Highlighting World Book Capitals for World Book Day: 23 April

Ok. So your next book is…?

The Beginning

Six years after the 1995 launch of the World Book and Copyright Day (23 April) the professional organizations of the book chain had the idea, inspired by the successful experience of the city of Madrid, to nominate the best city programme aimed at promoting books from one “Book Day” and the next.

Following a proposal of Spain, supported by many other countries, the UNESCO General Conference decided, on 2 November 2001, that the Organization would grant its moral and intellectual support to the conception and implementation of this initiative, by inviting the international professional organizations of the book chain to work together for its concretisation.

The first UNESCO World Book Capital designated prior to the adoption of 31 C/Resolution 29 was Madrid (Spain) in 2001.

Who next?

An agreement was concluded, among the partners, that the next capitals would be Alexandria in 2002 and New Delhi in 2003. Then, following public calls for candidatures, the Advisory Committee successively nominated the cities of :

Antwerp (Belgium) for 2004 | Montreal (Canada) for 2005 | Turin (Italy) for 2006 | Bogota (Colombia) for 2007 | Amsterdam (The Netherlands) for 2008 | Beirut (Lebanon) for 2009 |Ljubljana (Slovenia) for 2010 | Buenos Aires (Argentina) for 2011 | Yerevan (Armenia) for 2012) | Bangkok (Thailand) for 2013 | Port Harcourt (Nigeria) in 2014 | Incheon (Republic of Korea) in 2015 | Wroclaw (Poland) in 2016 | Conakry (Republic of Guinea) in 2017 | Athens (Greece) in 2018 | Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) in 2019 | Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) in 2020

2021 and beyond

This year’s World book capital is: Tbilisi (Georgia) in 2021 and will be followed next year by: Guadalajara (Mexico) in 2022.

Tbilisi named World Book Capital 2021

The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, named Tbilisi (Georgia) World Book Capital for the year 2021, based on the recommendation of the World Book Capital Advisory Committee, which met in Switzerland in June, 2019.

Around the slogan Ok. So your next book is…? the programme focuses on the use of modern technologies as powerful tools for the promotion of reading among young people.

The programme comprises several important, large-scale and sustainable activities involving libraries and a book festival for children, a state-of-the-art digital project for transforming books into games, and the rebuilding of the first Georgian publishing house.

Specifically designed for children, youngsters and readers who have limited access to books, the programme of activities will be driven by innovation. The city’s principal objective is to popularize reading and increase accessibility to books throughout society.

The year of celebrations will start on 23 April 2021, on the World Book and Copyright Day.

What is a World Book Capital?

Designated UNESCO World Book Capital cities undertake to carry out activities:

“with the aim of encouraging a culture of reading and diffusing its values in all ages and population groups in and out of the national borders”


Through the World Book Capital programme, UNESCO acknowledges the cities commitment for promoting books and fostering reading during a 12 months period between one World Book and Copyright Day and the next (23 April).

The Advisory Committee

This is made up of one representative of the International Authors Forum (IAF), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the International Publishers Association (IPA) and one UNESCO representative is in charge for the examination and selection of the applications files. A special effort is made to involve all regions of the world in turn, in conformity with the principle of geographic balance, and following different quality criteria. The nominating committee meets once every year.

After both internal and external consultations with the Advisory Committee members it is the Director-General of UNESCO who is responsible for the designation of the cities.

The nomination does not imply for UNESCO any financial prize, but conquering the title of World Book Capital City represents an important symbolic acknowledgement, also effective, for the winner city, in terms of communication and promotion.

Call for Applications 2023

The application form

Nomination criteria

The Advisory Committee examines the candidate programmes in accordance with the following criteria:

  • the submission of an activity programme specifically conceived for the World Book Capital City programme and implemented during the city’s term as Capital City at the longer term benefits for partners and society of this activity programme;
  • a general outline of expenses planned and a strategy to identify possible financial resources;
  • the degree of municipal, regional, national and international involvement, including professional and non-government organizations, and the impact of the programmes;
  • the quantity and quality of one-time or ongoing activities organized by the applicant city in collaboration with national and international professional organizations representing writers, publishers, booksellers and librarians and in full respect of the various players in the book supply chain and in the scientific and literary community;
  • the quantity and quality of any other noteworthy projects promoting and fostering books and reading;
  • the conformity with the principles of freedom of expression, freedom to publish and to distribute information, as stated in the UNESCO Constitution as well as by Articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by the Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials (Florence Agreement).

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