With a population of 32 million (just 4 million fewer than Canada, and 8 million more than Australia), and 25 million people online (compare Canada’s 33 million online, and Australia’s 21 million online) you wouldn’t be alone in wondering why neither Amazon nor Apple have bothered to offer Malaysia an ebook store.
In fact neither of the two biggest western ebook retailers offer ebooks anywhere in SE Asia, despite Amazon having non-book operations in both Singapore and Vietnam.
But let’s focus on Malaysia here. The same Malaysia that, every year since 2013, has seen two million people turn out to its annual Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair.
The same Malaysia that every year holds the biggest of all the Big Bad Wolf book sales. In December 2017 there were 4.5 million books laid out for the non-stop 24/7, eleven day event, with hundreds of thousands of eager buyers filling suitcases and carts to satiate their desire for new print books.
Print books? No, Malaysians haven’t some whimsical affection for paper and ink that makes them shy away from ebooks. It’s just that, while almost everyone has a smartphone they could be e-reading on, the ebook retailers have yet to wake up to this fact, and without retail reach there is no incentive for the publishers to digitise.
Google Play has a token presence there, and Malaysians can buy from Kobo if they want to pay US prices, but of course most western books come with territorial restrictions, so the Google Play MY store is not exactly brimming with goodies.
But as the turnout at the book fairs and sales show, Malaysians are eager to buy books.
So eager, in fact, that Bookxcess, the operators behind the Big Bad Wolf sales, has just opened Malaysia’s first 24-hour book store.
At 37,000 sq. ft. the new Bookxcess store has plenty of room to spaciously accommodate 500,000 books and still provide an enjoyable environment complete with workspaces, wi-fi and a café.
I’ll wrap up this post with the as yet unofficial news that in August Big Bad Wolf will be running two overlapping events.
In Thailand the regular Bangkok BBW event is apparently scheduled for August 10-20. Meanwhile from August 17-27 Big Bad Wolf will be running its first show outside SE Asia, with the debut BBW sale for Taiwan.
It wont be the last. As reported here back in February, Big Bad Wolf this year, in addition to its usual line up of Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and new addition the Philippines, is heading not just Taiwan but also Bangladesh, South Korea and Dubai, as well as a tenth country as yet unannounced.