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Massive book giveaways for the U.K.'s World Book Day and Night

February 25, 2011 |  8:07 am

Gabrielgarciamarquez_havana
A lineup of literary stars that includes two Nobel Prize winners will participate in World Book Night, a celebration for adults after World Book Day in the U.K. Together, the two events -- which actually take place on two different days -- are expected to give away a million free books.

An audience of 10,000 is expected to show up at Trafalgar Square in London on March 5 for World Book Night. The authors who will read include Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison (the Nobel Prize winners), John le Carre, Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, Philip Pullman, Derek Walcott, Sarah Waters, Yann Martel, Seamus Heaney, Mark Haddon and Lee Child.

But a celebration and reading are only part of the whole massive enterprise. About 20,000 volunteers signed up to give away 48 books each, selected from a list of 25. Those books have been shipped to distribution centers, and soon they'll be in the hands of those who are giving them away.

That's on top of World Book Day, which is focused on students in school. In the U.K., World Book Day will take place March 3 this year (elsewhere internationally, it's on April 23). Launched in 1998, World Book Day gives children tokens redeemable for a specially printed free book at booksellers across the country. Six hundred thousand books are ready to go.

In all, organizers say a million books will be given away for free on March 3 and March 5.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Havana in 2006. Credit: Baltazar Mesa /AFP/Getty Images

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