Friday, 11 May 2012

Why no fan should be without LEGO Books

Ten years ago there was a reasonable LEGO publishing schedule, with DK having a reasonable range of books available. Almost all of these were child targeted storybooks. Today, LEGO and DK have put together an impressive publishing schedule that sees must-buy books on the shelves every few months. How have books become a must-have addition to any respectable LEGO collection?

The only book that was, back in the day, a real must have was The Ultimate LEGO Book. This was a great reference book that at the time seemed to be as exhaustive a guide to LEGO as we would see. The book still holds up as a great overview of what LEGO is all about, but the last few years have seen it eclipsed as the LEGO library grows.

The LEGO Book, first published in 2009, is due for an update later this year and really kicked off the re-launch of DK’s LEGO output. It is much more than an update of The Ultimate LEGO Book, with entirely new content and Standing Small, a second book all about mini-figures included too. For a starting point, it’s hard to go wrong with this excellent volume.

The next big release, that really showed how popular LEGO books could be, was LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary. This maintained the quality of The Ultimate LEGO Book, however with more focus goes into great depth on the Star Wars theme. With over ten years of LEGO Star Wars sets available, it is as exhaustive a guide as any one volume could be. Some fans, however, may perhaps feel they don’t need a book on LEGO Star Wars and could skip it. LEGO and DK took an old idea of including LEGO elements with other products (I have fond childhood memories of a Space sweater with an attachable mini-figure), and used it to ensure that no-one could miss out on The Visual Dictionary.  Luke Skywalker at the Yavin Ceremony is one of those figures it would be hard to fit in with a set, so made sense to package with the book.

Since then a second Star Wars volume focusing on mini-figures has been released, as well as a Harry Potter title in the same style. Launching later this year will be LEGO DC Super Heroes: Batman Visual Dictionary, continuing the licensed theme with an exclusive mini-figure.

2010 saw the launch of LEGO Brickmaster books, taking the packaging of pieces and books to a new level. Starting off with two books based on the classic themes Pirates and Castle was a wise approach, as both were consistently top sellers for WHSmith and presumably other retailers. Their success can be seen by LEGO Brickmaster: Pirates still in publication long after the last Pirates sets disappeared from shop shelves. Each book includes instructions for multiple LEGO models, the required bricks to build any one model at a time, and two mini-figures.

This also allowed time for anticipation to build for a Star Wars edition of Brickmaster which was released alongside an Atlantis edition. In 2011 City and Ninjago joined the ranks, with a second Ninjago and a Friends edition to follow later this year. With the exception of Ninjago (where each character is named) the mini-figure selections have cleverly been rank and file Pirates, Clones or Police Officers. This stops fans complaining that they already have too many Darth Vaders and keeps special mini-figures special when you buy that £100+ set.

There are also the children’s’ activity books piblished by Ladybird that include a few bricks and a mini-figure. The nice thing about including the actual LEGO with the book is that it completely associates the book with the product, providing that extra level of interactivity.

If these books were not great quality they wouldn’t sell, and wouldn’t provide a great resource for collectors or provide endless building entertainment. But LEGO and DK are definitely on to a winner by adding the extra incentive of including actual LEGO with the books. Hopefully those fans who must have that Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter will end up enjoying the LEGO library they have built by accident.

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