The UK’s World Book Day, March 6th this year, has seen promotions, participations by organizations, related articles including travel tips, and events across Britain. According to the World Book Day site, the event is “the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.” World Book Day is generally celebrated worldwide on April 23rd; however, in the UK, it takes place on March 6th
The key offering marking the event in the UK is the World Book Day £1 Book Tokens offer courtesy of National Book Tokens Ltd., through which World Book Day sends: “millions of book vouchers to children and young people (more than 14 million, in fact: that’s one for nearly every child aged under eighteen in the country). Then…They can take their voucher to a local bookseller and can use it to pick one of EIGHT (exclusive, new and completely free) books. Or, if they’d rather, they can use it to get £1 [$1.67] off any book or audio book costing over £2.99 [$5.00] at a participating bookshop or book club.” The list of the eight books is here. However,there appear to be no ebooks in the UK World Book Day promotions.
It’s worth noting, though, that World Book Day is celebrated internationally as World Book and Copyright Day. The official UNESCO introduction states: “By celebrating this Day throughout the world, UNESCO seeks to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright.” UNESCO in fact chose World Book Day 2010 to announce its World Anti-Piracy Observatory (WAPO).
I’m not sure whether World Book Day began in 1986 with the “and Copyright” wording already in place, but I suspect it didn’t. I haven’t yet found any definite information on how heavy an influence the copyright lobby has had on World Book Day, but I would welcome feedback on this. Certainly, some critics have used exactly this point to protest that UNESCO is in fact “Supporting Locking Up Information.” And it would be a pity if such a good cause as the promotion of children’s literacy and reading habits was yoked to the copyright lobby’s wagon.