Sharjah's purpose-built "Publishing City" will open in January 2017.
The city is set to open at the end of the month for its first phase, with between 140 and 180 international publishers involved, including from the UK, the US, India, China and Africa. Ahmed Al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, declined to confirm the names of the UK participants, saying it was for them to announce their involvement.
A second phase of development is planned to bring the number of publishers located in the city up to 400 by the end of April.
Located on the main Dubai to Sharjah road, the "City" will be located in a two-storey building across 19,000 square metres. It will house not just publishers, but also translators, distributors, printing, and paper trading "an A - Z of everything for books, even e-books," said Al Ameri. It will also feature a bookshop.
Al Ameri told The Bookseller: "What we are trying to do is a United Nations of books, 365 days of continuous book fairs, a lot of programmes and training, panels, discussion. We think 800 to 1,500 people will be located there initially, and for later we are talking about 10,000."
The rationale for the City comes from Sharjah's ruler, His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi "and his love for books and the book industry," said Al Ameri. His vision is that "Sharjah should take its place between the world capitals for books, and that the book fair should be one of the three main fairs around the world."
2017 will also see the building of a new exhibition centre for the Sharjah International Book Fair, doubling its size to 60,000 square metres and providing a single location for both the exhibition and the Fair's professional programme. Al Almeri said he "hoped" it would be ready in time to house the 2017 event.
He hinted that further developments were also afoot. "We have a lot of surprises in the road," he promised. "The message I want people to learn is that the UAE is an open country, business orientated, with developed infrastructure." he said.
The 2016 book fair opens tomorrow (2nd November).