THERE are unexpected drawbacks in running something like the Crocodile Prize national literary award in Papua New Guinea.
Like some sponsors, who make all sorts of promises and lead you up the garden path and wait until you’ve made irrevocable commitments before pulling the rug out from under you.
Or people who promise faithfully to do certain things and then blithely ignore them.
Then there are things that are a bit more inexplicable.
A case in point is the delivery of copies of the anthology and some of the other books that have spun out of the competition.
As a publisher, Pukpuk Publishing has duly despatched copies of its books to the National Library in Port Moresby. This is a statutory requirement but is mostly ignored by publishers in Papua New Guinea and Australia.
The books have been sent by post and were addressed to the Chief Librarian by name. None of them arrived.
I remedied this in September, when I carried copies of the books and personally presented them to the library. We discussed the matter but couldn’t explain it.
For the 2014 anthology we’ve been getting copies of the book sent directly from the USA to various recipients for distribution. Quite a few shipments have gone astray, enough to be a worry.
In tracking these shipments we’ve discovered that they all make it to Papua New Guinea before disappearing.
The printer Createspace uses a variety of freight companies, depending upon the size of the order. The shipments usually go to agents in Port Moresby before being delivered. Small shipments go by ordinary mail.
Some of the agents collect GST and customs duties, others don’t; it’s quite unpredictable and mysterious.
Some of the lost books are traceable. A recent shipment of six copies of Diddie Kinamun Jackson’s poetry collection, Daddy Two Shoes, addressed to her seems to have been sent to Indonesia by one of Createspace’s shippers.
Obviously someone in the USA thinks that Papua New Guinea is part of Indonesia.
That’s simple stupidity, but there are some other patterns emerging with more sinister connotations.
I have got some contacts in Mosbi who have been checking shipments for me and what they report isn’t good.
About two weeks ago, one of them reported seeing copies of the anthology on sale in one of Mosbi’s markets. The seller also had copies of books obviously stolen from the National Library and school libraries.
The seller wouldn’t say where he had got them. He did know, however, that they are a very marketable commodity. It’s not quite on a par with stealing and selling medicines from the hospitals but it’s still annoying.
The market is fairly close to where a few shipments have gone missing, the Boroko Post Office.
Oddly enough, the copies of the books addressed to the National Library were all sent to a Boroko Post Office box number.
Another interesting aspect is that shipments to Buka rank highly in the missing and lost category.
I haven’t said anything to date but I’m starting to suspect that some of the shipments have been stolen.
This is particularly aggravating because we distribute the anthology free of charge. The other Pukpuk books are sold at cost to keep the prices as low as possible.
I suppose, in a perverse sort of way, it’s encouraging to think that the books are still going to people who want to read them.
What irks us is the possibility that thieves are making money out of our efforts.
Unfortunately we can’t really do much about it. If Inspector Metau was real he might be able to help.
Createspace is really good because, at no cost, it will replace shipments that have gone missing and will despatch replacements by expensive priority freight.
Sooner or later, however, Createspace will tire of Papua New Guinea.
One of the other big print-on-demand companies, Lightning Source, a USA company with a handy branch in Melbourne, won’t ship directly to PNG. They are too polite to say why, but I think I know the reason.
We’ll keep shipping the books in the hope that most of them will get through. There’s not much else we can do beyond quitting in frustration.