Monday musings on Australian literature: World Book and Copyright Day, Australian-style

World Book Day!

World Book Day! (Photo credit: Nimages DR, via Wikipedia, using CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

World Book Day 2012 was more than half over before I realised it existed. That could be my fault of course. I may have had my head so deep in my last blog post and my current book that I missed all the publicity …

Are you aware of World Book Day?  April 23 was established by UNESCO as World Book Day in 1995 to promote reading, publishing and copyright. Why April 23rd*? Because in 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. April 23rd is also the date of birth or death of other authors such as Maurice Druon, Halldor Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo. And, while she may not be in the same class as these luminaries, the Australian creator of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers died on April 23 (in 1996).

Anyhow, upon discovering that today is World Book Day, I hit Google to see what I was missing. Not much it seems. I discovered, for example, that the Department of Education in Western Australia thought that March 1* was World Book Day. Hmm … yes it was, but in the United Kingdom. Several others thought the same. The English, it seems, are doing such a great job of promoting their celebration of World Book Day that they have confused we Antipodeans!

So what is World Book Day all about? Here is a description from UNESCO:

It is observed by millions of people in over 100 countries, in hundreds of voluntary organizations, schools, public bodies, professional groups and private businesses.  … World Book and Copyright Day has won over a considerable number of people from every continent and all cultural backgrounds to the cause of books and copyright. It has enabled them to discover, make the most of and explore in greater depth a multitude of aspects of the publishing world: books as vectors of values and knowledge, and depositories of the intangible heritage; books as windows onto the diversity of cultures and as tools for dialogue; books as sources of material wealth and copyright-protected works of creative artists. All of these aspects have been the subject of numerous awareness-raising and promotional initiatives that have had a genuine impact. There must nevertheless be no let-up in these efforts.

Oh dear … Australia could perhaps lift its game a little.  After some careful searching of the National Year of Reading 2012 website, I finally found a link to the World Book Night (which says that it will be celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Germany and the USA). I found no press releases or reports on World Book Day activities involving our first Children’s Laureates. And Google didn’t turn up anything from booksellers or publishers.

However, my favourite radio station, ABC Radio National, knew it was today … and posted so on Facebook! To commemorate it, they asked their Facebook fans what they were reading and got 12 responses (by early evening, anyhow). And BookTown Australia has a web page on World Book Day. They suggest “that the enthusiastic focus on Book Week later in the year and … the proximity to ANZAC Day (April 25)” are reasons for minimal observance in Australia. They would like this to change:

One aim of BookTown Australia is to give World Book Day a context to be celebrated in Australia and link it to the international community of booktowns. Using World Book Day as the commencement of the One Town – One Book community reading programs is seen as viable means of doing so, especially as the reading program can then culminate in August to coincide with Children’s Book Week. On World Book Day (April 23) in Australia in years to come, any community – village, town suburb or city – can be a “booktown” on that day, simply by declaring its participation in the reading program with the announcement of their chosen book.

This was probably written in 2002 and there’s nothing on the site to suggest that anything significant has eventuated. And yet, the day does seem like a great opportunity to make a bit of a splash – to promote our writers, to encourage reading, to stimulate discussion about copyright and books in the new digital environment.

The theme for the 2012 World Book Day is Books and Translation. At first glance this is not, really, a comfortable fit for we Australian readers who live in an anglo-centric island nation. And yet, it could be an opportunity to draw attention to the diversity in our population and how reading translated literature can help us learn about and understand our non-English speaking compatriots.

I’m afraid I’ve rambled a bit today (more than usual, anyhow!) because I’m a little flummoxed. Does anyone have any experience of World Book Day – in Australia or elsewhere? Are we so over-run with UN-designated World Days and International Years that they’ve just become too much noise?

* Apparently, while most countries keep to the April 23 date, there are some that don’t, including the United Kingdom. This year they celebrated it on March 1. I was intrigued to discover that the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford dedicated their celebration of World Book Day this year to Jane Austen. They had a display, a reception, and two talks, one of which was on a sequel (not PD James’s though)!

16 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: World Book and Copyright Day, Australian-style

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with “being over-run with UN-designated world days…” It sure does get noisy. Having said that, I’ve put the date in my diary and will at least try to do something in my corner of the world next year.

  2. Happy World Book Day! I’ve been hearing so much about it I totally forgot it was Shakespeare’s birthday! I wonder when the copyright bit got added on? Can’t we celebrate books for a day without copyright ballyhoo? Maybe it’s just because I work in a library in the US, but goodness, it seems I can hardly go a day without some copyright wars news piece coming to my attention. Sorry for the rant. I hope you got to spend some quality time celebrating with your books 🙂

    • Ah Copyright. That’s one thing I don’t miss in my old job! Yes, I did really … I finished Julian Barnes’ The sense of an ending which I’ll be writing up soon. For my reading group tonight – which reminds me, I’d better go prepare something thoughtful.

  3. Pingback: Happy Book Day! | « My Spanish Translator

  4. I feel like, every day on Twitter, I’m being told it’s three or four different “World […]” or “International […]” Day! It’s impossible to keep track, it seems…

  5. I I was aware and I actually was a “Book Giver” and had a really great time! I sure didn’t have all the info you included, though. I wish I’d had it!

    My chosen book was Zeitoun by Dave Eggars – a book I read a few years ago and quite enjoyed.

    First I wanted to use Target but they have a policy about no one except from headquarters can be outside their store. (That means only the Salvation Army at Christmas.) Then I tried a sandwich shop downtown but the owner was leery because he didn’t know what was in the book – can’t blame him for that. Then I went over to a local supermarket where I had seen people standing outside passing stuff out before. They said okay but next time check in advance. Okay. (Yes, I learned that one.)

    So at that point I’ve got a spot and found my true huckstering self – WOW! ( I’m even impressed with me!) (lol) I told one guy who was walking away to – “Get back here.” (lol)
    I am pushier than I ever thought I could be but I believe in reading and giving away something like this was a true kick.

    A sample of my script:

    “Are you a reader? No, not too much of one? Then this is for you!” (Show the book.) “Nope – it’s not political or religious. I’m with World Book Night (show button) and we’re promoting reading – that’s all. There’s no cost – it’s free. I don’t even want your name. What’s it about? It’s non-fiction, a true story about a couple who are going to get trapped in New Orleans during Katrina. He has some business properties, rentals and so on, which he wants to stay and protect. She has kids and she wants to protect them. So he stays and she goes. That’s him on the cover going around his neighborhood to see if he can help. So the twist is that he’s Syrian and the police are not accommodating.” (By that time they’re holding the book) “Here’s a bookmark. Enjoy!” And off they go – both of us happy.

    I had a couple serious “no thank you”s, (including the one who was walking away but he was interested until I got to the part about Syrian) but that’s it. I really looked for males (because I just have a feeling that women are more likely to be readers already), but in the end I thnk there were as many women as men. I went at about 11 AM and it only took me about 40 minutes to distribute 20 books. Well… the last one I saved for my ex-boss who worked with me in promoting literacy at a local function, but who is a light (!) reader himself. I took it over to the school and we chatted a bit and I went home. – very happy, satisfied, hoping this happens again next year.

  6. I was aware of it only from reading book bloggers’ posts. I’ve done some Googling and found that Canada isn’t even involved in this event. But maybe next year. So much for a UN event…

  7. Pingback: World Book Day: my mission to read a book from every country « Armida Books

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