GUAM SCHOOLS OWE HAWAII PRESS US$126,000

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 25) – The island will lose more than a vendor if the Guam Public School System can't pay the more than USUS$126,000 it owes Hawaii-based Bess Press Inc.

"What is happening to Mr. (Benjamin) Bess and his publishing company is sad and outrageous," said Arlene Cohen, an associate professor at the University of Guam [UOG] and the circulation and interlibrary loan librarian at UOG's Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Library.

"Small niche presses have a terrible time making ends meet, yet the publications they provide are invaluable throughout the world," Cohen said yesterday. "If these dedicated people did not take the risks for what is usually a small return for their monumental efforts, we would only get materials from mega-presses that only publish for lucrative, large markets."

GPSS owes Bess Press US$126,619.12 for books about Chamorro society and Pacific history and culture that were ordered last August. The company publisher this week said there had been no communication from GPSS since last year on any commitment to pay the outstanding balance.

The unpaid bill is shameful given the level of commitment of Bess Press and Publisher Benjamin Bess to the islands, educators say.

GPSS Superintendent Luis Reyes said his agency owes the money, but it doesn't have the money to pay vendors like Bess Press. Reyes said the publishing company has no choice but to wait until the agency has enough money to pay vendors.

In the 15-year relationship with Guam, Bess said his publishing company has never complained about delayed payments of a couple or even a few months. But the outstanding debt since August has hurt his ability to publish.

"I understand the islands and the people of Guam have been wonderful," Bess said. "But there has been no positive response to the monies that are owed. This has a direct impact on what I can publish."

"We've shown good faith over the years. We've never gone legal," he said. "But this has become a very difficult situation."

'Love for the Pacific'

Local author and educator Marilyn Salas yesterday said Bess and his small independent publishing company provide a great service to Guam and the region.

Salas' book, "Chamorro Word Book," is one of the titles published by Bess Press. The Chamorro vocabulary book, illustrated by local artist Roland Miranda, is part of a learning series and is considered an important tool in the island's Chamorro language program.

The book series, Salas said, was Bess' idea.

"He made an effort to get a word book in one of the languages of the Micronesian islands, which is Guam," Salas said. "He was doing this out of the sincerity of his heart -- out of love for the Pacific. He wanted to make sure our language was represented."

Other Guam-related Bess Press titles include "Ancient Chamorro Society" by Lawrence J. Cunningham, "A History of Guam" by Remedios L.G. Perez and "Field Guide to Caves and Karst of Guam" by Danko Taborosi.

'Respond to him'"Libraries as well as schools everywhere depend on publishers like Bess Press to provide specialized local materials," Cohen said.

"For the Pacific, Bess Press has been doing a superb job," the librarian said. "It would be a terrible pity to lose Bess Press because GPSS caused it to go out of business for lack of payment."

Salas said Guam must find a way to pay its delinquent bill.

"I understand our financial crunch, but we shouldn't go beyond our means," she said.

Salas said Bess has "done a major effort to ensure that our language and culture is represented."

"Bess Press has been able to link up with book distributors like Amazon, which distribute worldwide," she said. "In order for him to continue to exist, we should try to pay him back as soon as possible."

Salas yesterday made an urgent plea to GPSS: "Respond to him and offer him a time schedule for payment. At least that would show an appreciation for what he has done so far."

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