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By Karla de Bod

World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day, aims to promote reading, publishing and copyrighting amongst individuals. The day links together the past and the future, people across different generations and cultures, and lovers of ­different genres. 

Each year, World Book Day is celebrated on 23 April to commemorate the anniversary of several prominent authors’ deaths, including William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. This annual event, which was started in 1995, is organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation ­(UNESCO) along with ­international organisations representing the three major sectors of the industry—­publishers, booksellers and libraries—to create a platform to bring people across the globe together through the world of words.

“There is always something new to experience and to learn from a book, no matter what age you are,” said ­Amanda van Rhyn, the ­national ­marketing and publicity ­manager of ­Penguin Random House ­Publishers. ­

“Days like World Book Day provide a platform to further nurture this passion for ­reading and expose young readers to various genres and broaden their minds.”

In celebration of the upcoming World Book Day, Die Matie spoke to a representative of the book ­industry based in Stellenbosch: the quaint and colourful bookstore, Stellenbosch Books.

WORLD OF WORDS World Book Day has been celebrated ­annually since 1995 as a platform for connecting people from around the world through the world of words. Photo: Karla de Bod

Located on Andringa Street, ­S­tellenbosch Books is an independent bookstore whose curation aims to have customers linger a little longer. With reference to World Book Day aiming to promote a ­lifelong love of literature and ­integration into the world of work, Sarah Emery, manager of ­Stellenbosch Books, believes that reading and copyrighting are ­integral parts of life and any ­vocation.

“If one sees reading and the celebration of literature as a positive thing and not a chore, then it immediately brings a sense of peace,” said Emery. 

“Reading and copy[righting] [are] integral part[s] of life and any vocation, so reading for pleasure encourages this positive association and makes the day-to-day tasks associated with work more bearable.”

During the pandemic, indivi­duals had to find ways to keep themselves busy whilst they were isolated in order to stimulate their minds and restore their ­creativity—this is where books came in. “Imagination is paramount to happiness, in my opinion, and it brings colour to a world that can sometimes be dull,” said Emery. 

“If one is not actively participating in their life and stimulating their mind, then it is impossible to find joy in the day-to-day, ­especially during the pandemic.”

In preparation for this year’s World Book Day, UNESCO encourages individuals to challenge themselves by exploring new topics and genres outside of their ordinary selection. According to Emery, this correlates with the stimulation provided by reading, as it expands readers’ minds to new points of views, which, she believes, prevents them from “­becoming one-dimensional”.

With reference to our ever-expanding digital world, Emery believes that the power of print will not easily or soon be pushed aside. “I think that we will always have the written word. There is something very powerful about putting pen to paper, and I see tangible books sales still surpassing their electronic counterparts globally,” stated Emery.

Van Rhyn seems to agree with Emery and believes that printed books will never become irrelevant, as the printed book is something that will always be with us. “A printed book has that physical appeal—a beauti­ful cover, the smell of a new book, the texture of the paper [and] the author’s signature in front (if you’re lucky enough to get it),” Van Rhyn stated. 

“People will always want ­stories and knowledge, and my hope is that they find it in the printed book, which is also beautiful to put on their shelves and which they can share with other book-lovers so that future generations can share and ­engage with them too.”

This year, on 23 April, Van Rhyn and the team at Penguin ­Random House Publishers will be celebrating World Book Day by telling readers about their latest ­unputdownable books, whilst Emery will be celebrating the day by working at the beloved bookstore and returning home afterwards for “a cuppa and a good fiction read”.

By celebrating books and ­copyright across the globe, World Book Day stands up for creativity, diversity and equal access to knowledge, and ­invites book-­lovers to join in on celebrating the world of words hidden between the pages.

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