What is up with World Book Day Limited?

World Book Day Limited is a registered charity in the UK (charity no. 1079257)

According to the Charity Commission, the object of the Charity is to advance the education of the public, particularly by assisting in the promotion of reading among children and young people. The Charity will particularly promote World Book Day, which shall comprise a series of events each year, or any other such event, the purpose of which is to promote and encourage reading among children and young people
[source: http://beta.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-details?regid=1079257&subid=0]

Indeed WBD Ltd claims that: World Book Day is a celebration! It’s a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.
[source: http://www.worldbookday.com/about/]

Over the years I have been a massive fan and supporter of the work undertaken by WBD, giving all children and young people the opportunity to own a book they can choose themselves. I was disappointed in the lack of writers of BAME heritage for the 20th anniversary this year but the selection of titles was accessible for readers from toddlers to teens with a range of genres to appeal to most tastes.

The 2018 list by comparison is sadly lacking; the preponderance of celebrity authors on the list has attracted criticism from authors, librarians and other observers. The abundance of humour texts comes at the expense of other genres and there is only one non-fiction title. Add to this the complete lack of YA titles and, despite protestations from WBD Ltd that “news about the YA list would be made public in coming weeks”, we have heard and seen nothing.
[source: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/oct/02/childrens-authors-slam-celebrity-heavy-world-book-day-lineup]

One may argue that children and young people are still able choose one of the WBD Ltd Books with their book token, and, if none of the books take their fancy they can put the token towards purchasing a full-price book of their choice. This argument is specious as it excludes children from families living in poverty and teens who, as they currently have nothing to choose from, may be forced to look towards the shelves of full-priced books. Many young readers are not able to afford a full-price title, even one with a £1 book token discount.

There were 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2014-15. That’s 28 per cent of children, or 9 in a classroom of 30. [source: http://www.cpag.org.uk/child-poverty-facts-and-figures] and this number is projected to rise by 2020 [same source]

Returning to the claim that World Book Day is a celebration of authors, illustrators, books… and reading, an interview from 2014 that the American Booksellers Association held with Tim Godfray of the Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland makes for interesting reading.

One of the questions:

BTW: What are some of the marketing or advertising activities underway in the U.K. to promote bricks-and-mortar bookstores to consumers? How successful has the Books Are My Bag campaign been?

Garnered an interesting answer (excerpted from the full answer)

TG: …One of our biggest promotions is World Book Day. One of our companies in the BA group prints 14 million special World Book Day book tokens. These are given to children through their schools and then the children take these World Book Day book tokens into the shops around World Book Day and they can exchange the token either for a free paperback book, which has been produced especially for the promotion by the publishers, or they can get a pound off virtually any purchase in the shop. It’s more powerful than just seeing an advertisement on a magazine page: it actually encourages children with their parents to go physically into a bookshop. World Book Day has been for us a really, really significant success.
[source: http://www.bookweb.org/news/qa-tim-godfray-booksellers-association-uk-and-ireland]

So rather than a celebration as claimed, it is quite blatant that Booksellers are using World Book Day as a marketing ploy to get people into bookshops (anyone that has innocently asked if it is possible for bookstores to come into schools on the day with a selection of WBD Ltd Books will already know this of course).

Now I have no problem with booksellers trying to stem the destruction caused by the rampant growth of online retailers, but the organisers of World Book Day Ltd. need to make a decision:

  • either they admit that they are merely a marketing tool for increasing sales in bookshops and are putting their focus on young readers who have parents/carers that will bring them to bookshops to get a WBD Ltd book or spend more on another book of choice

  • they step up to the plate as an organisation dedicated to celebrating authors, illustrators and reading for all children. If they are for all children they need to show this by including a choice of titles for older readers or a firm date when they will announce this. If this is not possible, they have to let observers know that something went wrong and no YA titles were ordered and that they will do better next year.
    Failure to do this and the current silence in the face of growing questions is damaging the WBD brand.

    You can view the mostly amazing lists of books published in support of World book Day from 2012 to 2018 courtesy of the Internet Archive here:

  • WBD Ltd 2012 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20120623005928/http://www.worldbookday.com:80/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2013 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20131005203804/http://www.worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2014 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20140626054427/http://www.worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2015 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20150817194141/http://worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2016 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20160304062712/http://www.worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2017 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20170308225854/http://www.worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2018 Books:
  • One Thought on “What is up with World Book Day Limited?

    1. Jane Morris on November 9, 2017 at 3:18 pm said:

      well said Matt – your points are very pertinent in our school community which has the lowest socio-economic rating in the whole borough; where there is little spare money for books and also little parental support for visiting bookshops or libraries. We are definitely noticing a drop in reading for pleasure among our young adult students, which will be exacerbated by the lack of YA WBD titles this year.

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