The Greek capital was chosen on the recommendation of an advisory committee, comprising representatives of the IPA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and UNESCO, based on the “outstanding quality” of its programme of activities for the book trade in Greece.
Every year, the city named World Book Capital commits to promote books and reading and to implement a programme of activities for one year, starting on World Book and Copyright Day, on 23rd April. The purpose of 2018’s initiative is to make books and reading accessible to the whole population, including to migrants and refugees.
Athens’ “proven expertise in organising international events” was also a factor, alongside its “cultural infrastructure”, in selection. During its tenure as World Book Capital it will organise meetings with authors, translators and illustrators, as well as concerts, themed exhibitions, poetry readings and workshops for publishing professionals.
IPA president Richard Charkin said: “Ever since my predecessor, Pere Vicens, proposed the idea for World Book Capital in 1996, it has been about celebrating and promoting literacy and reading culture. Our warmest congratulations go to Athens, which put in a fantastic bid this year. This ancient city naturally corresponds with the values of the World Book Capital initiative, and I am sure will deliver an outstanding programme in 2018.”
The European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) pulled out of its role on the committee in June, after 13 years supporting WBC, due to concerns for freedom of speech when Chinese city Shenzhen and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates were put forward as potential winners. EIBF’s director, Françoise Dubruille, said at the time: “For EIBF, the absence of freedom of expression is ipso facto an eliminatory criterion in any WBC application and there is no need to refer to any other form of assessment.”
Athens is the 18th city to be named World Book Capital, after Madrid (2001); Alexandria (2002); New Delhi (2003); Antwerp (2004); Montreal (2005); Turin (2006); Bogota (2007); Amsterdam (2008); Beirut (2009); Ljubljana (2010); Buenos Aires (2011); Yerevan (2012); Bangkok (2013); Port Harcourt (2014); Incheon (2015); Wroclaw (2016); and Conakry (2017).