'Africa on our doorstep'
Cliodynamics & Bougainville

PNG writers: What do we try next?

Phil Fitzpatrick at micPHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - It seems as though the latest effort in the form of a writer’s petition to get the Papua New Guinean government interested in a home grown literature has foundered on the rocks of apathy and ignorance once again.

The planning was good and there was a wave of optimism in the form of a new prime minister to finally bring the government to its senses but it wasn’t to be.

Despite the disappointment Papua New Guinean writers continue to write. They are a resilient lot and not easily dissuaded.

In the last month I’ve edited two fine new books which will be published soon and the indefatigable Baka Bina has just published his latest novel.

It’s time to consider a new approach in this ongoing campaign. Here is another idea to consider.

We don’t have any exact statistics but it seems that the PDF copies of the books currently available on PNG Attitude as free downloads continue to attract readers.

In my own case I’ve noticed that people who read the PDF versions of my PNG-based books quite often then purchase hard copies or eBook versions. There is also anecdotal evidence that this is happening with other writers.

This generous facility provided by Keith has two distinct advantages and one disadvantage for the writers concerned.

In the first instance, the availability of the books as electronic copies solves the problems of cost for PNG readers who cannot afford to buy the books and it also, to a large extent, solves the problem of the lack of distribution through bookshops in PNG.

On the downside the free electronic copies offer no economic return to the writers for their hard work.

While most of the writers who offer their books as free electronic copies realise that writing books in PNG is never going to be a profitable proposition they still continue writing because they know that having books available by local writers is of crucial importance to the nation. In this respect they are miles ahead of the politicians.

If this is all true then it may be something worth formalising and may represent the basis for a new approach to the government or, more realistically, private enterprise.

The way it might work is if a system similar to the informal one on PNG Attitude is adopted by the National Library.

Writers could make their books available to the National Library for electronic lending through a dedicated website.

That sounds pretty simple until you actually research the National Library’s electronic resources. I cannot, for instance, locate an actual website for the library.

(Isn’t that appalling and doesn’t it reflect the misguided priorities of PNG’s politicians. It’s a shameful fact if it’s true).

The scheme would, therefore, require some groundwork to set up. Given the government’s apathy maybe there’s a private donor out there who could help? It wouldn’t be hard and it wouldn’t be costly.

In fact, for the right donor, it could even provide advertising opportunities and revenue for not only the donor but the library and the writers involved.

Just imagine your book appearing in vivid colour and detail on a website alongside adverts for SP Lager, Trukai Rice, Ox & Palm Corned Beef and Wopa Biscuits (hint, hint).

This is just a rough sketch of a thought bubble at the moment. I wonder what the writers think.

Comments

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Daniel Kumbon

Baka, I sent new year greetings to the officer prime minister James Marape had tasked to handle our petition case. I also enquired if the PM ever said something, but the officer has gone dead.

However I notice he is very active on Facebook.....

Baka Bina

When I caught up with Daniel Kumbon at Jacksons Airport, he was returning to Enga after his tireless effort to get an audience with prime minister James Marape on behalf of us writers and I was going to Manus.

Daniel mentioned that he gave over a few samples of his books to showcase our writings. It was unfortunate that we do not have current collective data of all the books we have published to date.

Mr Kumbon would have appreciated something that he could show to Mr Marape. It is not too late to do something about it now.

I have done some work trying to make a catalogue. I am calling to all those that have published to provide me details so that we can build up this data. I will send a copy of it to KJ on the email address on this site.

Justin Kundalin

Phil - Your idea is outstanding. Though writers can experience economic loss if they publish their books in PDF but I suggest that the authors need to talk with all the bookstores or shops and so that they can buy them.

Also providing in PDF is an investment to their country they can do so that only God can in His own way and time reward their efforts.

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