Disruptive innovations in emerging markets: Mxit, Siyavula, Paperight and Worldreader

At the superb publishing-technology conference Tools of Change for Publishing last week, Michael Smith of Worldreader and I presented a session called ‘Disruptive Innovations in Emerging Markets: Mxit, Siyavula, Paperight and Worldreader’. Here are my notes, and you can see Michael’s slides on Slideshare.


I come from Cape Town, South Africa, and my background’s in educational publishing and ebook production. South Africa is like two different countries: about 2 million wealthy people who support the publishing industry (excluding schools publishing, where the state is the largest client by far), and about 48 million people who could never afford an ereader, don’t have credit cards to buy things online, or can’t afford to physically travel to a bookstore. So to make it possible for most people to read books, we need to totally rethink how we sell books. And that’s going to take some disruptive innovations. Continue reading

Three disruptive innovations in publishing: Fiction on Mxit, Siyavula, Paperight

At the International Publishers Congress in Cape Town today, I got to present in a session called ‘Literacy for Digital Natives’. While none of the speakers were too keen on that label, we did what we could with it. I talked about the need for disruptive innovation, and about three platforms: fiction on phones (especially Mxit), Siyavula’s open textbooks, and Paperight. Here is what I said.

As the Internet provides countless new ways for young people to find and process information, and technology-focused retail and advertising companies sweep them off their feet, as book publishers we have only a little time left as the natural custodians of books as we know them: these carefully curated packages of information and stories. Already, books have to work harder than ever to earn their place on a person’s mental bookshelf, as it gets filled with all manner of other ways to learn and explore. Continue reading