The first day of the inaugural professional program at the Sharjah International Book Fair, which is celebrating its 30th year, started with a series of seminars focused on distribution in the Middle East, Arab literature and translation, Sharjah’ s position in the UAE from a historical prospective and a panel of Emirati writers discussing the UAE.

Day two began at the Expo's translation rights center with an introduction by Ahmed Al Amri, the fair’s director, emphasizing Sharjah’s commitment to the dissemination of Arabic culture. Sharjah for the first time is offering translation incentives with a total of $300,000 available to publishers. The grants range from $1,500 dollars for children's books and up to $4,000 for general titles depending on word count. For the first year, translation can be to and from any language but the applicant must be a publisher attending the program; in subsequent years grants will only go to books being translated into Arabic. Marcia Lynx Qualey from Word Press out of Cairo stated the importance (and difficulty) of translating picture books. "We have to grow readers who will become adults open to the literature of the world, “she said. Both she and Dr. Omar Abdulaziz from Sharjah's Department of Culture stressed the role of translation in Arabic history going back 1,100 years and how translation can establish cooperation among nations.

Jon Malinowski gave a presentation introducing PubMatch, "a social network with a business twist" for buying and selling world translation rights (in which PW has a 50% stake) and explained the affiliate program that brings on revenue sharing partners in different countries. Sharjah signed on at Frankfurt to become the Middle East affiliate. Olga Ro of Russian Book Trade Press is the most recent affiliate to sign on to PubMatch, which at present has nearly 3000 subscribers in over 100 different countries with strong interest being shown at Sharjah.

Almost 100 more publishing houses are exhibiting at the fair this year than in 2010, with the count up to 884 houses. The bigger presence has also meant good activity in the rights center. Edwin Buckhalter of Severn House sees the center as a "great opportunity for both sides to learn how the Western market works. "

There were problems, from a western point of view, with time keeping and no shows for appointments at the center, but Nasser Jarrous, the general manager of Jarrous Press in Lebanon considers the rights meetings as a highlight of the fair and "the best rights program in the entire Middle East" Buckhalter adds that "it was a fine introduction." And his personal experience? A Lebanese publisher of almost all of Agatha Christie books is interested in crime fiction by authors with multiple books and Buckhalter thinks a deal could be made.