Fans book a place to meet heroes

IN this age of fast moving media technology when people are increasingly likely to read all their news – and books – on a screen rather than on paper, there’s something rather nostalgic about a day which celebrates the printed written word.

British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough signs copies of his book First Eden at John Menzies Princes Street store in Edinburgh, March 1987.

But this Wednesday will see thousands of children dress as their favourite storybook character as they troop off to school, while authors and illustrators will be corralled into bookshop corners and school libraries to give readings and sign copies of their latest stories, as World Book Day comes around again.

Being a UNESCO literary city, Edinburgh is never short of an author or two. They either live here – JK Rowling, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith to name a few – or they arrive every summer for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. And given the wide range of book stores in town – even if some still mourn the passing of retailer James Thin – there’s always an author on hand to plug their latest tome.

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Of course if the writer is also a celebrity it always helps attract a big crowd. From The Goodies to David Jacobs, Pat Phoenix to George Best, Michael Palin to David Attenborough, the allure of an author with a TV career can’t be beaten as the queues for their flyleaf autographs show in these pictures.

Michael Palin signs autographs when he opens the Children's Book Fair at the Edinburgh Book Festival 1987.

Of course the main aim of World Book Day is to get kids reading, hooking them in at an early age which should mean they keep up the habit for life. As part of the event National Book Tokens, publishers and booksellers distribute more than 14 million £1 book tokens so children can either buy a title from a specific range for a pound, or get the same knocked off the price of any other book. Let’s hope it works, otherwise future authors are going to have a hard time signing a Kindle.

Actress Pat Phoenix signing copies of her autobiography All My Burning Bridges in John Menzies bookshop, Edinburgh, January 1975.