Dubai: Packs of book hunters descended to Dubai Studio City on Thursday for the 3rd edition of ‘Big Bad Wolf Books’ in Dubai. Known as the world’s biggest book sale, the 11-day event which runs daily until April 24 has more than one million books, with discounts between 50 to 80 per cent off the recommended retail price.
The ‘real’ Big Bad Wolf is a recurring villain character from children’s fairy tales (The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf). But for Andrew Yap, 45, Malaysian national, co-founder and managing director of Big Bad Wolf Books, the name was “creatively adapted to attract young readers with the iconic fairy-tale character that their parents are familiar with.”
Whereas the natural way for wolves to hunt is with their pack, Yap’s strategy to attract more readers is to gather them in one place and offer them the cheapest books available. Thus, born a movement that has turned the fairy tale antagonist into a global reading advocate.
Yap told Gulf News his mission is to go around the world and offer “affordable and accessible” books. Today, Big Bad Wolf Books, is present in 34 cities across 13 countries and territories, including Malaysia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and the UAE.
Big Bad Wolf Books premiered in Dubai in 2018. There was, however, a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. This year, the book sale is back with a vengeance — with over one million books on offer. Entry to the event is free and the venue is open from daily round the clock until April 24.
Cultural and cognitive diversity
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) and Member of Dubai Council, was present on Thursday to inaugurate the third edition of Big Bad Wolf Books.
She praised the cultural and cognitive diversity offered by the event, and noted the variety of books on offer “is consistent with Dubai and the UAE’s cultural diversity, where more than 190 nationalities live and work.”
Sheikha Latifa added the presence of Big Bad Wolf Books reinforces Dubai’s position as a “preferred destination for culture, and for knowledge enthusiasts, as it serves as a beacon of cultural diversity, a centre for creativity and cultural dialogue.”
She added: “His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has always sought to spread a culture of reading in the community, making it an indispensable daily habit and instilling a passion for it, especially among future generations. Big Bad Wolf Books provides its visitors with a world of books and knowledge and plays an important role in supporting publishing houses and platforms that encourage reading.”
Jacqueline Ng, co-founder of Big Bad Wolf Books and wife of Yap, for her part, added: “We launched Big Bad Wolf Books in 2009 to build a new generation of readers and increase English literacy worldwide. In over a decade, our event has expanded its footprint globally and our Dubai chapter is one of the most successful editions, as evidenced by its huge following and popularity, as well as a constantly growing and expanding audience.”
The lone wolf
Over the years, and after establishing its foothold (or pawprint) in 34 cities, Big Bad Wolf Books has served over 5 million happy bookworms and sold more than 30 million books worldwide.
Its growth, however, is like a fairy tale story. Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, Yap felt like he was a lone wolf. “I did not grow up in a family surrounded by books and I felt inadequate compared with my friends and schoolmates who grew up on books. They were more learnt,” he said.
The problem was not the lack of curiosity or passion for education but access to and affordability of reading materials, he added. This led to his awakening to make books accessible and affordable for everyone. He turned into a reading advocate. “Because reading books can change people’s lives and inspire them to dream big,” he underlined.
Fairy tale plot
Like in a fairy tale, with a rags-to-riches plot, Yap also started from scratch. Yap and his wife, Jacqueline, started their business in 2003 at a small magazine stand in Kuala Lumpur.
“We named our store Nine-Ninety magazine shop, because we were selling magazines at 9.90 Malaysian ringgit (1 Malaysian ringgit is equivalent to 85 fils). Those magazines were two months past the publication date but they were really cheap and they were top US and UK titles. Magazines actually have no expiration date and when we sold them at really cheap price, they went off the shelves quickly,” Yap told Gulf News.
Following the success of their magazine stand, Yap and his wife then ventured into selling books in 2007 at a very low price. Yap said: “We named our store BookXcess, because our objective was to give access to people and we were selling excess books.”
Yap bought books in bulk at a very good price which enabled him to sell them in big discounts. Seeing that people loved buying books, the idea then came to Yap to hold a big book sale event. He explained he could sell more books at a book sale event more than what he could sell in a year at his brick-and-mortar store.
Removing the cost of renting a store for one year, he could further cut down the price of books. Thus, Big Bad Wolf Books was born in 2009. “The catchy name got the interest of people, because it sounded foreign,” Yap quipped.
The first Big Bad Wolf Books was held in May 2009 at Dataran Hamodal in Petaling Jaya, and followed another event at Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya in November the following year, with over 150,000 books at massively reduced prices.
In 2011, Big Bad Wolf Book Sale grew double in size, offering 300,000 books on discount at South City Plaza, Seri Kembangan in Kuala Lumpur.
By September 2012, the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale rolled out as the World’s Biggest Book Sale with 1.5 million books on sale in Kuala Lumpur. The event also lasted for 11 days at Malaysia Agro Exposition Park.
As the popularity of Big Bad Wolf Books grew, Yap meanwhile gained ‘notoriety’ for being a game-changer in the book distribution business. “I became notorious for disrupting the industry,” said Yap, adding: “Big distribution companies were affected and they even asked the publishers to make me stop with my business model.”
But Yap remained unfazed. He was like a hungry wolf, but also patient and cunning. Instead of bowing down, Big Bad Wolf Books headed out of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in 2016 to to bring access to affordable books to more Malaysians in six other states, including Kuantan, Johor Bahru, Kuala Terengganu, Ipoh, Penang, and Malacca.
The following year, in 2017, Big Bad Wolf Books went international and conquered Jakarta, Indonesia; Bangkok, Thailand and Colombo, Sri Lanka.
In February 2018, Big Bad Wolf Books reached the Philippines for the first time, opening a book sale in Manila, followed by another successful event in Cebu in July the same year.
In August 2018, the world’s biggest book sale landed in Taipei, Taiwan before coming to the Middle East — in Dubai, for the first time in October that year.
Yap said he has found a home in Dubai. He said: “All our partners involved are key and have played an important role in bringing the Sale back to Dubai and we are very appreciative of their support and guidance. We’re very grateful and humbled to have Dubai Culture as our strategic partner; the great team at the Ministry of Culture and Youth’s Media Regulatory Office for being our logistics partner; our amazing venue partner, Dubai Studio City for extending their wholehearted support towards the event, our Mission Partner, Dubai Production City for partaking in our mission to increase English literacy worldwide.”
Open daily until April 24 — round the clock
Over 1 million books available
Discounts from 50% — 80% off
Free for all to enter
Venue: Sound Stages, Dubai Studio City
Big Bad Wolf Books offers various contests, with exciting prizes
Pose and win — Take a selfie of yourself at the BBW Book Sale Dubai 2022, post it on Facebook and Instagram, tag the location, and hashtag #BBWPhotoFun. Stand a chance to win an e-voucher worth AED 200.
Book haul contest — Share a photo of your purchase from the BBW Book Sale Dubai 2022 on Facebook or Instagram and hashtag #BBWDXBHaul. Stand a chance to win e-Voucher worth Dh200.
A Shelf Full Of Books — One grand prize winner will be selected based on creativity from the participants of the pose and win, and book haul contest. The Winner is entitled to win all the books that he/she is able to fit inside one (1) bookshelf from the BBW Book Sale Dubai 2022.