MIBF: “We are not afraid of the big bad wolf”

MANILA, Philippines — “The Big Bad Wolf? We’re not afraid of the big bad wolf!

This was the bold statement of Irene Lloren, President of Primetrade Asia Inc., organizer of the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF), when asked by Philstar.com about their rival book festival, Big Bad Wolf (BBW).

“Because they are the wolf, we are the sheep,” Lloren added jokingly.

“No, no, joking aside, Big Bad Wolf has its own book editions. We have the new ones. And this (MIBF) is an industry event. Big Bad Wolf is controlled by, I think it’s a consolidator from Malaysia. And this (MIBF) has been going on for four decades already. Thirty-two years of MIBF have been organized by Primetrade, which I run, imagine? So don’t do your math anymore,” she laughed.

Like BBW, the MIBF went online during the height of the pandemic to survive. Fortunately, only a small number of print shops closed, Lloren said.

“Like everyone else…we were struggling to pivot online because you have to have the technology to be able to pivot online,” Lloren said of the adjustment they made when they held the fair. virtually as large gatherings were banned at the start of the pandemic.

“I tried, as much as possible, to bring people to life what happens at a physical event online. It was difficult because it can’t be replicated.

But now that the MIBF is back in person, with a four-day race from September 15-18 this year at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City, Lloren is pleased that the show’s exhibitors and their cross-generation readership have also came back to greet them.

“A physical event is much better than this online thing. We have missed it for two years and we must continue for the good of our exhibitors who have been loyal to us over the past few years,” enthused Lloren.

Although this year’s MIBF has been smaller in contrast to its previous editions – now with only over a hundred exhibitors compared to almost double the size or over 200 exhibitors before the pandemic – and now up to three halls to cover eight halls before – Lloren said it was just to test if their market is still as big as it was.

The “rock star” authors return

‘Mukhang Artista: 100 Celebrities on Beauty and Makeup’ by Deni Bernardo (right), Philstar.com Lifestyle & Entertainment Editor, is one of many PSICOM publications featuring celebrities. The book is still available from PSICOM’s flagship store on the Shopee e-commerce site. New titles from cult book authors (left) are up for grabs at this year’s MIBF.

Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

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Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ABS-CBN Publishing, the printing arm of media giant ABS-CBN, was a big contributor to the long queues of people coming to the fair with its multitude of book authors. stars like Vice Ganda, Alex Gonzaga, Garçon Abunda and Ramon Bautista.

But since ABS-CBN shut down when the pandemic began in July 2021, among those affected was its publishing business. And so, ABS-CBN Publishing was not present in all its glory at the return of this year’s MIBF.

PSICOM Publishing, like ABS-CBN, was among those that drew large crowds to the pre-pandemic fair, thanks to its authors of famous books like YouTube star Lloyd Cadena and cult young adult books like “Diary ng Panget” and “She is dating the gangster.”

When singer-actor James Reid dropped by the fair to greet fans of ‘Diary ng Panget’, on which his film Viva was based, it was perhaps one of the longest queues ever. history of the fair – with over an hour of waiting to enter the halls.

PSICOM believes famous authors still have the power to sell books, so even though the publishing house has a more modest stand in Hall H this year because they’re restarting and testing the waters again, they said that they would like to come back with a bigger stand in the following years, and with more offers for a wider audience.

Some of the people behind Philippine publishing giant PSICOM at their booth in Hall H at this year’s MIBF

Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

Even without celebrities, there are still artists like Pol Medina and Manix Abrera – “rock star songwriters” who have returned to the MIBF with stage activity and fan interaction this year, Lloren said.

hunger for education

Irene Lloren, President, Primetrade Asia Inc., Organizer of the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) (right) and Rio Lim, Marketing Manager, Vibal Group, in front of a pop-up book installation by a local artist .

Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

Lloren has seen no change in the reading culture of Filipinos amid the pandemic.

Large local bookstores, such as National Bookstore and Fullybooked, were missed by print shops like PSICOM because, according to the publishing house, large bookstores were among those drawing multitudes to the fair.

Now that they have tested the waters for the physical return of the fair, Lloren is excited for it next year as hopefully the big bookstores would be back with their big facilities.

Even without the big bookstores this year, the fair shone brightly with its independent bookstores and publishers which were so plentiful that they took up much of the fair called Indie Village.

About 98% of university presses are also doing well, with many people even without degrees from those publishing houses buying stacks of books from those campus publishers, Lloren said.

“Okay, there’s new technology, we have digital books and everything, but there’s nothing like having the parin in print,” she claimed of why many YAs (Young Adults), the largest market at the fair, still prefer to have their books on paper. .

Younger generations, Generations X to Z, are also a big market for the show, while children’s books and cookbooks are among the show’s bestsellers.

Rio Lim, head of marketing at Vibal Group, said Philstar.com that their business, at first, was hit by the pandemic as their then main market for textbooks, private schools, went online. But since it was among the first, if not the first, in the country to immediately launch into the production of modules for public schools, the company has been able to survive the worst times.

“We lost the private schools, but we gained the public schools,” Lim said.

The MIBF, she said, is the biggest event in the industry, so their company has made sure not to miss the show since joining in 2015.

For their physical return to the MIBF, Vibal adjusted by highlighting general reference books instead of textbooks.

“This year we focused on stories about the Philippines to highlight commercial books that promote and preserve culture, art, history, as shown on our billboards,” Lim said, showing to Philstar.com different art installations from their booth, including a large pop-up card book made by a Filipino artist.

“We may do it in small steps. People were estimating it, you know, the turnaround, at maybe three years,” Lloren said when the MIBF could fully recover.

According to her, their recovery would be accelerated if only there were government subsidies, as in Germany, Singapore and Malaysia.

“Well, you can’t expect us to be like before the pandemic, but slowly we will get back to normal.” — Video by Philstar.com/Martin Ramos

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