World Book and Copyright Day

What day is it?

Books are a real universe for dreamers. Some dreamers write about incredible stories and unseen worlds, others immerse themselves in what is written, traveling in space and time without leaving home. Books have a unique ability to both entertain and educate people. They are both a means to explore the innermost corners of our souls and everything beyond our personal experience. To emphasize the importance of books, writers and the copyrights that protect them, UNESCO in 1995 proclaimed World Book and Copyright Daywhich is celebrated annually on April 23.

How did the idea to celebrate World Book and Copyright Day come about?

In the modern sense, books are printed publications, but in ancient times they had a completely different appearance. For the first books, people used tree bark, clay and bronze tablets. Books acquired a more refined appearance in Egypt, when they began to be written on papyrus scrolls.

Later, around the 2nd century BC, people learned to make parchment from animal skins, which turned out to be an excellent material for records. It got its name from the city of Pergamum, whose ruler created a library of two hundred thousand books in the form of parchment scrolls.

In Rome, they learned to sew together sheets of papyrus and parchment, fastening them with wooden covers. Such books were called “codexes” and looked similar to modern ones. Codexes were more convenient to use, they were easier to carry, so they were especially popular with traveling Christian missionaries. By the 6th century, codices had almost completely replaced scrolls.

Books began to be printed in China. The process was carried out manually, with the help of wooden frames, into which clay forms of individual hieroglyphs were inserted. At first, prints were made on silk fabric, and later they began to use paper. One of the first printed books that has survived in its entirety is the Diamond Sutra, dated 868. The Chinese method of printing was borrowed by Japan and Korea, and the Koreans replaced short-lived clay molds with bronze ones.

On the other hand, in medieval Europe, books continued to be copied by hand, and only very wealthy people could purchase them. Printed paper engravings of religious content and playing cards appeared only at the beginning of the 15th century. The real revolution in printing took place in 1450, when Johann Gutenberg used a metal movable type and a printing device. This method made it possible to make 100 prints per hour, which means that it opened up possibilities for book printing. The Bible was the first book printed using the Gutenberg method.

The first printing houses

By the end of the 15th century, printing houses appeared in all European countries, only in Germany there were about three hundred of them. Books became more accessible because they were produced in larger quantities and cost less. In this connection, the number of people who could read increased. A variety of reference books and dictionaries became popular, and among the first printed fiction books were Dante’s Divine Comedy and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.


Before the mass production of books, the concept of copyright almost did not exist, as did the financial remuneration of writers for their works. However, printing and selling books in large quantities meant potential profits for publishers, and therefore for authors.

The origins of modern copyright law belong to Great Britain, where the Statute of Queen Anne was adopted in 1710. According to it, the author had exclusive rights to his work for 14 years, and violators of these rights were punished with a fine. In 1774, the British abolished the perpetual right for publishers, and this meant that after a certain period of time, every literary work became the common property of the public.

On the territory of the Russian Empire, the first legislative articles on writers’ copyright appeared in 1828, later artists, composers and architects acquired rights to their works. In Austria-Hungary, which included the western Ukrainian lands, in 1837 an act was adopted that protected copyright, including the prohibition of reprinting works without the permission of the author and sanctions for violation of the corresponding right. In the Soviet Union, despite its accession to the Universal Copyright Convention, the legal entity in relations with publishing houses was the state, not the authors.

As the day of the rose also became the day of the book

To create World Book and Copyright Day UNESCO was inspired by the Spanish tradition of celebrating the patron saint of Catalonia – Saint George. According to legend, he saved the country from the dragon, to whom people were forced to sacrifice their children, who were chosen every day by lot. On the day when the lot fell on the ruler’s daughter, St. George appeared and killed the monster, and a rose bush grew on the spot where the dragon’s blood was spilled. George plucked one flower and gave it to the rescued girl. Since then, men give flowers to women on St. George’s Day, and another name for this holiday is Rose Day.

In the 1920s, a Catalan bookseller mentioned that St. George’s Day, i.e., April 23, was the anniversary of the death of famous writers Cervantes and Shakespeare. Therefore, the inventive entrepreneur offered to give a book in exchange for a rose on this day, and thus greatly increased his sales. So Rose Day also became Book Day. And since 1995, April 23 began to be celebrated all over the world as the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day.

