International Day of the Book or World Book Days, APRIL 23

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World Book Day or World Book and Copyright Day (also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Days) is a yearly event on 23 April, organized by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. In the United Kingdom, the day is instead recognized on the first Thursday in March.

World Book Day was celebrated for the first time on 23 April 1995.

The connection between 23 April and books was first made in 1923 by booksellers in Spain as a way to honor the author Miguel de Cervantes who died on that day.

In 1995, UNESCO decided that the World Book and Copyright Day would be celebrated on this date the date is also the anniversary of the birth and death of William Shakespeare, the death of Miguel de Cervantes, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega and Josep Pla, and the birth of Maurice Druon, Manuel Mejía Vallejo and Halldór Laxness.

Although 23 April is often stated as the anniversary of the deaths of both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, this is not strictly correct. Cervantes died on 22 April and was buried on 23 April according the Gregorian calendar; however, at this time England still used the Julian calendar. Whilst Shakespeare died on 23 April by the Julian calendar in use in his own country at the time, he actually died eleven days after Cervantes because of the discrepancy between the two date systems. The apparent correspondence of the two dates was a fortunate coincidence for UNESCO.

23 April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. In this regard, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day.

World Book and Copyright Day 2014

The history of the written word is the history of humanity.

The power of books to advance individual fulfilment and to create social change is unequalled. Intimate and yet deeply social, books provide far-reaching forms of dialogue between individuals, within communities and across time.

As Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for attending classes, said in her speech at the United Nations:

Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.

On World Book and Copyright Day, UNESCO invites all women and men to rally around books and all those who write and produce books. This is a day to celebrate books as the embodiment of human creativity and the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding and tolerance.

Books are not immune from a world of change, embodied in the advent of digital formats and the transition to open licensing for knowledge-sharing.

This means more uncertainty but also new opportunity — including for innovative business models in the world of publishing. Change is raising sharp questions about the definition of the book and the meaning of authorship in the digital era. UNESCO is leading from the front in the new debates about the dematerialization of books and the rights of authors.

By championing copyright and open access, UNESCO stands up for creativity, diversity and equal access to knowledge. We work across the board – from the Creative Cities of Literature network to promoting literacy and mobile learning and advancing Open Access to scientific knowledge and educational resources. For instance, in partnership with Nokia and Worldreader, UNESCO is striving to harness mobile technology to support literacy. To this end, on 23 April, we will release a new publication: Reading in the Mobile Era.

In the same spirit, Port Harcourt in Nigeria has been named as the 2014 World Book Capital, on account of the quality of its programme, in particular its focus on youth and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria’s culture of books, reading, writing and publishing to improve literacy rates. Taking effect on World Book and Copyright Day, this initiative is supported by UNESCO, along with the International Publishers Association, the International Booksellers Federation and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

In all of this, our goal is clear – to encourage authors and artists and to ensure that more women and men benefit from literacy and accessible formats, because books are our most powerful forces of poverty eradication and peace building.

Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Book and Copyright Day

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