With the Colombo International Book Fair 2020 coming to a close, we have yet another exciting book fair to look forward to. But this time, the Wolf will be howling online. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to social distance by taking necessary precautions, The Big Bad Wolf sale was scheduled to go online on the 1st of October. However, due to high demand, the sale has been rescheduled to go online on the 30th of September at 8.00 pm. The sale has over 30,000 book titles to choose from, making it a dream come true for us book worms across the island. Andrew Yap, the founder of the Big Bad Wolf exhibition answered some burning questions in regard to the sale and the story behind it all.
The Big Bad Wolf (BBW) sale was founded in Malaysia 11 years ago by me and my wife Jacqueline Ng. We first started a tiny little book stall called ‘Book Xcess.’ We just wanted to make books affordable in Malaysia. We also had a chance to be able to import a few thousand books at a very low cost and make reading affordable. But with just one little stall you can’t make much of a difference. So, we thought, “how can we do a bigger scale version?” There were a lot of people and a lot of attention because reading is not a big thing in Malaysia and there’s no reading culture. In fact, Sri Lanka has a bigger reading culture than Malaysia. But the thing was when we first started the book stall, the books were affordable but not affordable enough. We wanted to make them even more affordable by pricing books at 60-80% off the recommended retail price. And the only way to do that was through volume. That’s how we came up with the idea of launching the world’s biggest book sale.
We needed to come up with a name that was different. A name that captures a lot of attention. We were very small then and we didn’t have the budget for advertising, so we needed the name to be a marketing tool. To get people curious. ‘What is it about?’ They wanted to check it out because the name sounded foreign. Children are basically our target market. It’s hard to get adults to inculcate the reading habit, but you have to start young. So, we wanted the children to be attracted to the brand and children can always relate to a character. The Big Bad Wolf is a character. Children or kids always like the bad characters you know? That’s one of the reasons why we called it the BBW.
This year of course is going to be super exciting! We can do things that was operationally very difficult for us to do during a physical sale. The online sale will have a lot of activities that will go on throughout the 4 days of the sale. We don’t want to let it out now. We want to keep it a surprise because we are encouraging all our customers to come in every day. They will see the site refresh with newer books, featuring different genres. There will also be treasure hunts, and two or three other exciting things. I can’t say now, but I can guarantee that it will be fun and engaging. We will definitely have more titles, a LOT more titles than the previous years because there is only so much books that we can bring to Colombo. Customers can definitely look forward to a much much bigger range.
Interesting question. So basically Jacqueline, my wife, and I just started this off with pure passion. We come from very different backgrounds. I’m Malaysian and she’s Singaporean. We never grew up with a rich family background. The Big Bad Wolf sale isn’t just about selling books. When we were growing up, both of us never had access to any books. We want to change that. We want to make books affordable. There are many reasons why people don’t have access to books. But one reason is because of the affordability. We are trying to tackle that. When we created the Big Bad Wolf sale our goal was to create a platform that inspires people to achieve their dreams and empower them with knowledge by making books accessible to everyone. This is our driving motivation. The sad reality of the world today is that books are accessible to only those who do not need it. Books are not accessible to those who need it the most. Do you get what I mean? I’ll give you an example. Let’s say, someone from an average or above income family can go through life without reading a single book, they will still be fine. They will get an education. They will get a roof over their head. But those who need it the most, the grassroots and those in the lower income brackets, books aren’t accessible to them. That’s why we want to make the change.
I think we don’t know how this pandemic is going to pan out. We are all hoping for the best. There’s only going to be the new normal. So online will play a very big role for our customers. Because if we do it online now, and it is successful we can do it in 6 months again. Whereas, physically we can only come once a year. With online, if everybody is happy, we can come back again. We can do it twice. Or even three times, maybe! We don’t know but let’s try the first time round and see what happens and then we could quickly react to the situation. But for the future, I think we are looking forward to coming back to the physical sale. We could even do an online and physical sale at the same time. We are exploring different models but for the moment we are looking into building a wonderful online platform for our friends in Sri Lanka. The goal of a normal business is to somehow convince people to buy a product. But for us, it’s the other way around. We are here to serve the people by making it affordable.
This has been an anticipated event in the calendar of 2020 and it’s finally here. Have a howling book sale!