Entrepreneur gives local writers a new platform

Stan Shikwambana is the founder of local online book platform ‘Visionary Writings’ which caters for readers and writers. | SUPPLIED

Stan Shikwambana is the founder of local online book platform ‘Visionary Writings’ which caters for readers and writers. | SUPPLIED

Published May 6, 2024


Durban — Piracy has eaten into the revenue of the music industry and now it’s doing the same in the literary world.

But tech entrepreneur Stan Shikwambana is working hard to help writers earn a living from their craft and has found ways to combat piracy.

As the founder of the local online book platform Visionary Writings, he says PDF distribution, in particular, is a major problem which is why they don’t offer their books in that format.

Shikwambana has urged South Africans to be more aware of the damage that copyright infringements, piracy and counterfeiting have on writers who are making a living by publishing their work online.

“We actually want you to consume within the platform itself to prevent that which has been a great solution to avoid that crisis, because as you can see with music, as long as we can consume music within the respective platforms, be it Spotify or Apple Music, then that brings more security,” said Shikwambana.

“So that’s what we have done to books as well, where you consume within the platform, avoiding the ability for you to actually get it offline and distribute as it does actually harm the author’s income,” he said.

Last year the PDF copy of André de Ruyter’s book Truth to Power went viral on WhatsApp Messenger and the publisher threatened to sue all those who had access to it.

The former Eskom boss had written a no-holds-barred account of his time at the ailing state-owned entity and the public couldn’t wait to read about his explosive allegations.

The book had been pirated which meant that those who managed to get their hands on it would be reading it for free, resulting in a loss of revenue for the writer and publisher.

Shikwambana urged the public to be mindful of how writers were affected by piracy, saying that Visionary Writings was built on a sustainable business model that ensured that the writers who published on its platform were adequately compensated for their work.

“In many cases, we are enabling young writers to write full-time rather than squeezing their passion in around the demands of a 9-5 job.

“Piracy of their work diminishes their earnings and hampers the ability of the platform to continue providing locally nuanced books to local readers,” he said.

“We are not just about sharing stories – we’re shaping the future of storytelling and the future of work. By leveraging technology and fostering a supportive community, we empower creators to turn their passion for writing into sustainable careers.”

An avid reader, Shikwambana started Visionary Writings in 2016 during his first year at university. He noticed how talented writers were posting great content on various platforms but didn’t know how to monetise their work.

“That’s when we came with the platform, Visionary Writings, where we can give creators these opportunities to share their work, be able to formally distribute it to their audience, as well as monetise and build a career out of this work. We wanted to empower young writers aspiring to give them these opportunities through using technology. So using technology was the best solution.”

So far they’ve seen the results where writers have managed to kick-start their careers and earn “very handsomely” on the Visionary Writings platform.

Shikwambana said aspiring readers could sign up to buy ebooks while writers could also sign up at visionarywritings.com and start publishing their work.

He said first they reviewed the writers’ work and helped them to improve it until the quality was on par with their standards. Their 100000-plus community of readers assisted in the process by giving real-time feedback on the books.

Once Visionary Writings approved the work, it could be monetised. The fun part of the platform, said Shikwambana, was that you could engage with fellow readers and even share your views while you were reading.

“And the nice part of it, even the authors themselves could actually engage with you and actually give you feedback,” he said.

The next step is to get traditional publishers on board and grow the platform, he added.

Sunday Tribune