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A long time ago in a landfill site far, far away

Martin Waller: City Diary

Next week there arrives The Rise and Fall of Dorling Kindersley, the inside story of one of Britain?s most innovative and creative publishers and how it was brought to ruin by The Phantom Menace. The book is by Christopher Davis, who joined the co-founder Peter Kindersley, now a successful organic farmer in Berkshire, at the start of the business.

The company had gone from nothing to sales of £200 million and its productions were some of the most recognisable on the racks when someone, identified in the book only as Marketing Man, decided that what the world needed was 18 million copies of the handbook based on the fourth Star Wars film. Davis says that more junior colleagues had reckoned it might sell five million, tops. ?I was deputy chairman and publisher, and I didn?t even know about it,? he says. ?We had 13 million left, but they ended up in landfill.? DK ended up in the arms of Pearson, which also later regretted the turn of events.

One of those five million ended up in my son?s bedroom, I tell Davis, although I doubt we paid full price. If I close my eyes I can just picture the cover. I imagine you can, too. He winces. ?I?m afraid I can.?

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