To completely paraphrase Marilyn Monroe, ‘a kindle in the hand may be very simple, but a proper book is a reader’s best friend’.
Frankly, we English readers haven’t had many options over the past pandemic book wise, as Chiang Mai’s few remaining second hand book shops, and the handful of outlets selling a couple of dozen of English language books, haven’t been able to compete with the private…and speedy…and cheap, downloading of books which arrive instantly into your devices.
But that is all changing in the next couple of weeks when MILLIONS of books will arrive in Chiang Mai, in four 40 foot containers, for the biggest book sale in Lanna!
Malaysian company BookXcess launched Big Bad Wolf in 2009, with the belief that everyone should be able to access books, “primarily wishing to cultivate reading habits, increase English literacy world wide and build a new generation of readers by making books more affordable and accessible to everyone.” Each year, except for the past three for obvious reasons, millions of books travel from country to country in the region (to date having toured 34 cities in 13 countries, offering the book reading public deep discounts and access to some of the greatest, most current, local, international, fun, fictional, factual and useful books in the world.
“If you go to a bookshop anywhere in Thailand, it is obvious that English language books in particular are very expensive, in fact, all across Asia you will find this to be true,” said Trasvin Jittidecharak, the Chiang Mai partner to Big Bad Wolf, whom we introduced in a previous profile as, “Owner of Silkworm Books, which has published over 500 books over the past thirty years. She is also the founder of the Mekong Press Foundation funded by the Rockefeller Foundation which publishes selected titles featuring cross-border themes, supports local writers and regional translation works. She is the second woman in over a hundred years to sit on the International Publishers Association’s Execcutive Committee, as well as the Freedom to Publish Committee, and remains an active member. She has spent her life working towards the promotion of reading and literacy and is a regular speaker for many literary events around the world.
“In our region the weak currency means that imported costs are high, transportation and postage add to that, then you have all the markups due to the small size of the market, and books can be very expensive. The markups are across the retail system. That is why Big Bad Wolf’s bulk buying has been so successful. They negotiate directly with publishers around the world for leftover stock, or other discounted bulk buys. Most of these books are completely brand new from the godown, but they may have a surplus of print or are unsold, or for any reason at all they can be bought at lower cost. These are not necessarily old and dated books, it is simply economics, that some businesses would rather reduce their stocks,” explained Trasvin.
Trasvin went on to say that the first Big Bad Wolf fair that came to Thailand was such a hit that there has been public demand for its return each year. This year, Big Bad Wolf and Plan for Kids, the Thai leading pre-school children’s books publisher, are working together for this Chiang Mai event.
“The cost may not be as low as the first year,” she warned. “But this is because of the current state of transportation and shipping, especially as most of full colour books are printed in China, cost of paper and transport went up because of the lock down. Last year the shipping cost went up by 400%. But the books at the Big Bad Wolf, because they have been negotiated in bulk, will still come at between 50%-80% lower than retail prices.”
“Some books will go down to 90% of cover price!”
Because Big Bad Wolf began with children’s books, Trasvin promises that parents and teachers alike will find this fair of great interest.
“It isn’t just books for children, there will also be toys, educational toys and tools for parents and schools,” said Trasvin, adding that letters have been issued to schools, and they can bring the invitation letters to the fair to claim even deeper discounts, after spending over 5,000 baht. “The entire hall of Central Plaza will be filled with millions of books, it will be amazing.”
Readers of Thai language will be happy to know that most of the major Thai publishing houses will be featured, with their books offering reductions at various levels, but lovers of English language will be overjoyed to know that there will literally be millions of books (70% will be in English) to be had from publishers in Europe, America, Australia and across Asia,
“General fiction, non fiction, architecture and design, business and management, children’s, cook book, coffee table, everything you can think of,” said Trasvin.
“I love books, my kids love books, the big Bad Wolf Fair is absolutely amazing. The discounts are insane, with up to 90% off many titles. If you’ve never been, I can’t recommend it highly enough,” gushed Rachel Begley, a long time British expat and mother of three young children who has been a long time fan of the fair.
Donjai’s father enjoying the fair in 2019
Donjai Srivichainanda, a true fan of Big Bad Wolf, who used to be spotted roaming the fair in the early hours of the morning (the fair used to be open 24 hours a day), spending our sleeping hours just wandering, reading, dipping and buying books, “One thing I have in common with my father and my brother is that we all love reading,” she told Citylife. “Big Bad Wolf Book Fair is where us three can enjoy our time together, just like returning to our childhood.”
Big Bad Wolf will be running between 10.30am and 9pm from 26th August too 4th September at the Chiang Mai Hall, Central Chiang Mai Airport.