World Book Day

Many countries all over the world celebrate World Book Day on 23 April. Many, but not all of them. The British, those little rebels, celebrated it on 2 March this year. Why? I don’t know and couldn’t find out. Explanations are very welcome.

The United Nations ‘invented’ this day in 1995 and a rising number of institutions participates every year. Apparently they chose the day because on 23 April 1616, Shakespeare, Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega died. (Apologies to Mr. de la Vega, but I didn’t know who he was and had to look him up…) Oh well, maybe it’s as good as any day – it’s a welcome opportunity to celebrate books, publishers and reading! When I checked the UN website for more details about this special day, I saw it’s officially called the World Book and Copyright Day – but I’m not sure that everyone is paying as much attention to the second part, though. In Germany, at least, it’s just called “Welttag des Buches”. The Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (similar to the Bookseller’s Association), organises reading events in schools and – for the first time – field trips to publishing houses, among them many indies.

Books for school children

Around the World Book Day, 850.000 school children in Germany will receive books that were created for this specific occasion – called “Ich schenk Dir eine Geschichte” – in order to encourage them to discover the joys of reading. Sounds like a great idea, I thought, but then I found out that it’s the booksellers who have to pay for the books in order to give them away for free to the pupils who come to their shops (link). I guess the booksellers hope that the children or their parents will buy another book on their way out or remember the bookstore for future purchases, but I find it a bit irritating that the initiative has partners like the Deutsche Post and ZDF (one of our public-service television broadcasters), but make the already struggling bookshops pay.

Behind the scenes: #verlagebesuchen

In addition to the book gift programme, the events around the World Book Day include a publishing house open day (or several days). From Friday through Sunday, over a hundred publishers of all sizes are participating in the initiative called #verlagebesuchen (visiting publishing houses). Their events range from tours to readings, workshops to book presentations, and include many interesting opportunities. Should you be in Germany this weekend, have a look at the programme – www.verlagebesuchen.de – the events are free of charge, but most require registration. You can follow the events of the day on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. – and I’m sure that bloggers like the “We Read Indie” collective will also cover the World Book Day: https://readindie.wordpress.com

Bloggers on board

And last, but not least, I would like to draw your attention to an initiative “Blogger schenken Lesefreude”. It started in 2013 and takes place around the World Book Day. In the past, activities were centred around prize draws and book gifts. At some point, the organisers started to question whether giving away books for free was really the best or only way to encourage people to read and share their enthusiasm for literature (see their FAQ section: link to their website). So in 2017, they started to invite alternative initiatives to share the pleasures of reading.

The German “Women in Publishing” (BücherFrauen), for example, selected six books published by independent publishers that haven’t received the attention they deserved so far. In the days following the World Book Day, the Women in Publishing will review and discuss these books: Claudia Breitsprecher: Hinter dem Schein die Wahrheit, Verlag Krug & Schadenberg; Anne Garréta: Sphinx, edition fünf; Veneda Mühlenbrink: Odéona, Paris. Eine Liebe, zwei Buchhändlerinnen und die Welt der Bücherfreunde, Ulrike Helmer Verlag; Vicki Baum: Pariser Platz 13, AvivA Verlag; Susan Hawthorne: Bibliodiversität. Manifest über unabhängiges Publizieren, Verbrecher Verlag; and Sigrid Hofmaier: Ich-Pass für Kinder, Kindermund-Verlag. In this case, there is also a prize draw in the end (7 May) as the six independent publishing houses were kind enough to donate one copy each. You can find out more about this initiative here: link to the BücherFrauen Blog (in German).

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2 comments

  1. I seem to remember that the UK choosing not to celebrate World Book Day on 23rd April like the rest of the civilised world was due to wanting to move the date around to maximise book-selling opportunities (a World Book Day on a Monday is not best for the trade). Subsequently World Book Night in the UK came along and they chose… 23rd April. I know. Daft as only the British can be, and to be honest having two book promotional days so close in the calendar makes no sense. Still, it is this kind of carefully thought through planning process that gives us hope for the future of British civilisation [sic]…

  2. Ahhhh, thank you so much. That explains one thing or the other. Bon courage!

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