Could the flipback revolutionize publishing? Definitely.
Here’s why, starting with a definition of this innovative book format for those of you who missed Patrick Kingsley’s column in the Guardian.
While flipbacks certainly play into the smaller-is-better trend in entertainment, unlike e-readers, no batteries are required! A flipback is a real hardcover book, but it’s six times smaller than average and compact enough to tuck in your pocket. Due to its flexible spine, a flipback can be read one-handed, which is great for all of us multi-taskers. Public transportation riders won’t elbow their neighbors when turning pages—besides the size, flipbacks are read from top to bottom.
There has been rampant speculation on many blogs about the flipback (and its potential to change the publishing industry) since Kingsley’s column came out in March. In pursuit of more comprehensive information about this phenomenon, I contacted Arthur van Keulen, the international marketing manager of Jongbloed BV, the Netherlands-based publishing company that created the dwarsligger—known as the flipback in England, librinos in Spain and point2 in France. He graciously agreed to an interview for my Seven Questions series, which I’ll post on Monday. In the meantime, I’m thrilled to share some information about this incredible product, much of it from publicity material Arthur was kind enough to email me. So enjoy the information and stay tuned for more!
On average, a dwarsligger weighs 5.11 ounces. The dimensions are 4.7 x 3.1 inches. Bookstores can display a lot of merchandise in a small amount of floorspace–a win-win situation for businesses and the book-buying public. Dwarsliggers feature thin, strong, bright pages and special spines that allow them to stay open without a struggle. (I’m already daydreaming about reading and knitting at the same time.) And flipbacks are being touted as more environmentally friendly than traditional books–due to their petiteness and being printed on paper that is Forest Stewardship Council certified.
Jongbloed BV launched the dwarsligger to great acclaim in September 2009 in the Netherlands. Jongbloed, a well-respected Bible publishing company (think really thin but readable pages, and squeezing lots of content into one volume), teamed with the Ambo Anthos branch of the NDC/VBK publishing group, the leaders in the Dutch consumer book market, to produce the dwarsligger, which has been patented worldwide.
Since its debut, demand for the handy pocket-sized books has skyrocketed. As of mid-April, Arthur said, more than 1.5 million dwarsliggers, featuring 130 fiction and nonfiction titles, have been printed.
And that’s just the beginning.
Here are some more facts about the dwarsligger and the versions launched in Spain, France and (soon) England:
* The company website explains that “dwarsligger,” a noun, means this: “A person unwilling to cooperate, who is stubbornly resistant to everything; obstructionist; troublemaker.” The term derives from the Dutch word dwars, meaning crossways, transverse; intractable, contrary, plus the verb liggen, to lie.
* Since launching in the Netherlands, in September 2009, with 10 mainstream titles and seven Christian titles, dwarsliggers have grown in popularity and marketshare in their home country. There have been 93 titles published there as of late March 2011. Nicole Krauss’ “The History of Love,” “Everything Is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer and Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” were among the initial fiction titles. The post-launch releases include books by Dan Brown, Deepak Chopra, Bret Easton Ellis, Agatha Christie, Sophie Kinsella, Tolstoy, Ian McEwan, Malcom Gladwell, C.S. Lewis, Danielle Steele and Markus Zusak. Books by Dutch authors feature heavily on the launch list and among the post-launch releases.
* Spain was the next country to welcome dwarsliggers, under the name librinos, in November 2010. Retail price on most titles is €10, which is about $14.66. Six mainstream titles and four Christian titles made up the launch list and seven more have been added, most of them selling for €10. Jongbloed BV partnered with Ediciones B, part of Grupo Zeta, to produce librinos.
* Point2, the French version of flipbacks, debuted on April 14, 2011, with nine titles, ranging in prcie from €9,90 to €13. Jonathan Safran Foer made the list with his “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” as did Jeff Lindsay, Pierre Deproges, Hugh Laurie, Cormac McCarthy, Henning Mankell, Krishnamurti, Olivier Adam and Michael Connelly. There are eight additional titles planned for release in May and June.
* That brings us to the flipback’s debut in England. Hodder & Stoughton will release the following titles, among others, on June 30: “Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy” by John le Carré; “The Adventure of English” by Melvyn Bragg; “Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis; “One Day” by David Nicholls; ”The Other Hand” by Chris Cleave; “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell; “Misery” by Stephen King; “Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde; and “ A Million Little Pieces” by James Frey. Retail price is expected to be £9.99. The publishing house’s press release promises targeted releases for holidays and to release some backlist titles in the compact format. It seems there’s a Twitter feed promoting the flipback’s British release, so keep tabs on that if you’re looking for more information.
It’ll be fascinating to watch the British launch—and to see whether I can get my hands on one. If that happens, I promise a full review of the reading experience. In the meantime, pop over to Jen Ryan’s site, The Lady Loves Books, for her take on reading Chris Cleave’s “The Other Hand” as a flipback. (Thanks, Jen, for loaning me your comparison photo!) And remember to check back here Monday for the Seven Questions interview with Arthur van Keulen of Jongbloed BV.
So, now that I’ve recited all the facts and statistics that I’ve been able to dig up, what do you think? Is the dwarsligger the future of publishing? Would you buy one?
(Update on June 28: For more information, check out the interview with Arthur van Keulen; a piece about the KJV Transetto Bible, which is a Bible printed in pocket flipback format; and details about the upcoming Hodder & Stoughton launch.)