World Book Night is an annual celebration of reading for pleasure, and the fun of passing on a book to someone in your community. Each year, 30-35 books are chosen by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers for distribution on the evening of April 23rd. The authors waive their royalties and the publishers cover the cost of producing a special edition of the selections.
In the week leading up to the big night, thousands of volunteer “givers” that signed up through WorldBookNight.org pick up 20 copies of the year’s books from a local library or bookstore. On the 23rd, the givers personally distribute them to people who don’t normally have access to printed books, due to either means or geography.
The US adapted this tradition from the UK and Ireland, where World Book Day is celebrated by giving books to children. The UK and Ireland, in turn, inherited the tradition from the Catalan region in Spain, where the life and work of Miguel de Cervantes is commemorated on April 23rd, and celebrants give a book and a flower to a loved one. April 23rd is also Shakespeare’s birthday, and UNESCO has named April 23rd International Day of the Book.
According to the World Book Night organizers, they wanted to focus on adult literacy and a life-long love of reading since many programs in the US already provide books to young children.
That means no children’s books are included in World Book Night selections, but this year two activists independently distributed the celebrated (and often-banned) YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie to Meridian, Idaho. Their online fundraising campaign to purchase and distribute 350 copies was a response to the recent banning of the novel from Meridian public schools’ 10th grade supplemental reading lists. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, the publisher of Absolutely True Diary, was moved by the effort to donate an additional 350 copies.
This year also saw the debut of eworldbooknight.org, where anyone can download a free ebook of original stories written by bestselling authors, librarians and authors about their adventures celebrating and organizing World Book Night. All you need to get the ebook is a social media account or an email address, and you can read it in your web browser or download a PDF or EPUB file.
A host of World Book Night author appearances and other events at libraries and stores across the country are scheduled each year, so sign up for the World Book Night newsletter to find out what will be coming to your area, and to find out how to be a book-giver in 2015.