It’s been just over a month since an unprecedented disaster trifecta hit Japan — earthquake, tsunami, and ongoing nuclear crisis — and in its wake, the global community has come to the aid of the devastated nation in a myriad of creative ways (hell, Lady Gaga even returned to planet earth for a moment to design a disaster relief prayer bracelet). But none, in my humble opinion, is as remarkable as “2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake," a collaborative work better known as the “Quakebook” project. 

It would be an understatement to say that “Quakebook” isn’t your ordinary type of book just as it would be to say that what happened in Japan wasn't your ordinary type of natural disaster. It's a Twitter-sourced charity book (the first that I’ve heard of) that sprung from a single cry for action tweeted by an anonymous British blogger living in Japan known as Our Man In Akibo

In just four weeks, a team of dedicated copy editors (including my friend, Tokyo-based journalist Sandra Barron) and translators pulled together numerous mini-essays, photos, and drawings from contributors across the world. The goal? To share first-person accounts of the disaster — from those on the ground in Japan and those touched by the earthquake/tsunami elsewhere — while raising funds for relief efforts. In addition to the harrowing, heart-wrenching stories shared by numerous citizen journalists, the 98-page “Quakebook” contains original work by Yoko OnoJake Adelstein, Barry Eisler, and, Mr. Cyberspace himself, William Gibson. The striking cover art is by Canadian artist James White; the back cover and additional interior artwork is by Mari Kurisato

Although “Quakebook” chatter has been circulating around the web for a couple of weeks now, the book itself hit Amazon.com just yesterday and has blown up, climbing up the charts in the Kindle store. According to the project's Twitter feed, the book is currently at #5 in Amazon nonfiction bestsellers. Although this remarkable crowdsourced tome is indeed an eBook and not available in print at this time, you don’t need a Kindle to view it as it can be downloaded as a PDF on a Mac, PC, or smart phone. It costs $9.99 with all proceeds going directly to the Japanense Red Cross Society.

Remarks Our Man in Akibo in an official “Quakebook” press release:

The primary goal is to raise awareness, and in doing so raise money for the Japanese Red Cross Society to help the thousands of homeless, hungry and cold survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. The biggest frustration for many of us was being unable to help these victims. I don’t have any medical skills, and I’m not a helicopter pilot, but I can edit. I’m doing what I can do.

Twitter has been an amazing collaboration tool.  A few tweets pulled together nearly everything — all the participants, all the expertise — and in just over a week we had created a book including stories from an 80-year-old grandfather in Sendai, a couple in Canada waiting to hear if their relatives were okay, and a Japanese family who left their home, telling their young son they might never be able to return.

If you haven’t contributed to the relief efforts in Japan yet or would like to pitch in some more, get yourself over to Amazon.com (or Amazon.co.uk) and download a copy of “Quakebook.” And for those who are Twitter-wary, don’t worry: this hard-hitting collaborative book is for everyone, not just hashtag-happy Twitter users. If you'd to learn more about the project or read a couple of choice excerpts from the book before purchasing, head on over to the Quakebook Blog. Also, find out how you can contribute to a second edition of "Quakebook" that's in the works. And needless to say, if you're a Twitter user, start following @quakebook.

Image: Quakebook Blog

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