Dorling Kindersley, otherwise known as DK, was one of the greatest publishing phenomena of recent times. Springing up from nothing in a back bedroom in Kennington in 1974, it was the brainchild of Peter Kindersley and Christopher Dorling. A quarter of a century later DK was producing and selling some sixty million books, CD-ROMs and videos annually. Yet within two years of that high point it was skirting bankruptcy and up for sale. Today it survives – barely – as a division of Penguin Books.
As everybody knows, publishing, like other media, can be a hugely volatile business. Big gambles on author advances are a matter of course, production costs fluctuate, and distribution sometimes seems to be solely at the mercy of malign heavenly forces, or greedy chains, or both. Yet as Christopher