Paris, April 4 {No. 97-54} - World Book and Copyright Day - established in 1995 by UNESCO’s General Conference - will be celebrated for the second time this April 23 with events encouraging everyone, particularly young people, to discover the joy of reading.

In choosing April 23 as World Book and Copyright Day, UNESCO drew inspiration from a Catalan tradition. On this day in Catalonia, numerous book fairs and street festivals are held and customers are offered a rose with every book they buy. By celebrating this Day throughout the world, UNESCO seeks to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright.

Books and reading are as important today as ever, according to Milagros del Corral, director of UNESCO’s Division of Creativity, Cultural Industries and Copyright. “Reading means establishing an interactive dialogue with the virtual universe created by the author of a text: a universe of intellectual representations that differ according to the imagination of each reader,” she said.

Ms del Corral - who is also in charge of UNESCO’s Publications - highlighted persistent inequalities in reading: “There are books on all subjects, for all publics and for all times. But we must make sure that books be accessible to everybody everywhere.”

April 23 is a symbolic date in world literature, marking the birth or death of such writers as Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare and the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Through its National Commissions and network of associated schools and libraries, UNESCO is encouraging all its Member States to celebrate this day through events ranging from book fairs to discounts or donations to hospitals, prison libraries, etc.

April 23 events are already planned in Australia, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Puerto Rico, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

In Spain, a comic book, “Copy’s Adventures,” will be published for this occasion in order to raise awareness about copyright among students and young people. In Mozambique, 15 paintings by local artists will be sold at a charity auction to raise funds for youth rehabilitation projects through books and sports. Participants also will be invited to donate new and used books to a stock of five mini-libraries. In Sweden, the association of publishers is donating 35,000 books to schools, which will be delivered free of charge by the Post on April 23. In Cuba, UNESCO’s Regional Office for Culture will inaugurate a UNESCO Cultural Library at the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, an 18th century building in the historic centre of Havana.

The 1952 Universal Copyright Convention - adopted at a UNESCO-organised conference held in Geneva - introduced the universal copyright symbol Ó. UNESCO publications include the quarterly Copyright Bulletin, published in six languages, which regularly informs readers in this field.

UNESCO multi-lingual catalogue of publications boasts over 2,000 titles, including six specialised quarterlies (Museum International, International Social Science Journal, Nature and Resources, Copyright Bulletin, and World Heritage Review), one monthly (UNESCO Courrier) and has begun producing scientific and cultural CD-ROMs, of which about 20 have been issued to date.

Since 1948, UNESCO has carried out an ambitious programme to translate and publish more than 1,000 representative works from the widest range of cultures. It is also backing regional co-publication programmes in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, with an emphasis on books for children, women and those who have only recently acquired reading skills. To further promote universal access to reading, UNESCO initiated the Periolibros project, a literary supplement - published by 24 Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese newspapers over the past four years - which has allowed a wide public to discover great works of literature. A similar experiment will soon be undertaken in Arabic. In addition, UNESCO awards a biennial Prize for Children’s and Young People’s Literature in the Service of Tolerance, and lends its support to projects and campaigns in Member States like the Reading for All campaign in Africa.

The 1996 edition of UNESCO’s Statistical Yearbook offers data on books and publishing which highlight persistent inequalities in this domain. It points to wide gaps between countries in the same region and between continents. For example, 21 titles were published in 1994 in Gambia compared to 3,108 in Egypt (1993 data); 51,863 in the USA and 21,574 in Brazil as against 11 in Ecuador; 100,951 in China versus 11,460 in India; as well as 30,390 in the Russian Federation and 70,643 in Germany. Another UNESCO publication, the Index Translationum, includes a “hit parade” of the world’s most translated authors for 1985-1995. Agatha Christie tops Walt Disney, the Bible, Lenin, Jules Vernes, Barbara Cartland, Enid Blyton, Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, William Shakespeare, Isaac Asimov, Georges Simenon, Alexandre Dumas (the elder), Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle.