Just hitting the stores now are the first volumes in a series called Icons—Taschen's entry into the little-book market. Chances are pretty good, however, that these books won't be confused with other series.

First, they are picture books. Second, the series features, shall we say, very Taschen themes. "We wanted to cover all subjects in the Icons series—adult, art, architecture, interiors, photography, etc.—so no one would be disappointed," explained publisher Benedikt Taschen.

In many cases, the Icons titles are a distilled version of larger Taschen titles. The debut books in the series range in theme from chairs and photographs of Native Americans taken by Edward Curtis to 19th-century erotica, the erotic photography of Serge Jacques and the wax anatomical models from the Museo La Specola in Florence. (Note: "anatomical" means medical in this context. You never know with Taschen.) "Including all these different titles in the Icons series encourages people to expand their horizons and discover new things," said Taschen.

Taschen told PW that the publisher likes to experiment with the size of its books—witness the release last year of the giant Sumo by Helmut Newton—and it likes to go to extremes. "We wanted to go to the opposite extreme and publish a series of little picture books that cost almost nothing," he added.

At $9.99, these very durable paperback books are priced to move. "They don't even do trade paper for that anymore," said Vivien Jennings, owner of Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, Kan. While she added that she wasn't sure Taschen mini-book topics would have the same appeal for her customers as the Penguin Lives do, she had to admire the price.