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Publications in Papua New Guinea

by John Evans, UNPG & www.pngbuai.com

| Publication lists | Book trade | Background | Book development | University of Papua New Guinea Press | Other academic publishers in Papua New Guinea | Research on book trade in Papua New Guinea |

Publications lists

While in the long overdue process of preparing a catalogue for UPNG Press it became apparent that it would be useful to include the publications of other Papua New Guinea institutions.

This listing also includes publications from the National Research Institute, the Institute of National Affairs, the Wau Ecology Institute, parts of the PNG University of Technology, the PNG Institute of Medical Research and the Melanesian Institute. Other publishers may well be included later.

However, incomplete as it is this listing does reveal a wide range of publications amounting to some 700 items. This information has generally been hard to get hold of.

The printed list was intended to assist those inside Papua New Guinea to collect and make more use of local material. The Web version will enable those outside this country to be better aware of the material available. Orders should be sent to the institutions concerned. Obtaining some of the items may well prove to be a further challenge.

There are errors and inconsistencies within these lists which I hope will be removed from later editions. I would be pleased to have comments and observations.


"Despite the phenomenal increase in world book production, the gains are not evenly shared and the bulk of the demand remains unfulfilled in the developing regions. Over 80 per cent of total book production remain scattered in about thirty-four industrialised countries which represent only 30 per cent of the world's population. The area of scarcity is spread over all Africa, and Latin America, all Asia excepting Japan, and the Pacific Region excluding Australia and New Zealand". UNESCO


Independence has seen increasing expenditure on education and generally higher priorities attached to it than in the colonial situation. Countries are developing a superstructure of learning, scientific research and technological training. The sorts of books produced in-country hardly serve this structure nor do they serve the needs of those at the other educational pole - the high proportion of young people of developing nations - whose needs for school texts and recreational reading are seldom met. The tendency to lapse into illiteracy of the school drop-out is encouraged by shortage of books. Those deprived of other services are equally deprived of books and media - in particular women and the rural dweller. Nor will the need for relevant books in the right numbers and in peoples own language remain static. Demand will most certainly increase.

Printing in what is now known as Papua New Guinea has a fairly long history owing to colonial and missionary activity. The Government Printing Office began operation in 1888. Missionaries predated this with an early sheet printed by the London Missionary Society's W.G. Lawes in 1875. Government and the missions continue as the major producers of printed items. For example, at a rough count of the 183 items reported in the 1968 New Guinea Bibliography some 44 emanated from government and 38 from missions. Not all of these were produced in Papua New Guinea because of the scope of coverage of the New Guinea Bibliography. At an even rougher count the 1984 Papua New Guinea National Bibliography reveals some 400 pamphlets (5-48 pages) and 220 books (49 pages plus) published in Papua New Guinea.

Other than books, encouraging publishing features in Papua New Guinea would be the existence of two daily and one weekly English language newspapers and one weekly newspaper in Pidgin. Newspapers and magazines have been considered most important in the spread of literacy so it is to be hoped that these publications continue. The newspaper in Papua New Guinea has had a most interesting history. A recent Directory lists some 476 serials currently being produced, of the customary range from newsletter, parish magazines, house journals to solid academic periodicals with a relatively long and stable publishing history. Also of interest is the substantial production of music recordings within Papua New Guinea with over 1000 recordings listed for the 1949-1983 period in a recent publication with 82% locally-produced.

Rapid developments in other media need to be taken into account while planning book development. These forms of communication often attract government attention that does not alight on the relatively simple yet effective book. This concern should not stifle rational allocation of the nation's resources or divert planning away from book promotion and development activities. Papua New Guinea, as many other countries, places a heavy reliance on imports, generally costly, often produced by transnational corporations and seldom with the country's development needs in mind. This reliance is faced at all levels though most countries attempt as a first priority to remedy this at the textbook level as has the Papua New Guinea Department of Education. As to government documentation much of this does not receive its warranted distribution because of the lack of an integrated system (or in instances of any system whatsoever) for that distribution.

