Despite the grim news reports coming out of Japan, the country's publishing industry seems to have weathered the earthquake and tsunami with a relatively moderate amount of damage. However, some printers located in the affected areas are still recovering and have not resumed production, and at least three independent bookstores were destroyed.
Major publishers, which are mostly concentrated in Tokyo with some in the western cities of Kyoto and Osaka, reported no casualties. Despite the sporadic brownouts in the Tokyo area, all publishers remain in business.
The immediate threat to the industry is the disruption of publishers' publication schedules and a shortage of paper, since many of the publishers have paper and printing mills in the affected region of Tohoku. Two mills in particular, Nippon Paper Group’s Ishimaki plant in Miyagi, and Mitsubishi Paper Mill’s Hachinohe plant in Aomori, sustained significant damage and have not recovered production since the quake. Tohoku is also home to the majority of Japan's ink manufacturers, and following the disaster, there has been a shortage of color ink, mostly used for manga printing.
There are a handful of booksellers reported missing but no confirmed casualties. Three independent bookstores in Kamaishi, Iwate, were lost to the tsunami. The Sendai branches of two large chains, Kinokuniya and Junkudo, had severe damage and are still closed. Reaching booksellers in Miyagi has been difficult, and Miyawaki Bookstore’s Ohkuma branch, which is in the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear plant, sustained water damage from its sprinkler system.
Many bookstores in the Tokyo area were affected, with avalanches of books falling off the shelves, but most book retailers have returned to business, except when affected by scheduled brownouts. Sawaya Bookstore, located in the station building of Morioka, Iwate, has been reporting damage on Twitter. Initially with no electricity, it is now open but with limited hours. Other publishers have reported physical damage to the books in their warehouses, but are otherwise okay.
Some publishing-related events have been canceled. In children’s publishing, the award ceremony for this year’s Nihon Ehon Taisho (Japan Picture Book Award), scheduled for March 25, was suspended. Other award ceremonies canceled include Manga Taisho, and the DaVinci Magazine E-Book Award.
Many publishers and booksellers are setting up fundraising campaigns to help survivors. Kadokawa Group has donated 50 million yen ($618,000) through Japan Red Cross, and has pledged to donate books as soon as schools in the affected region are ready to accept them. Kodansha has announced that it will also donate books and manga to the temporary shelters as requested; others are expected to follow.
There are no reports of books' publication being postponed, although magazine poduction has been disrupted. (Most publishing houses in Japan publish both books and magazines, as well as manga.) Some manga magazines, including Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump and Weekly Young Jump, were forced to postpone their release date by a week to 10 days. Others say they will combine future issues. Fujisan.co.jp, a magazine delivery service, will provide electric versions to subscribers in the areas where delivery is disrupted.
Kay Ohara is a New York-based literary agent for Japanese authors and publishers, who happened to be in Tokyo at the time of the quake.