World Book Day Messages: Appeals for the International Industry

In News by Porter Anderson

International publishing organizations are calling on this unique World Book and Copyright Day for support urgently needed by the books business—in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

Image – iStockphoto: In4mal

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

FEP Predicts a 25-Percent Loss of Revenue
Much of the World Book and Copyright Day messaging of the past 25 years since UNESCO approved the observance has been given to reveries about the charms of reading—especially with your children.

A UNESCO proclamation approved at the agency’s Paris general conference created World Book and Copyright Day in 1995, choosing today’s date, April 23, as the proclamation’s text reads, “as it was on that date in 1616 that Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega died.” The stated concept: “To promote and disseminate books” with “the organization of events such as book fairs and exhibitions on the same day.”

No book fairs and exhibitions this year.

This year, UNESCO is addressing the coronavirus pandemic with its World Book Day messaging, using both its usual #WorldBookDay hashtag and the far more internationally pervasive #StayAtHome.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the agency’s director-general Audrey Azoulay has led the creation of a #LearningNeverStops coalition in an effort to support the more than 1.5 billion learners of the world, students of all kinds and ages, whose educational settings and curricula—in many cases even their sources of meals—have been disrupted by the emergency.

Image: UNESCO’s 2020 World Book and Copyright Day key artwork

The very first line of the world body’s literature today gets right to it: “More than ever, at a time when most of the schools around the world are closed and people are having to limit their time spent outside, the power of books should be leveraged to combat isolation, reinforce ties between people, expand our horizons, while stimulating our minds and creativity.”

In short, the bookish world has a job to do, one less rhapsodic than the more common years’ “curl up with a good book and a cookie” jargon, and better focused on the economy-crushing crisis of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. At this writing, the world shudders in the grip of this thing, even as many unmasked, selfish, and addled people seem unable to grasp the stark gravity of its threat.

At this writing, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports that 184,372 people have been killed by this thing worldwide. That’s the entire population of Sheffield, England. It’s roughly the number of people who live in Mobile, Alabama, half the population of Malmo, Sweden, the entire citizenry of Reims, France. All of Hitachi, Japan, everyone in Rufisque, Senegal.

On this World Book and Copyright Day 2020 in the UK—that land of Shakespeare with whom the April 23 date is most closely associated—officials attribute 18,151 deaths to the virus, and that’s amid a discussion of whether the Office of National Statistics is properly factoring in people who die of the pathogen outside of hospitals. That number, 18,151, isn’t far from the annual attendance at London Book Fair, this year canceled, of course, because of the emergency. Imagine the one thing we have never encountered at London Book Fair: silence.

“More than ever, at a time when most of the schools around the world are closed and people are having to limit their time spent outside, the power of books should be leveraged to combat isolation, reinforce ties between people, expand our horizons.”UNESCO

What’s rightly reflected in the messaging that’s coming to us from world publishing on this singular World Book and Copyright Day, is that like so many creative industries, book publishing is in trouble. The financial blow to the books industry is and will be profound—lost jobs, wages under unprecedented pressure, depressed revenues, delayed and canceled book releases, rented office and supply-chain facilities imperiled.

Everyone is rightly concerned in particular for booksellers whose precarious state in the best of times is all but unthinkable in a shutdown retail landscape. They and authors are the most vulnerable.

The world’s paramount directive is to save lives, of course, and books are a humanist enterprise, by definition. The publishing industry certainly joins all others in honoring medical professionals and other first responders, some of whom are giving their own lives in the effort to save victims of the virus. And then we the living—we the reading—must work to capture the truth of books’ bracing and critically important intellectual, educational, and entertainment value.

A Joint Statement: IPA, EIBF, IFRRO, IAF, STM

Hong Kong, February 3. Image – iStockphoto: Lewis Tse Pui Lung

The organizations and their leaders issuing this statement for World Book Day 2020 are:

An Industry ‘Already Struggling for Oxygen’

We, the undersigned representatives of the global book industry urge governments all over the world to recognize, support and celebrate the importance of books, learning solutions, and professional and scholarly content by adopting economic stimulus packages to sustain their respective publishing sectors and the value chains that surround them.

Today, on 2020 World Book Day, we acknowledge the vital role that books play in society. Through books we learn, we meet other cultures, we dream. We understand each other. Through books we learn how to empathize. Books are necessary for scientific research, to educate our children and in lifelong learning. Books help us become better human beings.

Books need authors to write and illustrate them, publishers to invest in them, booksellers to get them to readers, and collective management organizations to protect their copyright. This chain, so vital to society, is under imminent threat.

In this time of social distancing, the importance of books has been re-emphasized. Staying at home and reading a book is a way of caring for others. Newspapers and blogs around the world have put together lists of books to read while you are in isolation, whether that be to escape or to understand what is happening. Books are what people turn to in difficult times.

Parents in many countries have had to become educators. Teachers have needed to find new ways of bringing their lessons to pupils. Authors and publishers around the world have responded by licensing their content and digital services. Online book readings like ‘Read The World’ have exploded online, with publishers and authors quick to give parents support. The world is relying on research published in specialist journals to guide its health policies and develop a vaccine. Journal publishers’ investments in the verification of research and its wide communication are crucial here. And they have stepped up, voluntarily making research related to COVID-19 freely available and amenable to reuse.

