Flipbacks: The Latest Publishing Trend?

All my bookshelves are crammed like this one. Perhaps with flipbacks, one might stack them in columns, thus saving space.

My librarian friend Tamara sent me a link to this Guardian article about the lightweight flipback book format that’ll be available in England this summer. It’s portable, pocketable and obviously marketable.

The Sly Oyster reports the flipback debuted in Holland in 2009.

Whether or not it’ll kill Kindle, as postulated by the rather overinflated headline on Patrick Kingsley’s piece in the Guardian, the idea of a sideways-bound book, with ultra-thin pages, is a fascinating one. I expect there’d be fewer production costs; although there are more pages in a flipback version, the paper itself must cost less than what’s used in traditionally bound books. Might that translate to a lower shelf price–or am I dreaming?

The convenience factor might cause readers to tote literature around more frequently–much like the invention of small digital cameras has encouraged folks to carry their handy Canon at all times.

Mr. Kingsley reports the construction allows the flipbook to stay open on its own. Wouldn’t that be great for those who read while they exercise? Or for new moms who want to read while nursing or pumping? Some knitters have turned to audio books to get a fix of words while their hands keep busy. But perhaps, with the flipback book, they could set the book next to the pattern, and read both at the same time. (Or maybe not.)

I do love traditional hardcovers and paperbacks, but any innovation in the publishing industry these days is a positive one. More specifically, anything that gets people to buy books is fantastic, whether Kindle or Nook or flipback format. The industry is changing, slowly, because the world has already changed.

Perhaps if the flipback migrates across the ocean, we’ll see American writers tighten their work down, minimizing page counts to please the pocket market. Such an innovation in form might even result in a sizable wave of new readership for novellas and short-story collections–or maybe now I’m really dreaming.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Check out my latest post about flipbacks! A lot of the information is courtesy of Jongbloed BV, the company that developed the product. Stay tuned for an interview with Arthur van Keulen of Jongbloed on Monday.

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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4 Responses to Flipbacks: The Latest Publishing Trend?

  1. Hmmm. Doesn’t this seem like a step backwards? Or maybe a step sideways?

    I don’t think I would like these. I am still a book person rather than a kindle person. I buy my purses large enough to hold a book on purpose, and I don’t mind jabbing my neighbor every now and then on the bus to turn the page. These flipbacks make me worry that the book will become less durable and may be in smaller print. Will it be ridiculously hard to turn the ultra thin pages?

    I also like to read at the gym. I am not sure if the flipback would stay open on a book stand at such an angle.

    But it sounds like I have a while before it gets over here (the U.S.) anyway. I will just have to wait and see.

    Thanks for the info!

    • All good points! Thanks so much for commenting. Your thoughts about durability and page-turning are really interesting. I’m a book fanatic, too, and probably wouldn’t go for flipbacks myself. But due to the portability–and if they really do stay open without holding them–flipbacks might get people reading more than they do now. Which would be great. Will it revolutionize the industry? Who knows… and who knows if the format will even get picked up by New York publishers.

  2. I would be concerned about durability, too. In general, though, it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the Kindle (Nook, etc.). Apples and oranges, really. I do like the Kindle, though, for some things. To me, it’s a supplement, not a replacement.

    • Thanks for commenting, Anthony! When I was looking around for more flipback information online, a number of the writers who picked up the Guardian story noted its absurd headline about killing Kindle. I don’t have any sort of reading device, but I don’t think they’re going away–or should be “killed”–because anything that makes reading accessible can translate into more readers. Or at least that’s what I hope.

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