Lonely Planet is finally bringing out new editions of five of their South Pacific guidebooks: Lonely Planet Fiji, Lonely Planet Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands, Lonely Planet Rarotonga, Samoa & Tonga, Lonely Planet Tahiti & French Polynesia, and Lonely Planet Vanuatu & New Caledonia.
All of them will become available on October 18, 2016, and Amazon.com is already taking advance orders (use the links above). The author of all five guides is “Lonely Planet” and individual authors are no longer credited. This is appropriate in a way as all current LP updaters are “writers for hire” who must sign away all rights – including moral rights – in order to secure a contract. They are paid flat fees which cover their travel expenses and no royalties are paid. With newbie authors lining up to work for Lonely Planet, the publisher sets the terms.
Interestingly, four of the five new guidebooks contain 256 pages which indicates that they all follow the same rigid template. LP has exactly as much to say about Tahiti & French Polynesia as they do about Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands. Lonely Planet Vanuatu & New Caledonia has only 224 pages, perhaps reflecting the complete absence of a competitor there.
No new edition of Lonely Planet South Pacific has been announced and it is quite possible that the 2012 edition will be the last. Researching remote island groups like Niue, Tokelau, Wallis & Futuna, and Tuvalu is expensive and the returns are minimal. On the brighter side, such places don’t change a lot and even the 2004 edition of Moon Handbooks South Pacific – which you can buy on Amazon.com for under a dollar – should suffice.
Frankly, even guidebooks to popular places like Fiji and Tahiti are not big money makers and about the best result publishers can expect is to break even after paying the updaters, editors, printers, and distributors. Of course, maintaining a worldwide presence is important to the Lonely Planet brand and niche titles like Vanuatu & New Caledonia are subsidized by best sellers like LP Australia and LP China. The gap of four years between the previous editions and these new editions is indicative of the low profitability.
In any case, hats off to Lonely Planet for keeping the fires burning. The excellent maps and down-to-earth information in all of these new editions will be much appreciated by Pacific travelers.
(Listings of the latest editions of virtually all Pacific island travel guidebooks appear on MapSouthPacific.com.)