I was wondering: What would it cost to buy (commercially) one of my own books? I speculated if any of my books were listed on Amazon, so I took a look. There were a number advertised and they cost a lot of money.
The dictionary that we did (A Kewa dictionary with supplementary grammatical and anthropological materials), which was published in 1973 by Pacific Linguistics, can be purchased for $88 (plus postage and handling, of course) from “cloudlandbooks,” which has a 93% positive customer rating over the last 12 months. It cost $14 when it was first published, but the $88 is a bargain when you compare it with the seller “amitcj,” rated at 83% over the last 12 months. There our dictionary, “used-good” can be purchased for $8,269.02 plus $3.99 for shipping. Was that price a misprint? I had no idea we could be worth that much, although it consists of 514 pages and weighs 1.7 pounds
With over $8,000 hanging over our heads, I thought I better look further. Yes, there is our Pidgin English to Kewa “Common usage dictionary,” a diglot edition at the bargain price of $69.99 plus shipping, which is only $3. I guess it is that cheap because it is “used-like new” and is sold by “masalaipress” (with a 99% positive rating). I know of that publisher—a man who specializes in Tok Pisin and has written books about it. “Masalaipress” means (literally) “bush spirit press,” a suitable name for a concealed publisher. There is only one copy left, so you will have to act fast if you want it.
Next on the list is the “Tolai Language Course,” which is a 2011 student FACSIMILE reprint of the 1959 edition. The loose leaf version costs $12.17, which seems like it must be a photocopy. But wait, there is a paperback available for $59.50 + shipping and there are only three copies left. One is “used-good” and another is “used-very good,” indicating that the buyers did not learn much of the Tolai language. Appropriately, one of the sellers is “thedustybookshelf.” Harland Kerr and I finished the book in 1959 and it was first published in Papua New Guinea by the Department of Information Services and was free. I am amazed that the book is still alive, although dusty.
My friend Bob Litteral wrote “An introductory programmed course in Tok Pisin,” which was published in 1969 by Jacaranda Press in Australia. The second edition by Bob and I was a paperback—published in 1990 and has been reprinted several times. You can buy it on Amazon for $49.95—not exactly a bargain in my mind.
There is a real bargain for one of my books: “Loosen your tongue: an introduction to storytelling,” a paperback for only $6, probably indicating that it is not a best seller. It was published by the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in 2009 and is based on a course I taught on storytelling for several years. Unfortunately, there is “no image available,” but I can tell you that the image on the front cover is quite splendid and alone worth the $6. I shouldn’t tell you, but you can also download the book free at the GIAL site.
In 2013 my good friend Wopa Eka died and I put together a book about him called “’Good morning Jesus’: The story of Wopa Eka, translator and friend.” It was (theoretically) published by the Bible Translation Association of Papua New Guinea, but was never been circulated by them. There is only one used copy available on Amazon and the listing is by “A New Chapter Bookstore.” I must have given it to someone who decided to sell it on Amazon because it is “signed by the author.” Maybe I’ll eventually find out who did that.
There are also two copies of my “The dialects of Kewa” book, a small volume of 72 pages, published in Australia. You wouldn’t think it would cost $59.99 from, again, “masalai press,” but that is a bargain compared to “cloudlandbooks,” which wants $179.98, even with “light wear.” The shipping cost of the former is $3.39 compared to the $3.99 from the latter.
For reasons that escape me, Amazon is also advertising “Agaa repo buku: triglot phrase book; West Kewa/ Melanesian Pidgin/ English” in paperback for $49.99. This was a small 67 page book that Joice and I wrote for Kewa speakers who were learning Tok Pisin or English, but it would be useless for anyone else to buy. Although used, it is listed as “very good” and is sold by “masalaipress.” I get the feeling that my friend there is unloading all his books from Papua New Guinea—at a substantial profit.
I’ll end with some good news. My book “Traim tasol: vocabulary testing in Tok Pisin,” published in 1992 by Pacific Linguistics, is out of print. As far as I can tell, neither it, nor any of my other books, were ever reviewed on Amazon. That probably won’t change.
The really, really good news is that my best books never went on Amazon. I have done three books of short humorous stories and I am free to distribute them—not even “masalaipress” has a copy. I will let it slip that they are on my web site.