Two Million Books in 10 Days: Here’s How Big Bad Wolf Pulls Off The World’s Biggest Bargain Book Sale
Some things are just meant to go together, like shopping and discounts. And great bargain hunters always seem to know the right place and the right time to realize the biggest bang for their buck.
For book lovers in particular, that means the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale.
From February 14 to 24, the World Trade Center in Pasay City will be a repository of more than two million titles on sale. The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale will be open for 24 hours straight on these days, offering books at 50 to 90 percent reduced prices, with free entrance to boot.
Jacqueline Ng, co-founder of the event, says readers she has spoken with still prefer a physical book over digital ones.
“We all know why,” she tells Esquire Philippines. “We need to touch it; we need to smell, to feel the paper. The printed word is a very powerful thing. And that’s why it will never die.”
Along with husband Andrew Yap, Ng started Big Bad Wolf (under the company BookXcess) in Malaysia in 2009, and has since brought it to 11 countries and 33 cities, including the Philippines, South Korea, Pakistan, Cambodia, and the United Arab Emirates. She says it’s about furthering a reading advocacy that promotes reading habits not just to regular readers but, especially, to those on the fringes.
“The readers will never ever go away,” she explains. “The challenge is to get a non-reader to read. That is the mission of Big Bad Wolf. How do you convert a non-reader to (become) a reader? Of course, by bringing good books at good prices. That’s why we do not charge admission fees. It has to be free because if you are not reading, why would you go to an event that charges for admission? You would never go, right? Why do we have to (be open) for 24 hours? Why do we have to make it the biggest book sale in the world? Because that is the only way it gets some curiosity. People want to see or feel how it’s like to see two million books on display.”
Jacqueline Ng co-founded Big Bad Wolf with her husband Andrew Yap
How Big Bad Wolf does it
One thing doesn’t seem to add up though. How could Big Bad Wolf offer books at such extremely discounted prices and still earn its keep?
The secret is, well, in the sauce, Ng reveals.
“From Day 1, it has been an uphill task because, at the end of the day, everything comes with a cost: venue, rental, crew, wages. And costs always go up. (But) because we started as a really tiny company, we are very conscious of cost. That’s why we do a lot of the things ourselves. We have to be very creative in terms of marketing. When you have no financial resources or no budget, you have to think out of the box.
“In the beginning, it was just me and my husband,” she adds. “We just recruited a part-time crew. That gave us a good foundation; that is how we moved forward. We are (conscious about) trying to keep everything lean. It’s just now that we have grown to the size we have. Of course, it’s not a small operation anymore and that comes at a much higher price tag.”
Big Bad Wolf now employs 680 people and houses over 20 million books in a warehouse in Kuala Lumpur.
Ng says bringing the books to new countries and new cities also entails being good bargain hunters themselves. “When you want to bring quality books, you need time to find the books,” she says. “You need time to negotiate and get the price that you need for those books. That normally takes a year. We do need to buy (so we) can curate a good selection for the customers. And that is the magic about Big Bad Wolf, because when you come to the sale, you will be overwhelmed. It’s better than going to any bookstore. With us, you buy at a fraction of the price.
The goal is to also to make Big Bad Wolf Book Sale goers buy books for others.
“That is what we need,” Ng says. “For our customers to buy to give to someone else, because that someone else that you give a book to is a life that will be changed. It could be a sentence in the book that gives inspiration or empower that person somehow (to) just pursue a dream. I have heard so many stories that it’s just because they stumbled upon a book and a passage in that book (that helped) turned something around.”
Ng, who confesses to needing to finish one book before moving on to another, adds, “It’s just a matter of getting into reading. If you don’t, you don’t know what you miss. After so many years of being addicted to the screen, many of us realize, (that we need to) cut down on screen time. I think it’s a very conscious effort that everybody is making. Even the phone is telling you how much screen time (you have registered). Everybody is making a very conscious effort to find more time for themselves, to do things rather than be so absorbed in the digital world. That’s a good thing actually, when they can find more time for themselves and their families.”
The sale anticipates Philippine customers to go all out with fiction purchases, and Ng attributes it to the country having many heavy readers and our proficiency with the English language. “Filipinos, just love reading; they read so much. (They go for) very heavy subjects, as well, like politics. They love history, science, technology.” She adds that countries with less readers often go for management books, and self-help books.
The 2020 Big Bad Wolf Book Sale continues its partnership with Gawad Kalinga to donate books to underprivileged communities in the country. Aside from the 1,000 titles the sale has committed to donate to public schools in Mindoro and affected communities near Taal Volcano, guests are also invited to donate books at the site. Big Bad Wolf’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm, Red Readerhood, will be present to collect donations.
Aside from an act of kindness, one shopper also stands a chance to win a trolley full of books, while 20 winners will win cash vouchers from social media contests from February 13 to 23. For more information, visit bigbadwolfbooks.com.