Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

Women of the UAE: A passion for literature

Iman Ben Chaibah has built a business fuelled by her lifelong passion for literature and is writing a new chapter in the annals of Emirati entrepreneurship with Sail, an online venture that is now on course for the e-book market.
Iman Ben Chaibah has aimed for a multinational audience with Emirati talent underpinning her online magazine. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Iman Ben Chaibah has aimed for a multinational audience with Emirati talent underpinning her online magazine. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

ABU DHABI // From an early age, Iman Ben Chaibah has had a passion for the written word. This love manifests itself in Sail, the culture magazine she has published for the last five years.

Now, the 30-year-old hopes to help aspiring authors achieve their dreams of seeing their works published.

Sail magazine is an online portal “where the works of Emirati authors is published”.

Her new venture allows book authors to have their works published for reading on Kindle, Kobo and other digital platforms.

“Initially, I was just helping people publish e-books,” Ms Ben Chaibah says . “After receiving many requests, I expanded the company further and went into digital book publishing.”

She has published four books so far, while five are awaiting review.

Ms Ben Chaibah has been asked to publish another three that are in preparation.

While Sail is aimed at Emiratis, she hopes all nationalities will use her service.

Her publications are in English, as Ms Ben Chaibah believes it is the most common language people communicate with, both at home and abroad.

“We wish to reach an international audience,” she says. “The youth here love writing in English but there isn’t a proper platform where they can get published.”

She puts her love of literature down to the influence of her parents.

“They would read me to sleep and would take us to the book fairs,” she says. “I was obsessed with buying novels, encyclopedias and trivia books.”

Brought up in Dubai, a career in literature was not originally part of her plans.

She studied for a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Sharjah University, then took a job with property developer Emaar, where she undertook a master’s in project management at British University in Dubai.

After an eight-year stint at Emaar, Ms Ben Chaibah quit her job to focus her energies on Sail.

“I started Sail as I was passionate about this. I knew people who liked writing but they did not even pursue getting published,” she says.

Sail has about 40 staff and an estimated readership of 10,000.

The many requests for help with book publishing has encouraged Ms Ben Chaibah to expand into digital book publishing. She started the company seven months ago and says the response has been “beautiful”.

“The books got a lot of feedback. The process is easy as it’s all online,” she says.

“Digital is a reality we need to accept and it makes reading much easier.”

There are many challenges to the format, Ms Ben Chaibah says, especially as many are used to reading in the paper form.

But she is confident that the digital world will be the medium writers utilise.

“If you embrace digital, you eliminate piracy,” she says.