The delicious irony about Malaysia Tatler’s meeting with Andrew Yap and Jacqueline Ng is this: that our face-to-face encounter can be credited to the demise of print magazines. Owners of a magazine store once upon a time, the duo switched their focus to books just as the digital revolution was getting under way. “I realised that magazines were slowly being overtaken by digital media. Only the best of the best have survived. It’s good that you guys are still around,” says Andrew kindly. “Many have not made it.”
“Being in the magazine industry, we got to know people who work with books,” elucidates Jacqueline, a Singaporean now based on our soil. “It was a natural progression, though not one without blood, sweat and tears.”
In Our Good Books
But it is also with magazines that their story begins, in March 2007. Those living around Taman Jaya may harbour fond memories of Reissued, a well-loved magazine store in Amcorp Mall. Backdated periodicals on every topic imaginable, from fashion to gardening and audio to automobiles, lined its shelves and filled its racks. Best of all, everything was priced at RM9.90—no more, no less. “We have always considered the cost of living in this country too high,” laments Andrew. “Jacq and I wanted to build a business that could, one: aid our fellow Malaysians, and two: contribute to society.”
Never losing sight of their mission, the couple, who hold the reins at Big Bad Wolf Books and the BookXcess chain, have been providing the public with easy access to low-priced reading materials for the past decade. Mid-2018 saw the inauguration of Malaysia’s first 24/7 bookstore in Tamarind Square, Cyberjaya. A mammoth next to a mouse, the new 37,000 square feet facility is seven times the size of what Reissued was.
Milestones in between 2007 and 2018 include the first Big Bad Wolf Book Sale at Dataran Hamodal, Selangor in 2009, opening six other physical branches of BookXcess,
and growing the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale to an international scale; Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan, the Emirates, Bangladesh and China are but a few host countries. “In 2019, we will target 30 different countries including Uganda. By 2025, our goal is to reach a hundred different countries per year,” states a sanguine Andrew.
“Our events occupy some two hundred thousand square feet, which is double the size of most book fairs,” adds Jacqueline. While the numbers are too colossal for us to churn on the spot, two questions remain at the forefront:
How did a Malaysian and Singaporean duo come to be responsible for the world’s biggest book sale? And why isn’t their story being told the world over?