This Year's Big Bad Wolf Book Fair Will Have Two Million Books

But organizers said it could be even bigger if the venue Manila wasn't so expensive
IMAGE Facebook - Big Bad Wolf / Elyssa Christine Lopez

To say that the Big Bad Wolf Book Fair was a hit last year is an understatement. For 11 days last February, Filipino bookworms flocked to World Trade Center in Pasay City just to get their hands on books for a bargain.

The book fair was open 24 hours for the entire duration of the fair with no entrance fees so customers made sure to get the most out of it. According to organizers, Filipinos spent an average of $25 to $30 (about P1,350 to P1,620). Within a few days, some genres were sold out, leading to more than 500,000 books sold by the end of the book sale.

“We had the most overwhelming response [from all the book fairs we’ve had] in the Philippines last year,” Big Bad Wolf Book Sale co-founder Jacqueline Ng said. “Usually, when we hold our fairs for the first time in a country, it’s only just the affluent or those in the middle class that attend. But in the Philippines, our market was widespread.”

IMAGE: Facebook - Elyssa Christine Lopez

The book sale, which originated from Malaysia, claims to be the world’s biggest. It started holding fairs in 2009 and has since organized similar editions in Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. When it visited the Philippines for the first time last year, Big Bad Wolf brought a million books. For 2019, it’s aiming to showcase two million books, with an estimated 20,000 titles.

“There were around 250,000 attendees during the 11-day fair in Manila, and that’s not even the largest we’ve ever had for the entire region. In Jakarta, we hold our fairs in convention centers that are two times larger than the one here [in Manila]. So, the size of the convention centers really matter if we want a bigger fair,” Ng explained.

As much as Ng wants to expand the second edition of Big Bad Wolf Book Sale here in Manila, which will be held from February 22 to March 4 at the same venue (World Trade Center in Pasay City), the logistics cost is just too steep. According to the organizer, the rental rates for convention centers in Manila are the most expensive they have encountered in the entire region.

“We can’t afford the venue here in the Philippines, it’s the biggest hindrance. It [the rental cost] is not just a little bit higher [than the ones we’ve had in other countries], it’s way higher,” Ng explained. “It’s almost impossible to do. It makes sense to say this is for the people.”

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Still, Ng and her partners were so encouraged by the overwhelming and warm response the fair had in Manila in 2018, they even made two other stops in the country: Cebu and Davao. It was the first time the international book sale conducted fairs in three cities in one country for its first year. For 2019, the organizers are already looking into holding the fair in six locations in the country, which includes Pampanga.

“We just have to find a good venue,” she added.

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Elyssa Christine Lopez
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Esquire. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz
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