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EXCLUSIVE: Big Bad Wolf Book Sale Founder Jacqueline Ng Names Her Favorite Authors Of All Time

Bigger and better, the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale returns to Manila for the second consecutive year, with 2 million books up for grabs at 50% - 90% across different genres. Set to take place on February 22 till March 4, 2019 at the World Trade Center in Pasay, bookworms and casual readers alike will be thrilled to know that it's open for 24 hours!

The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale is known as the world's biggest book sale. Established a decade ago by Jacqueline Ng and Andrew Yap in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, it has reached neighboring countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, driven by the goal to increase readership. 

Last year, after its successful event in Manila, the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale expanded to Cebu and Davao. And as part of their Red Readerhood Programme, in October 2018, they donated Php5 million to Gawad Kalinga to support their initiatives. “Working together with the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale has enabled us to provide quality books to our communities. Their support has helped us build better reading corners for our Gawad Kalinga families. We are glad that we are able to continue this relationship this year and we hope to move forward together in making affordable books accessible to the other parts of Philippines,” shared Luis Oquiñena, Executive Director of Gawad Kalinga.   


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Gawad Kalinga Executive Director Luis Oquiñena and Big Bad Wolf Book Sale founder Jacqueline Ng


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Metro.Style chatted with Jacqueline Ng about the humble beginnings of the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale, their mission to spread the love for reading, and her favorite authors of all time. 


The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. How big has it grown since it started?

"Big Bad Wolf started in 2009 with just me and my husband, with no staff. We started a small event, 350,000 books in a 25,000 sq. ft. warehouse setting. It grew from 150,000 the first sale, to 250,000 the second sale, then 350,000 the third sale. Then we jumped to 1.5 million. That’s our humble beginning. It has been very well received since day 1 purely because of the selection and also the price, and then we grew from there. Big Bad Wolf started with no staff; now, we have about 200 staff, full-time and in total, we have 400 staff including the contractors, workers in the warehouse, and part-timers."


What made you decide to establish the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale in the first place?

"Even when we started a book shop in 2007, the mission is very simple: to increase readership in Malaysia. Only 2% of the population are reading and English is not the first language. A lot of the university graduates, when they step out for work, they can’t even speak English fluently. So there is a huge disadvantage for the local graduates. 

We recognized that people are not reading. We don’t have the environment to encourage reading books. But we only had one tiny shop, 500 sq. ft., so how much can we do? We were in a cheap shopping mall, not in a very first tier mall, because we couldn’t afford rental. So the impact was not maximized. From 500 sq. ft., our shop increased to 3,000 sq. ft. then 12,000 sq. ft., but we realized that no matter how hard we push, we were still one bookshop.

And the fact remains that if you’re not a reader, you never step into a bookshop. For what? There’s no reason to. Instead, you’re going to buy ice cream, you’re going to grab coffee, or you’re going to watch a movie.

It was very hard for us to achieve what our original objectives were, which is to increase readership, so we decided to do an event. After two years of opening the bookshop, we decided to do an event. We were hoping that people don’t come alone. You’re a reader, but you don’t come to the event alone. That someone who accompanies you is the person we hope that can be converted into a reader.

It allows the customers to be excited, because it only lasts for a few days, rather than a bookshop that is there for 365 days. We find that the event will allow us to at least be able to generate more interest and more excitement. And definitely, the person that you will bring would at least experience what books are about."  


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What changes in terms of readership have you noticed since the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale started? 

"We saw the difference, grassroots start to come, not just the readers anymore. We reached out to people who don’t speak a lot of English, people who come in motorbikes. They never read an English book, but they came just because people say it’s the biggest book sale in the world. They’re just curious. We reached out to grassroots at that level, and we are able to showcase a huge selection of books.

Most of the people will find something that they like—if you’re a motorbike enthusiast, you just buy a motorbike book. Even if you just look at pictures, it’s also your introduction to reading. This is what we realized, we had to take it a bit further, and then we started to introduce 24 hours.

In 2016, after so many years of being in Kuala Lumpur, we realized that we have positively made an impact. And how we realized that, when we started many, many years ago, our young adult books don’t sell. For you to influence a teenager to read is almost impossible. Parents can force a 3-year-old to read but you cannot force a 13-year-old to read, so young adults don’t sell at all. If you don’t read, you don’t read.

Until year 2015, we realized that young adults do sell and are selling quite fast. Our crew keeps calling to replenish young adults. Then we were very curious, why suddenly the shift? That’s when we realized that the customers that were with us in 2009 are young adults. It’s as simple as that. They grew up. Because in 2009, they started reading, they grew up to be a reader.

That’s where we saw the impact that by just bringing books accessible to the general public, you literally change someone’s lifestyle. The person who was just converted to be a reader because she was introduced to books two years ago, they continue to read. That is the amazing thing. It’s a never-ending process. You continue to learn, you continue to read, you continue to seek knowledge. There are always new authors, there are always new genres that you want to try."


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Who are your favorite authors of all time?

"I didn’t grow up with books. The first book I read was by Sidney Sheldon, which was a book that a friend lent to me. You see, it’s very important for you to lend books to your friends, too. When you’re first introduced to an author and you realize you like it, you go and read all his or her books. I like Nora Roberts at the time. Lesley Pearse. All those kind of romance-suspense books, I read.

When I started to get into business and I got more stressed, I started to go towards a lighter read. I couldn't take a chick lit before, because I found it too light. But after I got so stressed, I found that I like chick lit. I read Sophie Kinsella. I also started to like Kevin Hopps comics. Then I had my first dog, so I started reading all books about dogs. There’s a lot of books about dogs. But I’m still not reading a lot of non-fiction, I’m still reading a lot of fiction, so Mitch Albom."


What are some of the books that have had a huge impact on you?

"I don’t read self-help and I don’t read management books, but the books that touch me are always inspirational books. So I do read Chicken Soup, I do read Christian books, those are my kind of self-help books. My favorite book now is The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey, which is more about awareness of yourself, a lot of self-love which I find a lot of people with a busy lifestyle need. We start to be so consumed by work that we forgot about self-love, making time for ourselves." 


Catch the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale from February 22 to March 4 at the World Trade Center in Pasay. Entrance to the sale is free, and it's open for 24 hours!