Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi and Ahmed Al Amri, two of the driving forces behind the Sharjah International Book Fair, have been very pleased with the reaction to the innovations at this year’s fair and at the overall participation.

Sheikha Bodour noted that with book fairs cancelled across the Arab world this year--including events in Egypt, Syria and Tunisia--Sharjah 2011 became especially important with Libya the only Arab nation not represented at the fair this year. Both highlighted the positive reception to the rights center. Al Amri admitted to being leery of the concept at first. There were Arab publishers who felt that Western publishers would not buy from them, Al Amri explained, but the fair has changed their minds. Kalimat alone, Sheikha Bodour's children’s publishing company, made 13 deals. She explained that Arab publishers find the Frankfurt Book Fair challenging to navigate so a rights center at Sharjah eased the process of buying and selling rights. The setting up of appointments, a sacrosanct Frankfurt tradition, was not so important for the Arab publishers. "They preferred to show up and come face-to-face on site," Sheika Bodour said. Al Amri told PW 50 publishers have already signed up for the center in 2012 and have asked for the program to be expanded to two days. He also said that some of the biggest Arab publishers might forgo Frankfort and London.

Sharjah’s newly announced translation grants have already attracted 135 applications and Al Amri expects the final number to approach 500. As for digital initiatives at Sharjah, RUFOOF (which means shelves in Arabic), a free iPad app, offers books and magazines in Arabic with 45,000 titles, 2,000 more in the works and in four months has 75,000 users. The price of e-books range from $2.99 to $5, half that of print titles.