On the evening of October 30, Sharjah Publishing City officially opened for business. His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, did the honor.

The facility is designated as a free trade zone in the emirate of Sharjah, on the outskirts of Dubai, in the UAE. The first building on the 40 acre site is a 430,000 sq.-ft. facility with 500 offices, 15 shared meeting spaces, an 80 seat auditorium, coffee shops, a library, as well as UAE immigration and visa offices. The first occupants of the building will be the Emirates Writers Association and the Arab Writers Union; in all 77 companies have signed leases to occupy offices.

Ingram Content Group is among the companies looking at taking space and, it was announced in a press release, is considering opening a Lighting Source POD facility on site. Shawn Morin, president and CEO of Ingram was on hand for the opening ceremony, which coincided with the two days of the Professinal Program that precedes the Sharjah International Book Fair, which opens November 1.

David Taylor, senior v-p of international content acquisition for Ingram, was also on hand for the opening ceremony and addressed the Professional Program on Tuesday morning, alongside Steve Potash, president and CEO for OverDrive, and Sherif Baker, managing director of Al Arabi Publishing and Distribution, of Cairo, Egypt.

Taylor, speaking on the topic of distribution in the region, noted that “POD might be a perfect distribution solution for the modern age” and that UAE is in a favorable position from which to distribute books to the Gulf, as well as to locations such as Africa and India. For his part, Potash said that OverDrive had begun working with Sharjah libraries to bring e-books to readers in the Emirate. “We see demand for Arabic e-books in many communities in the United States, from Detroit to Los Angeles, and all over the world,” Potash said. “I encourage publishers to convert their books to EPUB3 and work with a distributor to get them to readers who want them.”

Morin and Potash are among two dozen or so Americans on hand for the Professional Program. Others included Timothy Bent, executive editor of Oxford University Press; Mari Bergeron, director of international content licensing for EBSCO Information Services; Seth Russo, v-p and director of international sales for Simon Schuster; Ibrahim Ahmad, editorial director for Akashic Books; and Gabriella Page-Fort, senior editor of AmazonCrossing. In all, some 250 professionals attended the Professional Days, which offered panel discussions and extensive matchmaking sessions for rights buyers and sellers.

Coinciding with the opening of Sharjah Publishing City was the launch of an Arabic-language edition of Publishers Weekly. The first edition of the bi-annual magazine features Shaikha Bodour al-Quasimi, founder of Sharjah-based Kalimat Group, on the cover.

“The edition is 30% translated and 70% original material,” Ali Al Ameri, editor of the magazine, said. The magazine will be distributed at the Sharjah International Book Fair and will be sent to various regional publishing associations and cultural ministries. “In this way we hope to disseminate the love of reading and publishing throughout the region,” Salem Omar, director of sales and marketing for Sharjah Book Authority said, before expressing his desire to see the magazine published monthly or, eventually, weekly just like the parent edition.

Cevin Bryerman, executive v-p and publisher of Publishers Weekly, said the inaugural edition of the magazine marked a proud moment in his career. “Six years ago, when I first attended the Sharjah International Book Fair, I never could have expected that I would be sitting here holding an edition of the magazine in Arabic. This is a proud day for us and we are delighted that all our hard work has paid off. This is a rewarding collaboration and one we look forward to even further in the future.”

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