In our shift to focus on universities, we created and launched our #textbookrevolution campaign. This meant creating detailed messaging and plans: one liners, elevator pitches, detailed back stories, a manifesto, a petition, outlet advertising posters and marketing briefs, novelty coasters, and videos; campaign website (http://textbookrevolution.co.za); doing lots of PR work (emailing journalists and stakeholders personally); and organising a Twitter debate on the high price of textbooks. This was the main focus of Nov, Dec and Feb.
Much of this was written up elsewhere:
- 2 Dec 2014: Launched design-a-book-cover competition. We’ve since had several design schools say they’re using this as a student project (we’re still waiting for entries at the time of writing)
- 13 Jan 2014: Added several posters for outlets to our archive.
- 14 Jan 2014: Post on how the two schools we sold books to last year improved their matric results.
- 20 Jan 2014: Launched the #textbookrevolution and http://textbookrevolution.co.za with 1-minute manifesto video. Full blog post here.
- 18 Feb 2014: SHAWCO gets behind the #textbookrevolution.
- 24 Feb 2014: A UCT and Stellenbosch Petition video and blog posts about UCT and Stellenbosch.
On the technical side, we finalised much better automation of book preparation prep (mainly tools to use online PDF layout tool DocRaptor to create better-looking books). And in finances, completed our audit with a clean bill of health.
I went to Johannesburg for pitching meetings with publishers (Pearson, Van Schaik, UNISA Press), UNISA, and PostNet, and our outlets manager Yazeed attended the ActivateSA event in Joburg, a conference of young leaders, to talk about Paperight and the #textbookrevolution.
I’ve had a bit to say, too:
- 22 Jan 2014: A post by me on Medium, “Not Yet for Profit”, arguing that well-funded, as-yet-unprofitable startups represent an whole new industry, much of it in social impact, and that’s a good thing.
- 24 Jan 2014: Interview on Paperight’s story with AFKInsider, a US website on African business.
Mainly I’ve been telling the #textbookrevolution story over and over again in meetings (with publishers, university administrators and journalists). E.g. interviews during Jan and Feb on SAFM, Rhodes Music Radio, UJfm (University of Joburg) and Jozi Today.
The focus of the #textbookrevolution campaign is to (a) highlight the fact that 70% of the cost of a textbook is the supply chain (printing, shipping, warehousing, wastage and retail), and that (b) print-on-demand on university campuses could save students and South Africa as much as a billion rand a year. See our blog post for the detail, and the #textbookrevolution site for the manifesto, video, petition and supporters.
Joining our thinking
SHAWCO (UCT’s acclaimed social-welfare organisation) and Boundless (open textbooks) are official supporters of the #textbookrevolution. See all the supporters here.
We’ve also had ongoing discussions about closer collaboration with RISO (copier manufacturer), Mega Digital (SA’s biggest short-run book printer) and Loot (online retailer).
We’ve counted 21 media mentions that we know about, of which the highlights are:
- 1 Dec 2014: Contagious magazine (print), article on select startups called “Small but Perfectly Formed”.
- 15 Dec 2014: Our COO Tarryn on SmartmonkeyTV (online tech news)
- 30 Dec 2014: ventureburn, “15 impressive startups from emerging markets you should know about”
- 1 Jan 2014: Succeed magazine cover story, “Arthur Attwell’s 7 success secrets for entrepreneurs” about Paperight
- 3 Jan 2014: Publishers Weekly, “The PW Digital Publishing Startup Review, 2014″
- 14 Jan 2014: CNN, “15 African technology startups to watch in 2014?”
- 23 Jan 2014: AFK Insider, “South Africa’s Paperight Finds a New Approach to Publishing: On-Demand Printing”
- 31 Jan 2014: Great segment on Tech Report (shown on eNCA and BBC), “Paperight” (YouTube)
- 5 Feb 2014: htxt.africa, “Textbook revolution”
- 6 Feb 2014: iAfriq.com, “10 impressive start-ups from emerging African markets you should know about”
- 12 Feb 2014: 2OceansVibe, “Tech Report: Paperight Could Change The Way We Buy Books Forever” (follow up on Tech Report segment)
- 13 Feb 2014: Finweek magazine (print, cover story), “Meet the man behind Paperight”
- 17 Feb 2014: Inside Devices (blog), “Top 23 African Start-Ups 2014”
- 26 Feb 2014: StarAfrica.com, “Paperight turns South African copy shops into book stores”
We had a great response from students at Stellenbosch and UCT where we collected over 1000 signatures on our #textbookrevolution petition. In addition to the paper petition, students have left great comments on our online petition.
we’ve long underestimated the importance of putting people on the ground talking to potential customers
Students are highly sensitised to the issue of high textbook prices. Also, we probably reached more students in the 20 hours we spent on campuses than we would have in months online. A big lesson was that we’ve long underestimated the importance of putting people on the ground talking to potential customers (even if we don’t have the books they need yet).
We’ve also had big losses. More about that in this separate post.