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World Book and Copyright Day
23 April

Message from UNESCO's Director-General

The history of the written word is the history of humanity.

The power of books to advance individual fulfilment and to create social change is unequalled. Intimate and yet deeply social, books provide far-reaching forms of dialogue between individuals, within communities and across time.

As Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for attending classes, said in her speech at the United Nations:

Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.

On World Book and Copyright Day, UNESCO invites all women and men to rally around books and all those who write and produce books. This is a day to celebrate books as the embodiment of human creativity and the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding and tolerance.

Books are not immune from a world of change, embodied in the advent of digital formats and the transition to open licensing for knowledge-sharing. This means more uncertainty but also new opportunity -- including for innovative business models in the world of publishing. Change is raising sharp questions about the definition of the book and the meaning of authorship in the digital era. UNESCO is leading from the front in the new debates about the dematerialization of books and the rights of authors.

By championing copyright and open access, UNESCO stands up for creativity, diversity and equal access to knowledge. We work across the board – from the Creative Cities of Literature network to promoting literacy and mobile learning and advancing Open Access to scientific knowledge and educational resources. For instance, in partnership with Nokia and Worldreader, UNESCO is striving to harness mobile technology to support literacy. To this end, on 23 April, we will release two new publications -- Reading in the Mobile Era.

In the same spirit, Port Harcourt in Nigeria has been named as the 2014 World Book Capital, on account of the quality of its programme, in particular its focus on youth and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria’s culture of books, reading, writing and publishing to improve literacy rates. Taking effect on World Book and Copyright Day, this initiative is supported by UNESCO, along with the International Publishers Association, the International Booksellers Federation and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

In all of this, our goal is clear – to encourage authors and artists and to ensure that more women and men benefit from literacy and accessible formats, because books are our most powerful forces of poverty eradication and peace building.

Irina Bokova

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