A welcome anomaly faced in Papua New Guinea is the relative ease of obtaining foreign exchange for book purchases. While library budgets are not adequate it is at least possible to order the foreign titles required from the cheapest source and be confident that it will be possible to get the foreign currency to pay for them. No one would wish to change this system as regards to libraries but when applied to bulk imports this may assist in maintenance of foreign imports to the detriment of the growth of a home industry.

Book development

Planning for book development needs to be seen as an integral part of overall development planning, and as such a chapter on this needs to be included in any national development plan. Guidelines for book production levels are also available which need to be used in relation to the country's needs and resources. The target set by the 1966 Tokyo meeting was for production of 80 pages of strictly educational books and 80 pages of general books per person per year by 1980.

An essential device for book development is a central agency charged with implementing and improving the book development policy - a national book development agency. Again guidance is available on the form and function of this, and close attention to the structure of this body Is considered of vital importance for success. The body needs to represent those public authorities connected with book development, representatives of professional associations and a smattering of enlightened intellectuals for objectivity. A Book Council, of somewhat different composition, was begun in Papua New Guinea in 1986, but this has been ineffective.

In Papua New Guinea many government agencies are involved in production and distribution of printed information. Experience elsewhere indicates that it is desirable to have one agency to co-ordinate their efforts as the lack of co-ordination prevents adequate dissemination of what government does produce.

The majority of small publishers will face difficulties in obtaining the capital needed to begin operation - even though publishing is an almost ideal small scale enterprise. Funding agencies have been asked to consider the possibility of assisting the growth of this industry as one of their priorities.

Assistance in directing publishers towards the various funding alternatives needs to be given. Another possibility is for education of national banking interests in the rather unusual circumstances of the book business. Tax relief for the endeavour of publishers has also been applied. Government and the churches inevitably produce their materials under conditions of subsidy. Australia has a policy of providing a subsidy for worthwhile books that would not otherwise be produced on a commercial basis. In addition there is a system of providing subsidy for advertising books.

An important aspect that publishers need to attend to is survey and research the likely market for materials, ensuring the most suitable books are marketed to maximise sales and profits. Other agencies would also be involved in studies of the reading habit. Experience shows that after textbooks the highest priority is to be given to children's literature. The availability of interesting, well produced books for children would encourage a pattern of voluntary reading and reduce the relapse into illiteracy which would otherwise be the fate of many school leavers. This material needs to be produced in the mother tongue and relate to the needs, experiences and culture of the children. There is a desperate shortage of this kind of book in this region and government initiative and support is called for. Subsidy appears to be an inevitable corollary both for encouragement of the various parts of the trade and in providing a sufficient institutional markets through schools and libraries.

There is fear that cost of books is slipping out of the reach of the ordinary person. Most developing countries lack the necessary purchasing power and the underlying book culture. Some publishers depend on institutional sales and plan for sales of few copies (some hundreds only) at a high price of five to six times that of production. The cost per book depends on the size of the print run and books can be made available cheaply were huge numbers of copies are involved. Such an effective means of reducing costs is possible in countries having a wide market. Production of literary works in the form of newspapers and magazines is also a proven method of making such materials available cheaply. Subsidy is also applied, most commonly on school books. Experience indicates the subsidy should be confined to the users (including libraries) rather than subsidising the cost of production. Reduction in cost can also be brought about by removal of duties and tariffs on materials used in the manufacture of books. While the Florence Convention means that there are hardly any restrictions on the finished book, materials used in book production often attract imposts of all kinds. In certain countries ensuring an adequate supply of the correct types of paper at reasonable cost will require government action. Economies of scale on the print run can be used by co-operative publishing ventures. Here common use of artistic and design work may be envisaged with the text printed differently for as many language editions as are contemplated. This has been used in Asia and would be a possibility for the Pacific.

While some factors will tend to the satisfactory development of the industry as a whole, individual groups of talents also need nurturing. At the writing stage, publishers who are doomed to small scale operation as a result of low literacy levels, underdeveloped readership, and who consequently have low profits are reluctant to invest in new authors. Authors may also suffer from a social, gap between themselves and those with whom they need to communicate - often a consequence of foreign training in an alien tongue. The authors and publishers need to develop satisfactory working relationships based on mutual trust and responsibility. A gamut of incentives from fellowships, subsidies, grants for travel and research, awards and prizes, to tax concessions have been tried in various places to encourage authors. Professional associations of writers add to professional efficiency, solidarity and status and are essential formations. These can work on exchanges of writers and organise workshops and seminars on professional matters. In most countries in the Pacific such associations would work towards development of copyright legislation as no law exists in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji and exists in draft form only in Papua New Guinea. It is suspected that many writers deliberately withhold works for fear of lack of protection or publish overseas where such protection does exists.

