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The wolves of Kuala Lumpur

By March 21, 2019No Comments

Source : The Hindu – SUNDAY MAGAZINE    –    Manasi Mathkar



A round-the-clock sale of books at 50-90% off: welcome to BBW, the world’s largest book sale

At a time when paperbacks seem to be losing their fanbase, one couple from Malaysia is steadfastly wooing the reluctant readers “one book at a time”. Jacqueline Ng and Andrew Yap, founders of BookXcess, work around the unique concept of dealing in excess or remaindered books.

How did it all begin? After spending a couple of years in the book business, the two realised that there is actually a demand for physical books when the price is right. And thus was born Big Bad Wolf — the largest book sale in the world where brand new titles are priced at 50-90% off. “In 2011, the BBW Sale rolled out its first world’s biggest sale with 1.5 million books on offer in Kuala Lumpur. As of 2018, we’ve been to 16 cities in seven different countries including Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and the UAE with over 3 million books. This year, the BBW Sale happened in Myanmar for the first time. We also hope to go to India as we want to make affordable books accessible and spread the joy of reading there,” says Yap.

Mammoth task

So how are the prices brought down at the BBW Sale? Publishers often shred or pulp unsold books, though new. BookXcess purchases these remainder books at a low price, passing on the discounts to its readers. “We determine the selling price from the time we are buying the books. When we negotiate our buying prices, we take into consideration how much our customer would be willing to pay for that particular book and it should be within the 50-90% discount range,” shares Yap.

That the founders genuinely care for the readers is evident from the way the sale happens. It’s an 11-day affair running round-the-clock. “Earlier many people were unable to visit the sale due to work commitments during the day. That’s how we explored the crazy idea of making it a 24-hour book sale. We wanted people to have the flexibility to come at any time of the day,” says Ng.

It’s a mammoth task, setting up the sale of a few million books. Currently, their warehouse is about 120,000 sq. ft. Before any sale, the buying team does a book allocation based on what is suitable for a particular market. A curated booklist is then shared with the warehouse team to process the books by category. A round of quality control check takes place to ensure all books are in good condition. After that, the books are priced and packed into gaylord boxes by category before being shipped to respective countries.

But the founders are not complaining about the hard work. They are literally on a mission to help people pick up the reading habit — and the younger, the better. Says Ng, “In some markets we’ve been to, people are unable to buy books because they are overpriced. A book can be equivalent to a month’s salary in some countries. Since we offer brand-new books at such reduced prices, we’ve received positive response, especially from schools, government bodies, local libraries, etc. We are confident that physical books will continue to be in demand as there are still many book-lovers. Although there are several reading devices available now, nothing can equal the satisfaction of touching and smelling a physical book.”

Yap agrees: “Reading is a habit that should be instilled from a young age by parents. We want to change the world through books because we believe that knowledge is a powerful tool that can change lives. Through advocating the importance of improving English literacy rates we want to encourage more people to read.”

The BBW Sale has definitely created a real buzz around book-purchase. Here’s hoping that we meet them in India.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Manila.


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