More than 100 countries mark World Book DayParis - Between 1995 and 1999, the number of book titles published increased by 50 percent. Books are alive and doing well.
On April 23, World Book and Copyright Day will be celebrated with public readings, literary competitions, exhibitions, poetry, radio programmes and a range of other activities in libraries, schools, book shops, universities, cultural centres. More than 100 countries will celebrate the day, which has generated increasing interest each year since its adoption by UNESCO's General Conference in 1995
In his message marking the day, UNESCO Director-General Ko´chiro Matsuura says the occasion is "devoted to the promotion of reading and writing, in addition to copyright, which is closely associated, [and] aims to bring out the various aspects of books, be they creative, industrial, standard-setting, political, national and international."
From Ghana to Canada, from Norway to South Africa, these efforts all involve encouraging people to read, boosting book production, fostering the protection of intellectual property and studying the impact of new technologies on the world of books.
World Book Day takes on special meaning this year, the International Year for Cultural Heritage. "The celebration of World Book and Copyright Day in 2002 is an opportunity to consider the major contribution of books to the cultural heritage and thereby spark new initiatives from the fertile interaction between the pages - be it in printed or in electronic form - and the cultural wealth of humanity, both tangible and intangible," said Mr Matsuura.
Books are also a booming business with more than half a million publishing houses throughout the world.* Data gathered by UNESCO's Institute of Statistics from seven countries (Argentina, Canada, Cuba, India, Malaysia, Morocco and the United Kingdom) in the world's major regions, shows the number of titles published each year permillion people increased by an average of 50 percent between 1995 and 1999.
The Institute's data puts Argentina and Cuba well above the average with increases of 70 and 83 percent respectively. Among the developed countries surveyed, the United Kingdom, with 7,471 titles per million in 1998 (the latest figures available), came top of the list, well in front of Canada with 2,947.
Despite this reality, there exists a glaring imbalance and extreme difficulty of access to books in a great many of countries, as UNESCO's Member States regularly reiterate. This justifies the Organization's efforts to promote national policies for books and reading in developing countries and those in transition. A world day, such as April 23, serves to raise public awareness and interest everywhere for books which remain a key instrument of knowledge and freedom.
* From the Berlin-based International Standard Book Number (ISBN) agency, which has 161 Member States.