Opportunities for training are few and need to be provided. Thus, while journalism courses exist, courses for booksellers, publishers, editors, designers, translators are rare in developing countries. Translation enables works produced elsewhere to be made available in local languages. This may often be a suitable way of providing a substitute for a book yet to be written locally. At certain levels of text (e.g.. tertiary and at scientific and technical levels) complex problems of translation and terminology are involved and Papua New Guinea would remain with the English texts. This need not be so at other levels, thus training for translators and adequate remuneration and incentives for them need to be provided.

Many books produced in developing countries do not match those of major producers - a lack of professionalism and low quality is evident This is the result of a lack of qualified editors employed by the publishers. Skillful editing makes the most out of the manuscript provided by the author and allows the book a competitive edge in the market. A sub-standard, poorly produced book contributes nothing and is a waste of often scarce resources. Again, enhanced pay and training for editors, plus the recognition of their vital role appears to be the way towards a solution of this problem.

It will be evident that the major concentration of publishing, printing and distribution of reading matter will be in the urban areas. However, much the attraction of these areas grows the majority of the population in most developing countries will continue to dwell in rural areas. Reaching these areas will require a special network providing a production technology and means of distribution for the specific requirements of rural areas, if they are to obtain suitable literature - for what is popular in rural areas varies. Here again studies on requirements of the rural areas are indicated as a precursor to producing material in selected rural centers and distribution from those centers. Originally introduced as pilot projects these could expand to provide a network of considerable extent and, one would hope, permanence. This would involve co-operation between government and the private sectors and leaders in both rural and urban spheres. Existing oral traditions would be respected. The other mass media would need to support rather than compete with such ventures.

Even when a set up is provided for the rural areas, the question of distribution for the 'formal' book trade remains to be assisted. Nothing happens without distribution and in most developing countries distribution is disorganised and unsystematic. The system to be involved would involve effective wholesalers feeding a network of local retail bookshops throughout the urban centers. In Papua New Guinea existing distribution is through bookstores, news agencies and department stores mainly in the larger towns. Existing 'proper' bookshops are very few in number. Given this non-conventional channels can be used as supplements - almost any outlet, including libraries, could be used to improve the tardy distribution of books.

The Book Club idea, where a subscriber obtains a variety of books at concessional rates and the publisher is assured of minimum sales and can therefore offer lower prices as currently flourishing in developed countries. Such Clubs provide a choice from a catalogue or list produced, and books are mainly distributed post free. This method does not differentiate against rural areas if postal services are in the least effective. Book Clubs can be used for purchases from developed countries. Within developing countries they are untried; though systems of collecting subscriptions for particular books chosen from a regular list and operated through the local schools have been attempted with success.

High postal rates increase the price of books, inhibit movement of books and delay the growth of the reading habit. Thus in most countries concessional rates are applied to books. An attempt to obtain such a rate has been made by the National Library Service, a sizable proportion of whose budget is thus spent. Concessions also need to be sought for sea and air freight. Physical transport for books is expensive in relation to value. Books are physically compact and easily transportable and thus arguments can be made for such lower charges.

There is much that can done to foster book development in Papua New Guinea. It will require determined effort by those concerned to see the ideas and issues of book development converted into much needed action.

University of Papua New Guinea Press

The Press has however published over 60 titles since the 1970's. To this can be added 11 publications on PNG published by the university prior to the establishment of the press. To this output can be added publications produced by Departments on their own - though most major publications are done through the press. Additionally, there are 12 regular journals, newsletters and a newspaper that are produced in the university. These are not at present done via the Press but there is interest in at present in linking in some of the major publications. Progress on book publication has been variable - 1987 saw a high of 7 titles published. Most years, 1993, 1994 for example saw 2 titles per year. Subject coverage has been mainly in the social sciences and there been much publication of conference proceedings, often from the regular Waigani Seminars.

