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Diversity of books treasure trove to cherish

By LI YANG | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-24 07:26


Tuesday was this year's World Book and Copyright Day. The day is observed worldwide to promote reading, publishing and copyright protection since the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization initiated it on April 23, 1995.

April 23 is a symbolic date in world literature. It is the date on which several prominent authors died.

Despite the impact of digital technologies on reading, the importance of books — a link between the past and the future and a bridge between generations and across cultures — still prevails over time and space.

China's retail market for books showed a recovery trend in 2023, with a size of 91.2 billion yuan ($12.59 billion), a year-on-year increase of 4.72 percent.

Technology is having a big influence on not only people's reading habits but also the book industry.

For instance, short video livestreaming platforms and social media networking have become the second-largest book sales channel in China last year after large-scale B-2-C e-commerce platforms. Relevant publishing companies are paying more attention to promoting sales on these fast-growing retail channels, which registered year-on-year growth of 70.1 percent in book sales last year.

The advancement of technology does not conflict with books being a treasure trove of knowledge and an essential part of people's spiritual world. As Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, said in her message to mark the day this year, "Books, in all their forms, allow us to learn and to keep ourselves informed. They also entertain us and help us to understand the world, while offering a window into otherness."

Notably, her stress on "the linguistic diversity of our world" reflected by books is a timely reminder of not only the impacts of technological progress on books and reading activities but also a worrying trend that has become more prominent in the digital age that "the majority of works are published in just a handful of languages" as digital technology is promoting linguistic homogenization.

That is why, as part of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, launched in 2022, UNESCO is actively supporting the publication of books in both indigenous and regional languages. As such, the World Book and Copyright Day should also be an occasion for countries to cherish and protect linguistic and cultural diversity through promoting the publishing of relevant books, and raise public awareness on that.

As Azoulay noted, "every written language brings with it a particular worldview, with its symbols and its values". Books published in different languages help preserve that invaluable cultural diversity, a foundation for mutual learning and respect and a cradle for innovation and creation.


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