SA textbook shortages tackled

Paperight Founder and CEO Arthur Attwell says textbook shortage could be a thing of the past.

In many South African communities, school textbooks are shared between two or more learners. Picture: Supplied.

CAPE TOWN - It is almost exam time in South Africa and in many communities, school textbooks are shared between two or more learners.

In 2012, thousands of learners from Limpopo were forced to go for months without books after the Department of Basic Education failed to deliver them.

The department was taken to court on several occasions by organisation Section 27.

Paperight Founder and CEO Arthur Attwell may have found the answer to the problem.

His company allows photocopy shops and other businesses to print books legally and sell them.

Speaking on 567 Cape Talk, Attwell said he wants all South Africans to have access to books.

"We have a vision to get every book within walking distance from each home. The idea is that South Africans can't buy books not only because they are expensive, but because they are just too far geographically from their homes."

Attwell says any business with a printer and internet connection can print books.

"We provide the library, which is online. Photocopy shops can act as a bookstore and sell in-demand books to their customers."

The CEO says on average, their books are 20 percent cheaper than those at a book shop.

But costs largely depend on printing charges at individual shops.

Attwell said they have made books accessible to communities.

"There are always few kids in class that do not get textbooks. That shortfall adds up. It is estimated that across South Africa, the value of the shortfall in textbooks could be as high as R3 billion."

"We work directly with publishers, they give us a licence. We sign a little agreement with them. They [publishers] give us the files we need in order to distribute to the photocopy shops. So it's fully legal and with the buy-in of the publishers."

Paperight has been named one of the most innovative companies in South Africa.

It also won first prize at the international Contec Startup Showcase in Germany.