World Book and Copyright Day Poster

April 23rd is also known as International Day of the Book to those who celebrate World Book and Copyright Day. It is meant to promote authors, readers, publishers, and protection of intellectual property by copyright. The global holiday is an occasion for renewing the pleasure of reading and a greater understanding for the copyright laws that protect the freedom to read and write and publish. Worldwide events include: bookmarks distribution, relay readings of plays and books, literary competitions with announcements of winners like the prize for works that promote tolerance from the World Book and Copyright Day UNESCO started in 1995.

UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. A quote from the website best explains what it is about. “UNESCO’s mission is to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.” There is much more to it then the short quote, but a refresher of UNESCO is needed to understand how the World Book and Copyright Day celebration came about.

Way back in 1923, in Spain, the booksellers decided to celebrate and honor the brilliant and talented Miguel de Cervantes. Remember, he was the author of the very famous, Don Quixote, and a poet and playwright too. He died April 23rd, 1616. Also, a tradition in Catalonia (since medieval times) was to celebrate St. George (patron saint of Catalonia) on April 23rd. This tribute coincides with the Fair of the Book and the Rose. Yes, the male gives his loved one a rose, and the female gives her loved one a book (started in 1926 to commemorate Cervantes). Well, UNESCO decided to use the same date for World Book and Copyright Day because other famous authors had the same date as birth or death - like, William Shakespeare, and Vladimir Nabokov. There is a bit of dispute about the authenticity of the Shakespeare death as the same as Cervantes because England went by the Julian calendar, and Spain went by the Gregorian calendar, but whose counting? Anyways, it has been a global celebration since 1995, thanks to UNESCO.

Irina Bokova is the Director-General of UNESCO, and she wrote a very good statement about what the day is about. She begins by discussing how books are tangible and all about sharing whether through ideas, knowledge, experience or understanding. Books present dialogue, communication, and change. The digital word (e-books, downloadable e-books) is having a noticeable impact on copyright laws and publishing companies. The bliss or burden question about the future of the book is going to be addressed in an upcoming UNESCO world forum in Italy. The theme is, “The Book Tomorrow; the Future of the Written Word.”

I would love to attend the event and listen to the words of global authorities who will speak. However, in the meantime I can help increase awareness of this day by volunteering at a library, reading printed material and digital material, being true to copyright laws, and sharing ideas learned from some author. There are many ways to take part in the World Book Day, enjoy it, and be grateful that we still have free access to books!