Whether we are talking about books for a general audience, children’s books, educational resources, or scientific research, authors, publishers, distributors, booksellers and collective management organizations have reacted quickly to adapt where necessary and play a responsible role in society.

The COVID-19 virus is having a disastrous effect on people everywhere. Economies are shutting down and nobody knows for sure when we’ll return to normal, or even if that’s possible. The impact on the world’s creative industries, including the book sector, has been devastating.

In many countries, our industry is already struggling for oxygen. We must find ways to ensure the future for authors, publishers, editors, designers, distributors, booksellers and those who work in collective management, so that the book industry can bounce back once this pandemic is conquered.

A world without new books would be a sad and impoverished place. We are working hard to come through this crisis, but we need help to survive. We need governments to help us get through it together.

Joint Statement: AAP, Authors Guild, ABA

Chicago, Upper Wacker Drive, April 4. Image – iStockphoto: Sandra Koz

In the States, this morning, the leadership of three key associations have provided to Publishing Perspectives a joint World Book and Copyright Day statement they’ll post to Medium from:

‘We Believe in Books’ 

From left, Maria A. Pallante, Mary Rasenberger, and Allison Hill

In honor of World Book Day this April 23, it seems the right time to say this: we believe in books.

George RR Martin wrote it well in his novel A Dance With Dragons, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.”

Great books can do this to a person. Essential to the human experience, books transport us, inform us, and have the power to lift our spirits when we need it most.

But books don’t sell themselves, which is why we also believe in bookstores — and the incredible, knowledgeable, and passionate people who run them.

Sadly, after a decade of recovery and growth that affirmed the importance of reading, writing, and publishing, bookstores are suddenly facing a moment of monumental crisis at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some instances, these beloved institutions, which mean so much to so many communities, face the very real possibility that they will never open their doors again.

We cannot let this happen because we need bookstores now more than ever. As award-winning poet and writer Jen Campbell wrote in her book The Bookshop Book, “Bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places.”

We are therefore asking for your help to save these best of places. Please visit your community bookstores online or find them at Your actions matter and they are waiting for you: a little shopping today will do so much to ensure their futures. You can also make a donation to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation. Everybody wins when bookstores succeed. Thank you for your help and happy reading.

Federation of European Publishers

Brussels, the central train station, April 8. Image – iStockphoto: Erik V

A delegation from the Federation of European Publishers, based in Brussels, met with Mariya Gabriel, the European commissioner on Wednesday (April 22) for innovation, research, culture, education, and youth, and have issued this report. The delegation in the video-conferenced meeting included:

  • Peter Kraus von Cleff, FEP vice-president
  • Piero Attanasio, FEP board member
  • Pierre Dutilleul, CEO French Publishers Association
  • Velizara Dobreva, president of the Bulgarian Publishers Association
  • Veerle de Laet, managing director of Leuven University Press
  • Pedro Sobral, managing director of Leya and a delegate from the Portuguese Publishers Association
  • Catherine Blache, international affairs director, French Publishers Association
  • Dessislava Alexieva, member, Bulgarian Publishers Association
  • Anne Bergman-Tahon, FEP director
  • Enrico Turrin, FEP deputy director

‘Catastrophic Consequences’

The meeting, originally programmed to happen physically in the Berlaymont Building in Brussels, was an ideal opportunity to give the commissioner first-hand information on the impact and likely consequences of the COVID-19 crisis on the book sector, in which current analyses predict at least a 25-percent decrease of annual revenues.

European publishers exchanged thoughts on addressing the crisis, first at EU level with a call to better finance the Creative Europe program (as requested by the parliament) and including increasing the Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility. The commissioner, supported by the parliament, is working on opening up other funding programs such as Horizon Europe, but also on transferring funds from the structural budgets such as the European Fund for Strategic Investments.

Aware that the most urgent support measures will be implemented by the national governments, the publishers asked Ms. Gabriel to encourage member states to help the sector. They presented some of the solutions they are urgently requesting at national level, such as increased buying of books by libraries from booksellers in order to inject liquidity into the entire book value chain; or providing families with book vouchers to spend in bookshops.

Finally, they asked the commissioner to give careful consideration to policies in the field of education and research as well as other policies affecting the publishing sector. The role of publishers is crucial to ensure high quality knowledge dissemination, accurate information and responsible entertainment. For this to continue, urgent support from the EU and the national governments is required, as well as sustainable policies in the field of open access.

The European publishers were impressed by Ms. Gabriel’s commitment and engagement with the sector and the many initiatives she’s working on at the EU and national level.

Closing the meeting, FEP vice-president Peter Kraus vom Cleff thanked the commissioner saying, “The publishing sector is playing its role during this crisis amid the catastrophic consequences for all the stakeholders; authors, publishers, booksellers, and all those associated with the book world such as book fairs and printers.

“We appreciate your support and commitment. We thank you for your efforts and promise to continue working with you to guarantee a future for our sector, which is a chamber of the beating heart of European culture- a future with a diverse offer of quality publications.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on World Book and Copyright Day is here, more on the coronavirus pandemic is here.

Download your free copy of our Spring Magazine hereIn our Spring 2020 Magazine, Publishing Perspectives has interviewed publishers, industry experts, entrepreneurs, and authors to present a look at the book business for the coming year. 

Inside this issue of Publishing Perspectives Magazine, you’ll find articles and resources including coverage from China, Belgium, Russia, the Latin American markets, Norway, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, the international copyright community and world market data sources.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.