Arthur Attwell

7 April

Co-founder/Director Electric Book Works


"A publisher’s journey to tech and back "


“In 2005, I left a big-publishing job and, without knowing it at the time, set out on a mission to reimagine publishing for emerging markets. I would try almost anything to just do book-publishing differently. Since then I’ve worked on dozens of innovative technology projects, from creating musical ebooks to teaching maths on tablets. I found that complex solutions are much easier to develop than simple ones. Flashy solutions are much easier to develop than humble ones. But only simple, humble solutions really work. And it takes a long, hard journey through failure to learn that. Now, after nine years hacking through the technology jungle, I’m a bigger believer than ever in the power of paper."


“I run Electric Book Works, where we develop new and better ways to publish in emerging markets. There I founded Paperight, an award-winning network of print-on-demand bookstores; co-founded Bettercare, which publishes innovative course books for nurses and midwives; and co-founded Book Dash, which creates children’s books anyone can freely translate, print and distribute. I'm a former Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow. I also write about tech and publishing. I'm the author of Designing for Digital, the EBW Knowledge Base, and Encyclopaedia Britannica‘s 'ebook' entry. Before EBW, I worked in educational and scholarly publishing for multinational publishers. 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. I live in Cape Town with my family. ”


Why do you want to be part of UCT Upstarts? “Anyone can change the world, but it's a freakin' hard journey. You're going to need tools. If Upstarts and I can help, then I'm all in.”

HOW DO YOU ‘IMAGINE A NEW AFRICA’? “To paraphrase William Gibson, a new Africa is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed. Our job is to build on the bright spots.”