Miriam Farbey, global publisher of DK Children's Books, was searching for a new DK look that would appeal to computer-savvy kids. Inspiration struck as she was riding in a London taxi and passed a poster for Schott's Miscellany, a series of books devoted to mostly useless trivia.
"Internet searches are really quite random," Farbey said. "You put in a few words and you don't know what you're going to get. I wanted to introduce that concept in a kids' book and I realized marrying it with this really old idea of the miscellany, an encyclopedia with no particular organization, might just be the thing."
The result is Pick Me Up, a 352-page collection of ephemera that looks nothing like DK's signature Eyewitness books—those 156 titles of in-depth information on individual topics, published in 40 languages, that have sold more than 45 million copies since their 1987 debut. (A relaunch is planned for next year.)
For example, Pick Me Up's entry on the Roman Empire explains how it compares to McDonald's (both are fixated on world domination), and the explanation of body language is labeled "How to Tell When Someone Fancies You." With its hologram-like cover, it also looks quite unlike the DK Eyewitness series, whose black-and-white backgrounds were designed to let the photographs stand out.
DK has put its marketing muscle behind the new book, mailing 100,000 copies of the cover to schools, sending a blast e-mail to parents and setting up a MySpace page. On launch day, October 6, DK employees will be toting Pick Me Up on their way to and from work. Marketing director Rachel Kempster has even asked colleagues whose windows face the street to display the book on their sills.
There are no plans for a follow-up, but Farbey considers Pick Me Up to set a new design standard that DK will strive to match with future books.
"We're in a new place, with completely different kinds of media," Farbey said, "and we needed a new approach."