Cologne: In 1983, Benedikt Taschen, then 22, received his first big lesson in business when he bought 40,000 copies of an American book about Magritte for $1 apiece. He sold them, for around $3 each, within two months.
Today, at 31, Taschen has his headquarters in a mansion in Cologne, from which he sells worldwide one book every three seconds. There are fresh flowers in the offices, an eclectic collection of sometimes pornographic art on the walls and a miniature Viking ship with tea chests ("Social Box Transporter" by Martin KippenHL berger) hanging in the stairwell. The eccentric, slightly shocking image extends to the boss: Taschen projects an image of a naughty schoolboy trying to impress.
But his books are the important thing, and his record there is impressive. As he says, "It's more fun selling lots of them than selling a few." His books are mainly found piled in remainder outlets, and until recently, were sold wholesale in minimum orders of 1,000. Such economies of scale help keep prices down, but, in addition, projects are conceived so that every last penny can be squeezed out of them.