Why the Big Bad Wolf can keep the prices of its books cheap
Malaysia’s Big Bad Wolf comes a-sniffin’ in this side of town. And book-loving Filipinos are proving to be the most welcoming of the huff and puff of the world’s biggest book sale.
“As a business, we never saw profit as the main goal,” says Andrew Yap, managing director and one of the founders of BookXcess, a bookshop in Malaysia selling affordable books. “It’s always to make a difference and we wanted to do a business that is meaningful.”
Yap, together with BookXcess co-founder and executive director Jacqueline Ng, established the company in 2006 “to help Malaysians kick-start their reading habit.”
The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale followed three years later in Dataran Hamodal, Petaling Jaya, with the aim of bringing an expansive line of books, at cheap prices, closer to Malaysians. Since then, the traveling Big Bad Wolf has been sniffing it’s way to Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The big bad wolf is, of course, a character in fairy tales, and Yap thought that using a familiar name will appeal to children and encourage them to join their parents to the book fair.
“Coming with a name and a character whereby children can relate to is very important because we have to start them young,” Yap says. “Adults? They know the value of books and they will come, but in order to get their kids to come, creating a fun event is very important.”
Ng says Big Bad Wolf “allows us to be very playful” and relatable.
This year, the book fair comes to Manila, bringing with it two million books of almost 20,000 titles at 60-80 percent discount.
The books are “remaindered,” which is why they are priced much lower than in regular bookstores.
“Remaindered books are books launched about six months or one year ago,” explains Yap. “Normally, a publisher would print a hundred thousand books and sell about 70-80 percent. So these are the 20 percent that publishers offered to us (at discounted rates) giving these books another chance.”
Remaindered books are new books albeit some copies may have minor shelf wear, which is indicated by a mark such as a red mark at the bottom edge of the book.
“It’s a totally different industry,” Ng says of this process of buying books in bulk from publishing houses.
Promoting a reading culture
But more than the business, the goal is to encourage non-readers to read, Ng says. She notes the affordable prices of books should lure non-readers to go into reading.
“Price is where you start to try a book,” she says. “The moment you [begin to] love the author, or love the style of writing or love the content, you will start buying a book at full price. We are complimenting the book industry and we are creating a market to convert a non-reader to a reader.”
Three-fourths of the World Trade Center in Pasay, where the book fare will be held until Feb. 25, is dedicated to children’s books, while the remaining one-fourth is for other genres such as fiction, young adult, history, biography, movies and music, self-help, among others.
A typical fiction book that is usually priced around P700 sells at P190, while hardbound comic books can go as low as P480. A children’s pop-up book is priced at P320, while Apple founder Steve Jobs’ biography that is priced at P1,000 in regular bookstores sells for only P230.
BookXcess sources its books from publishers in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States.
Yap says they have sold around 30 million copies through BookXcess’ physical and online shop and Big Bad Wolf fairs since starting the company nine years ago.
Gawad Kalinga partnership
Yap gives credit to Luis Oquiñena, executive director of Gawad Kalinga, in helping them bring the book smorgasbord to the country. He says Oquiñena approached them at their shop in Malaysia when he was in the country for a seminar and the deal was done without any further meetings.
Without giving the specifics of the partnership, Yap says part of the proceeds of the Philippine leg of the book fair will go to the projects of Gawad Kalinga in disaster-torn Marawi and Albay.
Yap and Ng visited the GK villages in the Philippines in July last year, just a few months after meeting with Oquiñena. It was there that the two realized they needed to bring the book fair to the Philippines sooner rather than later so people would enjoy the benefits of the partnership.
Yap says they are testing the market and promised to bring a meaner Big Bad Wolf in the coming years. After the Philippines, the fair is going to Jakarta in Indonesia.
“We are also planning Korea, Taiwan and Dubai,” Yap says. “These are the new countries this year, including Bangladesh.”
The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale is open 24 hours until Feb. 25 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City. Admission is free.
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