Once again Guinness World Records shows that it is an equal-opportunity record-breaking organization by bringing along a sampling of superlative fun to BEA. A couple of years ago, the most tattooed woman graced the booth; last year the oldest female body builder was on hand to flex and take photos with attendees. This year Guinness brings along two record holders from the Harlem Globetrotters: at 7-ft.-8-in., Paul “Tiny” Sturgess is the tallest living basketball player, and teammate Kevin “Special K” Daley has made the farthest hook shot at 46’6”. Both will be in booth 3534 today, 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m., and again, 2–3 p.m., for a meet and greet and some Globetrotting showmanship.
Hailing from England, Stuart Claxton, the marketing manager who has been with the company 10 years, says he is particularly looking forward to meeting Sturgess, who is also a Brit. “It’s hilarious,” says Claxton about Sturgess’s claim to world-record fame. “We’re not known for our basketball players.”
All country-of-origin favorites aside, Claxton says one of the things most attractive about Guinness World Records is that it has something for everyone to enjoy and relate to—or be shocked by. Among his favorite records this year include First Lady Michelle Obama’s celebration of more than 300,000 people worldwide doing the most jumping jacks for one minute in a 24-hour period; the tallest living married couple at 13’4” total (he at 6’10”, she at 6’6”); the world’s largest hot dog (7 pounds, $90, in Chicago); longest time spinning a quarter (23 seconds); and even Justin Bieber getting the most dislikes on YouTube for his Baby video (two million dislikes out of 267 million views).
“We always make sure it has new and fresh content,” says Claxton about the annual volume. Guinness World Records 2013 has several new features, including infographics, augmented reality, and a secret, digital-only 13th chapter.
With infographics—as Claxton explains, images and comparisons found on every page—readers get a visual and textual way to relate to the material. For example, instead of just stating “the strongest animals are the larger beetles of the Scarabaeidae family, which are mainly found in the tropics,” the entry goes on to say: “In tests these beetles were found to support 850 times their own weight upon their back. As a comparison, the infographics show, in ‘a trestle weight-lifting stance,’ a human can support up to 17 times his own body weight.” Or as Claxton put is, it is like a man “lifting 10 fully grown African elephants.”
Guinness has an iPad in the booth to demonstrate its new augmented reality feature that Claxton says, “literally makes the book come to life.” By scanning a smart phone or iPad over select pages, the record breaker becomes three-dimensional. But some of the entries are not for the squeamish: a great white shark jumps out, and the world’s largest spider exits its hole and walks across the page. “It’s huge and hairy and nasty,” says Claxton about the spider. “We love it.”
As for that secret 13th chapter, Claxton says it is accessible with a code and includes never-before-seen content, including a “day in the life of the adjudicators” who travel the world to authenticate records. “It’s our own way of trying to bridge the gap between hardcover and digital books,” Claxton adds.
Guinness sells three million books a year—which would measure “eight Mount Everests laid end to end,” and might be a record in itself.
Guinness sees its mission as “celebrating ordinary, everyday people doing extraordinary things.” In the end, says Claxton, “anybody can break a record,” and that’s part of the fun of Guinness, one of the world’s most recognizable brands.