Do You Remember Your First Book?

On this #WorldBookDay, over 100 countries, including South Africa, will be celebrating reading and its power to link the past and the future by building bridges between generations and across cultures.

We may live in a digital age, but many will still recall the early days of computing when the pundits said that books would become obsolete. However, what these prophets should have considered is that the first book printed with moveable type - the Gutenberg Bible –was published in 1455 and that books are still being published today. This longevity will never be matched by computer programs which change constantly, are ‘improved’, and then abandoned.

World Book Day - celebrated today, 23 April - is significant as it focuses our attention on a ‘media’ that has entertained, educated and triggered intellectual thought for more than 500 years. Books are magical and add something to our lives, a characteristic that is embodied in fantasy writer George R. R. Martin’ s quote that says: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."

It is right then that we pause on 23 April and celebrate the marvellous fiction and facts contained within books. While we pause, we can also wonder at the ‘world records' that the printed words and books have created. They include:

  • The fact that there are more than 129 million books in existence. Ironically, this fact was recorded by Google who said that in 2010 there were 129 860 880 books in circulation in 2010.  It’s anybody’s guess what that number has grown to today.
  • The most expensive book ever purchased was sold for $30.8 million. It was the Codex Leicester by Leonardo Da Vinci.
  • The author who penned the longest sentence in the world is Victor Hugo, who wrote the sentence of 823 words in Les Misérables. 
  • ‘Bibliomania' is the word that describes the smell of old books.
  • The three most read books in the world are The Holy Bible, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, and Harry Potter

All fascinating, but the reality is that despite all the books in existence it is estimated that globally one in five adults are still illiterate. The highest incidences of illiteracy are found in South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Illiteracy is a problem that shouldn’t exist and is one of the reasons why MiWay Insurance has dedicated itself to encouraging literacy in South Africa by upgrading the library facilities and providing books to one of the schools it supports to ensure that learners have a great space to immerse themselves in great books.

We believe that these initiatives are fitting ways to celebrate World Book Day. What will you be doing to celebrate this day?

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