Don’t miss the Big Bad Wolf
How does one resist 2 million brand-new books for readers of all ages in a wide range of genres and all yours for the browsing (and hopefully, for the buying) at unbelievable 60-80-percent discounts in an uninterrupted record shopping time of 231 hours?
The Big Bad Wolf (BBW) book sale has arrived in Manila for the first time after mounting sales in its home, Malaysia, and neighboring Indonesia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.
Aside from the retail prices, one was overwhelmed at the opening day by the warehouse-style book display at the World Trade Center that was so professionally arranged for everyone’s shopping convenience. Browsing was encouraged, with many titles having sample copies. Grocery carts and baskets were available. There was a special area for book returns, as well as orderly cashier lanes run by Lyceum students, and even a porter service to bring your purchases to your pickup point. The sales staff wore black tees with a message: “Howl if you need help.”
Why, one could only complain about the countless tables of titles to visit. And yes, one does need the 24/7 timetable to physically check out what’s available in all the genres one could not miss, thanks to the large banners marking their areas.
There was a long queue for those with special passes, all awaiting the chance to have their first picks. It was sneak preview day, when one could reserve books for 24 hours—another clever marketing ploy of Good Small Sheep headed by Maria V. Montelibano and Jan Co Chua, the local partner organization that brought BBW to town with Gawad Kalinga as beneficiary. A large poster even screams out to millennials: “Nakakapogi ang pagbabasa” (Reading makes you handsome).
Many came prepared with suitcases for their purchases. The youngest “shopper” was two-month-old Disney Siytangco, who was read to even before he was born, and who was blissfully napping as his Lola Deedee shopped.
To me, the most meaningful encounter was my brief informative conversation with the couple behind BBW, Malaysian national Andrew Yap, its managing director, and his spouse, Jacqueline Ng, executive director. Driven to start their company BookXcess in 2009 when they saw the high cost of English books in Malaysia, they did so with the mission to make books accessible and affordable for everyone. As the name of their company indicates, they sell books that are print overruns or “remaindered”—titles that publishers would love to see leave their inventory, thus the low prices. Books in excess and books as access for readers.
They were venturing into what to them was uncharted territory, for Yap ran an auto shop, while Ng began with a magazine shop and a single shelf of books that was encouragingly well-received. They are now Malaysia’s biggest English book importer from international publishers.
In answer to commonly raised questions about their operations, they point out that their books are sourced “from developed markets in which the terms for royalties have been negotiated between the authors and publishers.” They further reassure everyone that “all books purchased are remaindered without market restriction.”
In cities where BBW goes, doesn’t it pose unfair competition to booksellers? The couple say that they mean to lure nonreaders to their sales, especially those who would not usually venture into bookshops. The cities they have visited admit that book-buying and literacy rates have increased after the BBW encounters. They also point out the limitations of their business: Overprints are available only 6-12 months after release. They cannot carry entire series or accept orders for a specific title as they are dependent on “remainders.” They see themselves as a step to kick-start anyone’s interest in books.
In the absence of public libraries in the Philippines and the big problem of accessibility to books, BBW is to be welcomed to our calendar of book-buying events: the Manila International Book Fair in September, the special book sales in November, December and other odd months, the BookSale outlets that are full of used book surprises. Events like these can only redound to the good of the reading public. Who is to complain about that?
Catch BBW till 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 23. May we all read happily ever after.
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (email@example.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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