Author: Craig Johnston

Publishing industry affected by Covid

Among the many unpleasant and upsetting effects of Covid-19, there was one that came as a complete surprise to me: the availability of books.

One of my consolations in Lockdown was that I still had books to read. When I ran out of library books I re-read some old ones I had at home. If I wanted to, I could use ebooks and e-audio (available from the Palmerston North City Library – just sign in with your card!). And I was looking forward to all the new books that would arrive once Lockdown ended.

The first effect for book-buyers when we got back in the Library at Level 2 was that Auckland was still at Level 4, and that’s where all the big distributors are. So, no new book deliveries.

Ironically, individuals could still order books from overseas, which has made Auckland publishers and booksellers understandably upset.

Libraries usually order books either direct from the publishers (mostly in Auckland) or from Library supply companies, which provide specific services we need such as partial cataloguing and processing. The company we use is in Auckland. Selection of titles could continue, we just couldn’t get any deliveries.

Even if the publisher is overseas, most deliveries go through distributors in Auckland.

This is tough for library customers in Palmerston North, but even tougher for people in Auckland whose livelihoods depend on the publishing cycle not being interrupted too much. (Plus all the booksellers around the country who are affected.) Remember that a publisher usually has to plan each release a year in advance, to coordinate getting the book printed, deliver books to shops, schedule promotions, author tours, launches, and so on.

Some titles have been delayed, and some will simply be abandoned, as publishers focus on the books they have confidence in getting a good return on. Due to the turbulence of the last couple of years, they have less capacity to take a chance on a title now.

Another thing which blindsided me: a paper shortage. For various reasons, including less plastic being used, and more deliveries happening due to online shopping, a lot of pulp now becomes packaging instead of pages.

On top of that, shipping has been massively disrupted. The cost of a shipping container has increased hugely, and will possibly do so again next year. Some people I’ve spoken to say it might double, or more. This increased cost will have to be passed on to the end user, and will affect everything from books to guitars to cars.

Is there an upside to this rather gloomy post? I like to think so. Maybe this will bring about a change in our society’s culture of consumption. Some have already chosen this path – now the rest of us are being forced to ponder it.

Climate change, colonisation, homelessness, poverty, inequal access to healthcare, the various ripple effects of Covid-19 – all of these things and more are coming to a head, and maybe there’s a better way forward if we look at them all together, holistically.

Ummm… so anyway, back to the library. Long story short: if new books become scarce, your local public library exists to provide for everyone, collectively. We’re always keen to hear your suggestions for purchases, and even if books take longer to get published and delivered, we can put your name on the list and let you know as soon as they’re available.

Long live reading!

Noho ora mai.

Want to get published?

If you want to see your name in print, submit some writing to the Versions project!

The Library is running Versions again this year. We’ve put out three photos from Manawatū Heritage as prompts. Simply pick one and write something based on it. It can be a short story, a poem, a play, heck we’d accept a song if you feel like writing one! Then we publish the submissions in both physical and digital format.

This is NOT a competition. We publish ALL submissions! (Everyone’s a winner!)

If you’ve never had work in print before, it’s a real buzz.

If you want help with your writing, get in touch. We just want to encourage people to create.

Get your submission in by September 30th, 2021.

For details, head to the Versions Facebook page, or contact

The 143-Storey Treehouse – coming soon!

How many more stories can they add to this large-scale building project? I don’t know, but let’s hope they never run out of material. Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s incredibly successful book series gets another addition in October. Of course, with potential delays in shipping and printing due to Covid-19, we’re loathe to put a specific date on when it will be available, but if you put your name on the reserve list here, you’ll be notified as soon as a copy is ready for you!

Women’s Prize for Fiction winner

Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Piranesi is a mind-boggling book, a philosophical work that might just make you question your own reality. It’s quite different from her earlier work Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell but no less… shall we say dreamlike? Piranesi is about a man trapped in a crumbling labyrinth, but then again, maybe it isn’t about that at all. Personally I think it’s about how our minds work, and how we can be persuaded to think things. Congratulations to Susanna!

You can watch the acceptance speech here.

And you can reserve the book from the Palmerston North City Library here.

Waiata Anthems Week 2021

Separate from, but aligned with, Maori Language Week, Waiata Anthems Week brings you top musicians from Aotearoa playing sublime music and singing in te reo Maōri.

Their mission: “An industry-wide initiative, Waiata Anthems Week will be a celebration of the best new waiata and a chance to honour the champions and pioneers of te reo Māori who paved the way for future generations, supporting the emergence of a truly bilingual musical landscape.”

Here’s the website, where you’ll find links to the music on various platforms.

And don’t forget that Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori runs from Mahuru (September) 13th – 19th. Get some inspiration from the Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori website.

Kia kaha te reo Māori!

That time we read The Lord of The Rings

Yes, way back in Common Era 2000, library staff plus fellow enthusiasts (including LOTR actor John Rhys-Davies) accepted the challenge of reading The Lord of the Rings in its entirety. It took several days, and it was all filmed on good old VHS tapes, which are probably still hanging around somewhere.

Has anyone else come across memorabilia like this while tidying up their house during Lockdown..? (I even still have my invitation to the opening of the “new” Library in 1996!)