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Books & Bookmen

Just published by Harriman House is ‘Eyewitness: The Rise and Fall of Dorling Kindersley’, an account of the colourful history of the illustrated reference publisher, written by its former global publisher, Christopher Davis.

The book blurb concludes: “In the rapidly changing publishing climate of today this is also a nostalgic reminder of a time when creativity could flourish unburdened by the shackles of corporate bureaucracy.” This partly refers to DK’s lunatic decision to print 18m books to tie in with the return of the Star Wars movies, which nearly crippled the company before Penguin snapped it up in 2000.

But, with uncanny timing and as if to illustrate the point further, the book came out just before Penguin announced that its 80 Strand HQ was to become 100 people lighter, with almost 10 percent of its British staff to be made redundant. Jobs will go at Penguin and Rough Guides, while DK staff will be hit particularly hard by the cuts, which John Makinson, Penguin Group chairman and chief executive, says are due to “unprecedented pressure on our costs and our traditional ways of working.” For that, read cheaper labour had been found elsewhere, with most of DK’s operations to be outsourced to India and the creation of up to 140 jobs in Penguin’s New Delhi office.

Davis may like to add another chapter to his book: while a dejected DK falls in London, it rises in India.

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