It’s been an amazing year for Big Bad Wolf, the export arm of Malaysia bookstore BookXcess, which celebrated its tenth anniversary by shipping tens of millions of books to 32 cities across 7 countries for its eleven day flash sales (most open 24 hours).
The tenth anniversary year began with Big Bad Wolf’s debut in Myanmar, taking one million books to the capital city, Yangon.
That headline from the start of 2019 didn’t quite come off, as Big Bad Wolf in fact “only” reached ten countries – Malaysia, UAE, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Philippines, Pakistan, Myanmar, South Korea and Indonesia – but reached more cities than initially expected.
But the Myanmar debut in Yangon was joined by another 1 million book event in Myanmar in May, this time in Mandalay.
For 2020 we can expect at least the same, and possibly more Myanmar events. The first has already been announced. Big Bad Wolf will be back in Yangon with another 1 million books from January 10-20.
Officially that’s the only event declared for 2020, but in an unintended bonus for Big Bad Wolf fans, the website’s dropdown menu of countries includes a new addition and an incomplete Big Bad Wolf slider is showing, with Cambodia the named country.
No timeline for this, but stay tuned.
We can safely assume Cambodia will be one of many debuts in 2020 given Big Bad Wolf’s announcement that it plans to deliver 1 billion books to emerging markets over the next five years.
What new countries may be included can only be conjectured at right now. In the past Big Bad Wolf reports have indicated aspirations to be in Bangladesh and Uganda, but for whatever reason they have yet to come to fruition.
My guess would be Bangladesh and India will be priority targets in South Asia, while Singapore and Vietnam must be under consideration for South East Asia. East coast African nations like Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are also likely on the bucket list, and MENA nations like Egypt and Morocco among the Arab states to join the UAE as hosts of Big Bad Wolf events.
A major port seems to be essential, as a million or more books need a lot of containers, so landlocked countries are unlikely to see Big Bad Wolf events any time soon, and for the immediate future the Red Sea-Mediterranean-Indian Ocean ports are the logical next steps for the Malaysia-based operation.
That said, I would be very surprised if we don’t see Big Bad Wolf target Latin America in the not too distant future, and that could be a game-changer for the Iberian-language countries. Here’s why:
While the Big Bad Wolf operation is predicated on buying up surplus (remaindered) English-language books from US and UK publishers it also works, increasingly, with local-language publishers.
For the English-language markets the sheer volume of books bought up by Big Bad Wolf means publishers can work with bigger print-runs (meaning better economies of scale) knowing wastage will be minimal because the excess will be taken off their hands. There have even been (unconfirmed) reports that some publishers are increasing print runs specifically to meet demand from Big Bad Wolf’s parent company BookXcess.
For the Ibero-America markets remaindered books are still a big issue, eating into margins, and a move on the region by Big Bad Wolf could help alleviate that problem by allowing publishers to confidently order selected titles at more economical print-runs.
That’s pure onjecture at this stage, so I’ll end with a reminder of what we do know.
Big Bad Wolf is ending its tenth anniversary year with its 32nd event of 2019, with 4.5 million books stacked high in Kuala Lumpur (the event ends on December 16).
That’s a lot of books, but a full one million short of its biggest event in Jakarta earlier this year, when 5.5 million books were up for grabs.
Big Bad Wolf has debuted in Myanmar, Pakistan and South Korea this year, while returning to all its old haunts. Hopefully we’ll know soon just how many books were shipped across the tenth anniversary year and if it exceeded the 60 million target.
But in ending, savour that number as an approximation. 60 million books – nearly all in English – shipped and sold to millions (literally) of booklovers in countries where, with a handful of exceptions, English is not the national or official language.
Big Bad Wolf is a beacon of light and hope in a global publishing industry that all too often so wrapped up in its domestic battles that it fails to see the bigger picture – and the bigger opportunity – beyond its shores.
Big Bad Wolf, which is focused on delivering physical, printed books to its ever-growing audience but builds itself out through digital media awareness, is the epitome of the Global New Renaissance happening before our eyes.