World Book Night was first celebrated in the UK and Ireland in 2011 on March 5. In 2012 it was moved to April 23, the international day of the book, and was also celebrated in the USA and Germany.
World Book Night was the idea of Jamie Byng, MD of Canongate, an award winning independent publisher. It came out of a round table discussion at the Book Industry Conference in May 2010, the purpose of which was, quite simply, to imagine a way to encourage more adults to read. The chair of the discussion was Julia Kingsford, who went on to be World Book Night's Chief Executive until 2013, and one of the participants was Ursula Mackenzie, Little, Brown CEO, who became a trustee.
The name derived from the fact that, in the UK and Ireland, there is a very well established and successful children’s reading celebration called World Book Day. So as day is for children, then night is for adults and night is also when we traditionally think about celebrations! As for the idea itself, what better way to spread a love for reading than to inspire passionate readers to go out into their communities and share copies of their favourite books with those who don’t regularly read? Giving is an incredibly powerful part of our culture – and culture, art and a writers’ talent are all themselves ‘gifts’.
Between May and September 2010 the idea was developed, finessed and given the green light from all stakeholders. Then, at break neck speed it was planned and launched in just six months culminating with 24 hours of the most incredible celebration of reading the country had ever seen with a flagship even in Trafalgar Square attended by 8000 people to hundreds of events around the country and the giving of a million books.
In 2012 and 2013 World Book Night was celebrated in the USA as well as the UK and Ireland and almost 50,000 people gave a million books away in three different countries.
In late 2013 World Book Night became part of The Reading Agency and is now run as a Reading Agency programme.