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Bookboon network frees up millions of books

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Local business leaders are partnering with the world’s largest eBook publisher to give students and entrepreneurs free digital access to over 5 million textbooks.

South Africa is in the midst of a profound education crisis. While the roots of the problem are well understood across a country blighted by socio-economic inequality, exactly how to go about lowering essential education cost components is unclear. Key government and education role players are committed to reducing the onerous financial burden of education, but footing the bill is a worrying, ongoing challenge.

In the midst of this massive national concern and raging debate about the financial exclusion, in education particularly, Jenny Crwys Williams joins forces with the world’s largest eBook publisher, Bookboon, to significantly drive down the cost of education.

Text books and education resources are key components within the national education crisis, and it’s here that this interesting, and very positive, move is afoot. This week, local literary vanguard, Jenny Crwys Williams, launched the Bookboon+network.

This initiative brings top local business leaders and Bookboon together to offer South African students and self-starting entrepreneurs free digital access to thousands of world class university and business textbooks. The textbooks focus on core areas of need in the South African economy: Engineering, IT, Business and Finance. Bookboon has already established a formidable footprint in Africa, with over 5 million books distributed in South Africa and over 15 million across the continent last year.

“I don’t believe tertiary education is only for the well-off,” says Jenny Crwys Williams, patron of the Bookboon+network. “For many millions of young, hungry and angry people, it is their only stab at a better life.  Bookboon is a broad path to a dignified future.”

Bookboon solves the cost challenge of traditional textbooks with a technology-enabled, corporate-supported model that reduces the cost barrier for those eager to learn. The Bookboon+network will be limited to 40 business leaders who will each pledge to support Bookboon (either in South Africa or across the African continent) to ensure the books stay free, and that the resource library keeps growing.

“In return for annual membership, today’s leaders will have a compelling platform to speak directly to this dynamic group of future leaders,” says James Van der Westhuizen, Bookboon country manager in South Africa.

The flexibility of the platform also provides a dynamic space for these leaders’ organisations to establish their brands as a partner in changing the face of South African education. Once the Bookboon+network is fully up and running, each business leader will effectively have sponsored access to over 5 million books for students and entrepreneurs – at a cost of less than R2 a book.

“Collectively the network will save our students and emerging entrepreneurs over R2 billion in textbook costs in 2016,” says Crwys Williams. “For me, this is truly an example of leadership through readership.”

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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