A Salute to Taschen
Art books are an expensive passion. The fine paperstocks, copious illustrations, and large formats usually mean shelling out the big bucks. Astute readers may know that this is not always the case.
I'm not talking about stealing, nor buying books used. Rather, Taschen Books, one of the world's largest publishers of books on the arts, film, design, and popular culture. The story of the company is almost as strange as some of the item in their catalogue. Benedikt Taschen had a very large comic collection, and openned up a small store to begin selling it off in 1980. When things looked bleak for the international comic game, Taschen bought 40000 remaindered copies of a book on Magritte and sold them at a cut-rate: the bargain art market arrives. Since then, the company has expanded, but the idea remains the same - high quality, affordable art books. They have diversified a bit over the years, but their core practice continues.
Many of their books are deceptively cheap, appearing on the bargain racks at booksellers like Borders without ever having been "full price." Since they print in several difference languages (and often release only one edition of a book in a given language), this saves them some confusion. They do have some editions and titles that are costly (their 75 pound Muhammed Ali book is only of the most expensive things to ever be issued an ISBN).
Perhaps their greatest strength has been in discovering, promoting, and distributing the work of living, contemporary artists. For a field of inquiry that usually operates on a "great man" theory, this practice (profitable or not) challenges basic assumptions.
Visit them at http://www.taschen.com