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Kindly Kindle became a greedy book monster

In Amazon’s early days there was a hint of a benevolent and philanthropic spirit in its business model, but the ogre of profit at all costs has overtaken all other considerations

Scrooge mcduck


TUMBY BAY - Michael Dom and I have just endured an incredibly dispiriting battle with Amazon Kindle over an extremely trivial matter of copyright involving the Ples Singsing anthology of student essays from the 2020 competition.

This issue has thankfully now been resolved and the anthology is available on Amazon as both an eBook and a paperback.

But the matter drew my attention once more to the times when there was a kinder Kindle.

Amazon served us well in the days of the Crocodile Prize but the company has evolved into a gargantuan monster which gobbles up and spits out organisations like Ples Singsing for breakfast.

For some time now it has refused to ship books to ‘shithole’ countries [thank you Donald Trump] like Papua New Guinea, necessitating double handling and double costs as the books must come through Australia to get them to PNG.

In Amazon’s early days there was a hint of a benevolent and philanthropic spirit in its business model but the ogre of profit at all costs has overtaken all other considerations.

While Amazon is still a viable option for writers in Australia and other ‘non-shithole’ countries, it is no longer a practical option for PNG writers.

So I totally agree with Michael that it’s time for PNG to set up its own small print-on-demand industry to supply the local market.

I'd go so far as to suggest that, once such businesses were operating, editing, proofreading and publication processes would follow in their wake.

Many years ago, the University of PNG Bookshop was looking at setting up its own print-on-demand service in association with the University of Melbourne, but nothing came of it.

Now is definitely the right time for reconsidering that idea.

Rait ples, rait papagraun, rait pipol’ is a delightful slogan that such an industry could adopt.


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Michael Dom | Ples Singsing

Maybe an existing printer would see a business opportunity here.

I've lost track of the number of new books published in the last year alone. Over ten that I may have come across, but I'm not as active on the social media, so maybe my colleagues could add to that count.

Ples Singsing has five books on standby and we've got a small budget for only 50 copies of each for at least three books.

That number is based on mailed books from Australia, so it's a reduced figure because of freight costs.

We may look at providing some numbers for an estimate of the demand.

There's at least 100 titles from the Crocodile Prize era, most of them listed on Baka Bina's Booklist and a few more noted elsewhere.

Nenge Books has probably another 30 or 40 titles, and the same from late Sir Paulias Matane Foundation.

Not to forget books already in print for which readers may want copies, although that's probably more complicated for books published and printed under previous copyright ownership, so maybe an Amazon deal could be worked out. Em bai mi nogat save.

Tasol, since most authors would want to order copies of their own books, anywhere between twenty and a hundred (at least that's what I've seen and done by CreateSpace and Kindle orders), a starting figure could be somewhere in the vicinity of, say 200 titles for 4,000 to 20,000 copies.

At about K50 a book, say, that makes a rough total value of 1,000,000 kina, if all 200 titles were ordered at 100 prints.

Not bad koble.

But my business ideas have always been too simple.

Philip Fitzpatrick

It would be a really hard sell Chips.

Purchase of a printer would be the easy part.

Then comes training to operate and maintain it. Plenty of able computer geeks in PNG but not a good record on maintenance.

Then the biggy - it would never pay for itself and would need continuing financial support.

These days governments expect public services of this nature to make a profit or at least pay for themselves. It's an unfortunate by product of neo-liberalism.

Dr John Evans was the manager of the UPNG bookshop who originally championed the idea. I don't know whether he is still there. Gregory Bablis works there and may have a view.

It's something worth following up, as you suggest.

Chips Mackellar

Good idea, Phil, for a print-on-demand service for PNG writers. Maybe an approach to Jason Clare, the new Federal Education Minister might help. It would be a good opportunity for our new government to display its new Pacific bonding policy.

In the great scheme of things it would not cost the federal government much, and the service it would provide would help with the interpersonal relationships which our government is aiming to establish with our Pacific neighbours.

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