and more. And from that we hope to learn more about what print-shop customers are likely to find most valuable.

The website

last-screenshot-live_20120509_10-43pm_cropMeanwhile, all along I’ve been working on a redesigned site that will replace the working prototype in the first half of next year. It’s simpler and will be much faster. And it’ll give us the ability to distribute certain documents in certain regions, which is crucial to publishers who want to reach new markets without competing, for now, with their conventional editions in their home markets.

This means long hours studying and developing user interface and user experience best practice, and chatting to print-shop managers about how their stores work, and how the Paperight site can best work at their point of sale.

Here’s an early mockup of a product page, prepared long before I built the prototype.


The Shuttleworth Foundation

Working with the Foundation has been fantastic. I get to share ideas with and learn from a group of seriously amazing people, who’re working in mobile technology, user-created publishing, biocultural communities, open knowledge and educational resources, peer education, open data, citizen cyberscience, new approaches to IP, and more. And the Foundation staff work tirelessly to support our work and help us focus on making an impact. They all make the Paperight team much bigger than it seems on paper.