World Book and Copyright Day in history

  • 1455
    Johann Gutenberg printed the Bible in an edition of 180 copies – 135 on paper and 45 on parchment.
  • 1886
    In Switzerland, with the participation of representatives of seven countries, an international agreement on copyright was concluded – the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
  • 1935
    Paperback books appeared. In this way, the London publishing house Penguin Books Ltd democratized the book market, providing readers with high-quality, but inexpensive books.
  • 1952
    The World Copyright Convention was adopted in Geneva.
  • 1967
    The World Intellectual Property Organization was created. Since 1974, this organization has been entrusted with the functions of a specialized UN agency on intellectual property and creativity.
  • 1995
    For the first time, the book was sold over the Internet, on the Amazon website. It was the book “Flexible Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of Fundamental Thinking Mechanisms.”

Frequent Questions and answers on World Book and Copyright Day

How many books are printed in the world?

According to Google, there are about 130 million books in the world. At the same time, circulation is not taken into account, one book is considered both a multi-million print run of one edition and a single rare copy.

How did the covers of the first printed books differ from the covers of modern editions?

In ancient times, book covers were real works of art. They were often decorated with gold, precious stones, and exquisite drawings, so there was simply no room left for the authors’ names on the covers.

What are the most popular books in the world?

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Bible, the Koran, the Quotations of Mao Zedong, and the Harry Potter series of books are the most in demand.

How many people in today’s world do not know how to read?

Illiteracy is still a huge problem, with one in five adults in the world unable to read and write. The largest number of illiterate people is in the countries of Africa, as well as South and West Asia.

What is copyright?

Copyright gives the owner of a work the ability to prohibit its copying, distribution and sale. This right is usually owned by the author, although it may be sold or otherwise transferred. Works for which copyright does not extend, or whose term of validity has expired, are part of the public domain, that is, they can be used freely by anyone.

How to celebrate World Book and Copyright Day?

Traditionally, on this day, many countries of the world hold various events designed to increase people’s interest in reading. Book fairs are held in cities, book exhibitions are held in literary museums and libraries. Meetings with writers, interesting contests and quizzes are usually organized for schoolchildren and students.

UNESCO together with international organizations of publishing houses and libraries select the world book capital every year. For example, in 2020, it was the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, where, as part of the World Book and Copyright Day, an entire book city was built, an information campaign about reading was held for train passengers, and the accessibility of libraries for the disabled was increased.

To celebrate this holiday, it is enough just to find time to read. You can re-read your favorite book or buy a new one. On this day, a book will be a great gift for children and friends, and the exchange of read books is also an interesting tradition. And on this day, you should also visit the library – by the way, not only to take literature for reading, but also to present your own books that you have already read to the institution. At home, you can arrange a fun party by dressing up in costumes of literary characters and preparing a dish from a famous book for dinner.

Why is this event important?

In today’s Internet world, reading is increasingly taking a back seat. Therefore, such events as World Book and Copyright Day, help restore people’s interest in reading, and most importantly, attract children to this useful habit. It is known that those people who fell in love with reading in childhood do not betray this passion even in adulthood.

A book in a person’s life

  • Books expand vocabulary, and neither television nor the Internet can compare with them in this respect. Reading also promotes literacy, because visual memory stores the correct spelling of words, so people who read a lot have less to learn grammar rules.
  • It is usually easier for a well-read person to communicate, because books form the habit of clearly expressing their thoughts, and also develop erudition, which helps in any situation. On the other hand, a person who does not read anything is unlikely to be an interesting interlocutor.
  • Reading has a positive effect on the psyche, because it relieves stress, distracting us from everyday problems; in addition, it improves memory and thinking processes. Books even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in old age, because the process of reading makes the brain work, preserving its youth for many years.
  • Books help us become wiser because their authors are usually intelligent and experienced people. Books are often able to evoke new ideas, enthusiasm and inspiration to change your life for the better. Financial success also depends on books, because in order to become a high-class specialist in any field, you need to read a lot of specialized literature.

After all, for lovers of reading, this day is associated with silence, peace, home comfort, or with the special atmosphere of the library reading room, so it is a very pleasant activity in itself.

When will we celebrate World Book and Copyright Day?

Year Date Weekday
2021 April 23 Friday
2022 April 23 Saturday
2023 April 23 Sunday
2024 April 23 Tuesday
2025 April 23 Wednesday

World Book and Copyright Day


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