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).
- United Nations: World Book and Copyright Day 23 April: www.un.org/en/events/bookday/index.shtml
- Germany – celebrating on 23 April 2017: www.welttag-des-buches.de
- UK – celebrated on 2 March 2017: www.worldbookday.com
- France – doesn’t have anything up for 2017 (or they hid it very well): www.journeedulivre.fr