On 23 April, the world celebrates books, in the words of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), as “one of the most beautiful inventions for sharing ideas and embodying an effective instrument to fight poverty and build sustainable peace.” Now, more than ever.

And one might ask, why so much fuss for an object that is apparently so simple? The famous German writer, poet and novelist, Nobel Prize Literature laureate in 1946, Hermann Hesse, gives us a clue in one of his lesser-known essays, called “The Magic of the Book”:

“Among the many worlds which man did not receive as a gift of nature, but which he created with his own spirit, the world of books is the greatest. Every child, scrawling his first letters on his slate and attempting to read for the first time, in so doing, enters an artificial and most complicated world: to know the laws and rules of this world completely and to practice them perfectly, no single human life is long enough. Without words, without writing, and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.”

Copyright, which is the legal framework that precisely allows the book ecosystem to flourish, is also celebrated. Thanks to Copyright, thousands of authors and publishers around the world can invest time and money in publishing works that enrich society, with the certainty that their efforts will be rewarded.

The celebration goes back to ‘La Diada de Sant Jordi’, or the Festival of St George, which is Catalunya’s version of Valentine’s Day, when people give each other red roses—but also books. This one-day festival, held every year on the 23rd of April, is inspired by the legend of Saint George, who has been the patron Saint of Catalunya since 1456.

The 23rd of April 1996 was a special day in Barcelona. The 25th International Publishers Congress, which marked the 100th anniversary of the IPA, was being held in the city, with the attendance of almost a thousand publishers and accompanying guests from 47 different countries. It was on that day that World Book and Copyright Day was celebrated for the first time.

In November 1995, Federico Mayor—a Spanish scientist, scholar, politician, diplomat and poet who served as Director-General of UNESCO from 1987 to 1999—had sent a letter to Pere Vicens, president of the Spanish Publishers Association (La Federación de Gremios de Editores de España), informing him that UNESCO had unanimously decided to declare the 23rd of April as ‘World Book and Copyright Day’.

The date was chosen because on the 23rd of April 1616, three great writers of their time had passed away: Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Mayor makes it clear in his letter to Vicens that, although this timely initiative was suggested by the Spanish government, its paternity can be attributed to publishers.

Just as Barcelona hosted the International Publishers Congress in 1996, this year the Mexican Publishers Association will be the proud host of this major event, in which hundreds of publishers from all over the world meet to talk about common problems and opportunities, as well as to propose innovative solutions for the future. The congress will take place at the Santander Performing Arts Complex, from December 3 to 6, during the Guadalajara International Book Fair.

The congress theme is “Turning Pages: Publishing and the Future Society”. It will be a unique opportunity to meet with colleagues from all over the world, to discuss the threats to Copyright, the limitations to our freedom to publish, our role in a more sustainable world, and so many other topics of interest.

Some of our keynote speakers will be United Nation’s Undersecretary General Melissa Fleming, Mexican eminent historian, writer and publisher Enrique Krauze, and Ukrainian Noble Peace Price Laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk.

You can find all the info on this meaningful event here.

As to World Book Day, UNESCO tells us the following: ‘Through reading and celebrating World Book and Copyright Day, on April 23, we can open up to others despite the distance, and travel thanks to the imagination. This day pays homage to books and authors and promotes access to reading for as many people as possible.’


Based on the book “The Fifth Quarter Century: The International Publishers Association 1996-2021”, available under the Conecta imprint on all major e-book platforms and on IPA’s website.