Disruptive Innovations In Emerging Markets: Mxit, Siyavula, Paperight and Worldreader

Arthur Attwell (Paperight), Michael Smith (Worldreader)
Location: Duffy/Columbia Level:
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 2 ratings)

As publishers today, we stand at the cusp of an extraordinary crisis and, if we’re lucky, an extraordinary opportunity. It’s a great pity that at this time so much popular talk about publishers is about survival, as if the mission of our industry is to survive. Our mission should not be to survive. Survival is just a means to a more important end: our real mission should be to put every book within walking distance of every home. And I believe we can do this within three years.

Our success will depend entirely on how we get books to people who have probably never owned a book; people whose only access to written stories and information will be through their phone or an occasional visit to an Internet Cafe, in places where there are no bookstores or libraries or electronics stores. The size of the markets we’ve been selling to for the last hundred years are a drop in the ocean compared to this audience. Most are in developing countries.

We have to introduce completely new value propositions for these markets. The most promising innovations are most likely to come from small players, who are able to grow in emerging markets with low margins.

Now, no market needs a new value proposition more than the poor in developing countries, like the forty million people in South Africa who’ve likely never bought a book, but who all have a mobile phone and limited access to data. There is today simply no compelling reason for them to buy a printed book or an ebook given current prices and processes.

In this session, Arthur Atwell will talk about two South African platforms that are tackling low literacy and book-purchasing rates in this market, by changing the traditional publishing value proposition: the first is Mxit, a social network where forward-thinking publishers are distributing to record numbers of readers. The second is Paperight, a company, helping the ubiquitous photocopy shop legally print books for customers anywhere.

Michael Smith of Worldreader will share updates on their publishing and delivery model and how they have programs in 6 African countries, have placed over 3,000 e-readers on the ground, and will have delivered over 300,000 e-books in just over 30 months

Photo of Arthur Attwell

Arthur Attwell


Founder of Paperight and a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow. Before Paperight, I co-founded and ran Electric Book Works, a book production and consulting company in Cape Town, developing digital-publishing best practice in emerging markets. There I founded EBW Healthcare, which publishes learning materials for nurses. I’m a co-founder of the Digital Minds Network, a group of digital-publishing experts working in developing countries.

I worked in educational and scholarly publishing for two multinational publishers before starting EBW in 2006. I’ve presented at conferences in South Africa, India, Europe and the US, and was runner-up for the British Council’s International Young Publishing Entrepreneur award in 2009.

Photo of Michael Smith

Michael Smith


Michael Smith is the Partnership Development and Publisher Relations Manager at Worldreader. He has worked with Worldreader since Jan 2012. Focused on digital publishing, Michael works to build long term relationships with international publishing houses to bring e-books to the developing world in Africa. His current focus is on digital publishing, e-books, mobile content & applications, international business development, and the bridging of new technology from the western world to the populous and remote areas of Africa. Prior to joining Worldreader, Michael spent the last 10 years working in the Canadian Financial Services Industry where he was last the VP of Compliance for an independent Canadian Brokerage Firm. Michael also chaired the IIROC CLS Education Committee from 2008-2010; an industry organization that runs National quarterly education sessions and an International Education Conference for the Canadian Investment Industry. Michael holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Western Ontario.

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Picture of Arthur Attwell
Arthur Attwell
02/26/2013 7:18am EST

Thanks, Ryan, looking forward to it!

Ryan Opfer
02/26/2013 6:57am EST

Thanks Arthur. I’ve contacted our offices in Africa and shared this information with them. I’m sure we’ll be in touch directly.

Picture of Arthur Attwell
Arthur Attwell
02/21/2013 9:18pm EST

@Ryan, Michael’s slides about Worldreader are here: http://www.slideshare.net/OReillyTOC/disruptive-innovations-tocny-2013. And you can find the text of my talk here: http://arthurattwell.com/2013/02/17/disruptive-innovations-in-emerging-markets-mxit-siyavula-paperight-and-worldreader/

Picture of Shirley Bailes
Shirley Bailes
02/21/2013 3:21pm EST

@Ryan, we will once we receive the file from the speaker. Stay tuned.

Ryan Opfer
02/21/2013 1:52pm EST

There were two presentations, but only one posted above. Could you please make available the other presentation?


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