By Edward Nawotka
Friday, April 15, marked the five week anniversary of the 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that swamped north east Japan, destroying 30 bookstores, damaging several nuclear power plants, and forcing the rest of the country into rolling electrical blackouts.
To mark the anniversary, Jim Bonner, director of UK e-book publisher Enhanced Editions, organized a “Read for Japan” event via Facebook to promote the sale of 2:46 Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake, a collection of prose, poetry and artwork crowdsourced via Twitter. The book contains contributions from William Gibson, Yoko Ono and Barry Eisler, among others, and all proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross. As of Friday afternoon it had shot to the top of several nonfiction e-book categories on Amazon and remained there throughout the weekend.
“It’s simple: we want as many people to know about and buy this book as possible,” said Peter Collingridge of Enhanced Editions, which helped out with the book (digital production services for the book were provided by Threepress). “It shows how when people in publishing rally around a cause they can make something happen very quickly. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan.”
Little Impact on Book Sales
Surprisingly, the disaster has had little impact on book sales, as readers have been stocking up on titles related to survival and coping with disaster. “Expect to see many more of these types of books in the coming months,” said Yumiko Hoshiba, President of Discover 21, a Tokyo-based publisher of nonfiction trade titles, during a London Book Fair presentation hosted by the Frankfurt Book Fair. Kodansha is doing a book of messages sent to people in Japan, said Hoshiba, “and we have proposals from several authors who are willing to give hopeful messages to those in the restricted areas and are donating their royalties from this to the relieve efforts.”
Hoshiba, whose company is writing off the price of the lost stock and delaying any overdue payments to stores in the affected region, said that magazine and newspaper publishers were likely to see a longer-term fallout from the disaster as many service providers for those industries were headquartered in the affected region.
Book publishers, most of whom are based in Tokyo, will continue to deal with a limited electrical supply throughout the rest of the year. “This means we won’t be running on our air conditioning, for example” said Hoshiba, who noted that this was a minor inconvenience compared to the hardship of those suffering in the affected areas.
Reading More Important in the Future
Reflecting on the events, Hoshiba is philosophical about publishers’ role in the aftermath of the disaster. “When the earthquake struck, I thought books were useless compared with food and water,” she said, “When I wrote this on my blog, the surprising thing was that readers, booksellers and even other publishers replied that Discover 21 books had meant a lot to them, they had helped them…books give hope to the reader. The name ‘Discover 21’ originated from the concept of whole human values of happiness for the 21st century. We are now experiencing the time when we can achieve that concept. I think that following this disaster and after experiencing this difficulty with the [nuclear] power stations, the value and lifestyles of people will be different in the future. Books will be more in demand.”