April 23 is the anniversary of the death of both Cervantes and Shakespeare in 1616, marked as World Book Day by UNESCO. In 2011, World Book Night was born in the UK and Ireland, with volunteer “givers” handing out books for adults, (kids in those countries get “book tokens” on April 23). Organizers hoped to reach people who might not otherwise pick up a book.
This year World Book Night comes to the U.S. with “tens of thousands” of givers signed up to fan out across their communities handing out twenty copies of a book they love (selected from a list of thirty titles). Authors of these books agreed to give up royalties for the special WBN editions, and a long list of paper and printing companies, book-related professional organizations and publishers collaborated to make the books available free.
In the UK, Ireland, and Germany World Book Night is partnering with BookCrossing so participants can see where the books end up. BookCrossing allows people to label and register a book, “read and release” it for another reader to discover. Typing in the book’s code later will reveal where it went and possibly, who read it.
I’ll be at the reference desk during the festivities, but my husband is handing out one of his favorite books, Stephen King’s The Stand. I look forward to hearing about his experience sharing his love of reading and in particular, this amazing story. I think World Book Night is brilliant, and I hope to be a giver myself in the future.
And World Book Night organizers, if you’re reading this, how about some poetry next year?