Textbooks have not been a major feature unfortunately. Most textbooks are published overseas resulting in considerable costs of imported works to be borne by students and libraries. Most research carried out in PNG will not be published here and will need to be bought back in, if it is to be seen at all. Similarly the lack of indigenous publication results in the low access to innovations produced in country and in neighbouring countries. Distribution is also a difficult matter, even in the case of the university bookshop- as mentioned below.

Weak infrastructure is the keynote of the UPNG Press. Basically the University Research and Publications Committee has been responsible for vetting and funding most of the publications. Arrangements for printing have been taken care of by the Information and Publications Division. Books have been distributed via Departments or the Bookshop, but often considerable stocks have built up. The Press is thus a floating imprint, logo and ISBN that descends on particular items from time to time. No one is really responsible. While this has allowed for some production, it has not been one to encourage authorship or speedy decision making. In late 1995 URPC agreed that the function of UPNG Press is to be transferred in principle to Unisearch PNG - the University of PNG commercial arm. In the meantime Unisearch PNG has decided to go into the publishing business as "an useful service to the academic community and wider national community."  It has completed twelve projects and an exciting range of prospects is in hand - certainly beyond the capacity of existing structures but all of considerable importance within PNG. Since it has existed in such sketchy form it is not surprising that the Press has not been able to attend to such important issues as:- commissioning, editorial work, marketing plans, distribution and publicity or for planning. All of these are of particular note as publication moves or has moved from print on paper into electronic/ digital form.

Other academic publishers in Papua New Guinea

In addition to the UPNG Press, significant output is produced by:-

National Research Institute - over 200 titles in various formats

Institute of National Affairs - over 100 titles

Institute of Medical Research - 10 monographs

Wau Ecology Institute - 20 monographs

Melanesian Institute - 25 years of monographs and serial publication

PNG University of Technology - many titles through its various Departments

In recognition of the valuable titles produced the UPNG will be providing a joint catalogue of the productions of these publishers.

Other developments in indigenous publishing

The issue of indigenous publishing has attracted attention and there are interesting developments that have occurred, noticeably in Africa, where the institutionalisation of the African Books Collective, active book fairs and the setting up of book development organs is noticeable. To the extent that it is possible contacts have been made with these projects and the information gained is valuable. However, PNG is isolated from these developments are there is reason to think that this is a responsibility to be faced within the country.

Research on book trade in Papua New Guinea

In 1989 the University funded a research project on the book trade in Papua New Guinea and the PNG author Steven Winduo was Research Officer. The following are some salient comments from this research:-

"A young nation such as Papua New Guinea eager to develop educationally, economically, politically, socially, religiously and culturally has many stumbling blocks to overcome. To successfully advance it must rely heavily on printed materials. Yet, in this sense, a considerable pressure is applied on governments, institutions and individuals who need printed materials, which at times are not necessarily available, or if they are, only at an inaccessible price.

There was an urgent need for a book sector study. One which could have a positive input into the book sector development in Papua New Guinea. For example, if publishing resources are available in the country and offer alternative in-country publishing why is that the wrong emphasis or expectation seriously tend to affect maximum production capacity and the over-all input? Why are people not willing to admit the almost alarming book hunger, lack of copyright protection for authors and the comparative ingenuity of local writers? Questions such as these need to be answered.

This supports CODE's (Canadian Organisation for Development through Education) effort to recognise the need for book sector studies. CODE notes that:-

"The publishing industry in many developing countries is in crisis. Too few books are produced and those that are available lack minimum quality standards with respect to content and presentation. Then the book sector is fragmented. Several separate agencies support and manage different parts of the publishing process without any means to co-ordinate activities.

There are nevertheless, many hopes and impediments to consider, but with such an initiative as this, there is more to achieve and develop in the area of books trade industry, which can assist in the; overall development of this young country."

John Evans
Development Manager
Unisearch PNG Pty Ltd
P O Box 320
University P.O.
Papua New Guinea

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John Evans, Papua New Guinea
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