Japanese book trade facing worst crisis since WWII

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami has caused the worst disruption to the Japanese book industry since the Second World War, the president of the Japanese Publishers Association has said.

In a letter to the international publishing community posted on the Frankfurt Book Fair website, Masahiro Oga said following the Tohoku earthquake almost two weeks ago, some of the region's bookshops had been seriously damaged. The region's paper producing industry and distribution networks had also been gravely hit. The Tohoku area contributes about 40% of the industry's paper.

He said: "Due to the fuel shortage, the distributors have decided to deliver books and magazines to each bookshop all over the country every second day, which is every day on a normal basis. It must have a direct impact on the distribution of books and magazines. This serious distribution problem has occurred for the first time since the Second World War." He said it was unclear when distribution to and from Tohoku would be resolved.

Oga thanked the international publishing community for its support since the disaster. According to the BBC yesterday [Tuesday], the confirmed death toll from the disaster has risen to 7,348, and 10,947 people are listed as missing.

Oga said: "I strongly feel that we are not alone and we are extremely lucky to have many friends like you in the international publishing community. We can do very little under the situation, but if there is something we and you can do from the international publishers, I will certainly let you know."