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Languages the focus of annual UN World Book and Copyright Day

Languages the focus of annual UN World Book and Copyright Day

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Bookshops, libraries, schools, publishers, authors’ societies and cultural institutions in more than 100 countries are holding events today to mark the annual World Book and Copyright Day, designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate the enduring value of the written word.

Bookshops, libraries, schools, publishers, authors’ societies and cultural institutions in more than 100 countries are holding events today to mark the annual World Book and Copyright Day, designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate the enduring value of the written word.

This year’s Day focuses on the linguistic aspect of publishing, a theme that coincides with 2008 being proclaimed by the General Assembly as the International Year of Languages.

In a message to mark the Day, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura warned that “when a language has no access to the world of publishing, it is excluded – together with those who speak it – from a significant part of the intellectual life and economic activity of society.”

Mr. Matsuura added that “in this context, it is then a matter of urgency to give languages broader access to publishing, so as to promote the exchange of books and editorial content.”

Today, Amsterdam succeeds Bogotá as World Book Capital City, a designation introduced by UNESCO in 2001 to promote books. The Dutch city is planning to hold many events over the next 12 months to celebrate literature.

The title-holder is chosen by representatives of UNESCO, the International Publishers Association, the International Booksellers Federation and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, and previous recipients include Madrid, Alexandria, New Delhi, Antwerp, Montreal and Bogotá.

Beirut has been selected to succeed Amsterdam in 2009 and the nominations for 2010 – a decision will be made in June – are Guadalajara, Lisbon, Ljubljana, Riga, Saint Petersburg, Vienna and Wellington.

UNESCO chose 23 April for World Book and Copyright Day because it is the day in 1616 when the United Kingdom’s William Shakespeare, Spain’s Miguel de Cervantes and Peru’s “El Inca” Garcilaso de la Vega all died. The prominent writers Vladimir Nabokov, Halldor Laxness, Josep Pla, Maurice Druon and Manuel Mejía Vallejo were also either born or died on this day.