Could Someone Get Used to Reading Flipbacks All the Time?

After writing so many posts about flipback books, I read two of them in a row this summer–first the amazingly complex and beautiful “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, then “The Other Hand” by Chris Cleave.

"Cloud Atlas" in flipback form. Isn't it beautiful?

I hadn’t read either author before discovering them in flipback.

“Cloud Atlas” is about civilization, and how rulers squash the less powerful (whether they’re actual rulers or just regular people who have some power over those around them), but it’s also about communication. The intricate, symphony-like story is told in pieces by numerous narrators. Some are journal entries. Others are letters. And still others are–well, I don’t want to give anything away. “Cloud Atlas” is literary fiction, but it also veers into speculative territory, and it quite definitely offers breathtaking insights about the human condition and where society could go in the future.

It’s the kind of book that makes me want to read more. And write more. David Mitchell’s officially on my favorite author list now.

"The Other Hand" by Chris Cleave is known as "Little Bee" here in America.

When I started “The Other Hand” and realized it was about a character named Little Bee, I assumed I had picked up a sequel to the popular novel “Little Bee.”

Three-fourths of the way through reading the book, I figured out that “The Other Hand” was published as “Little Bee” in America. Ah ha! Mystery solved. (Flipbacks, of course, are British, and the form originated in the Netherlands.) I enjoyed Chris Cleave’s book, told from alternating perspectives of a British widow and a Nigerian refugee, and I can understand why it’s been so successful.

If you haven’t heard of flipbacks, here’s a comprehensive overview, and here’s an interview with Arthur van Keulen, international marketing manager for Jongbloed BV. For other pieces and photos, check out my “flipback” category in the sidebar.

So, could someone get used to reading flipback books all the time?

My answer’s yes. It didn’t take me long at all to adjust to reading “Cloud Atlas,” and then “The Other Hand,” in flipback form. In fact, as I kept reading, it seemed more normal to be carrying around a tiny little lovely book, and opening it each night for another feast of words. The difference between reading flipbacks and reading regular paperbacks (namely the font size and leading) disappeared quickly. The pages seemed normal-sized and proportional, and each evening, the stories welcomed me back without any adjustment.

Of course the convenience was still evident–how lightweight each book was, being able to set one down without holding the pages in place and how easily I could tuck a book into my purse.

I could totally get used to reading flipbacks all the time. It seems Emerald Barnes agrees with me. When I accidentally ended up with two winners of my flipback contest, I sent Emerald “Piece of My Heart” by Peter Robinson, and she blogged about the reading experience and how she prefers flipbacks to ebooks.

Flipbacks are cute and functional and a curiosity, but they’re also like any other book. What’s inside matters the most. And from my initial inspection, coupled with Emerald’s glowing review of “Piece of My Heart,” it seems like Hodder & Stoughton chose some amazing titles for the first 12 books in their flipback series.

But right now, I’m back to a regular paperback with “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” the latest David Mitchell novel. Which you’ll probably hear more about soon, because it’s an incredible piece of historical fiction.

What are you reading right now? And in what form–paperback, hardback, Kindle, flipback?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Books, Fiction, Flipback, Reading and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Could Someone Get Used to Reading Flipbacks All the Time?

  1. Liz says:

    oh dear, i think not…..i heard a new york time podcast talking about his and i agree with them—-there’s nothing really wrong with paperbacks that needs to be fixed…..but maybe it’s just that my eyes are way older than yours.

    • I agree that there’s nothing wrong with the paperback, Liz, and along those lines, perhaps I’m not even the intended audience. (I am not a Kindle owner and I don’t commute, either, which is a great reason to have a small book…) But I do think the product and the buzz has gotten people to think about reading–how they read, when they read, and when they could be reading if they had a book in their pocket.

  2. Thanks for the mention! I just read an ebook, and although I love them, it wasn’t the same as the flipback. I really need to buy some more. 😉

    Your reviews of both books sound lovely, and I am going to look into them. “Piece of my Heart” was a fantastic read. Once it got started and the two stories had been set up, I couldn’t put the book down.

    As an answer to your final question, I’m currently in between books, but I just finished Dalya Moon’s (aka Tamara Paulin’s) ebook, Charlie Woodchuck is a Minor Niner. It is a great read! (I gave it five stars.) And, it’s free on Smashwords right now. 🙂

    • And thank you for writing about your flipback experience, Emerald, both on your blog and here. “Charlie Woodchuck Is a Minor Niner” is such a great title! It sounds like it’d be a fun read.

      • You’re most welcome! Thanks for sending me the book. 🙂

        It is. It’s a middle school/YA book, but I think anyone could enjoy it. 🙂 And, Tamara did a great job with the title! It’s super catchy. 🙂

  3. Laura, I would love to read a flipback. Right now, I have a few hardbacks on my list of reading, and I am on and off again with books that I can read on my iPhone (no larger eReader format for me yet, boo). I imagine the iPhone reading might be similar, though less straining on these over-forty eyes 🙂 Do you know if they’ll start selling flipbacks in the states soon? Or do you have to order them online?

    • I do need to run another flipback contest soon, so maybe you can win one here, Christi! The pages and type of the flipbacks really aren’t much different than regular books–in fact, the Chris Cleave book looked exactly like a normal paperback in terms of font size and leading, but instead of opening to two pages at once, you’re reading one book page from top to bottom, then turning the page. Other books definitely had smaller type, though, “Cloud Atlas” being the smallest of the ones I’ve seen personally.

      I have no news whatsoever about flipbacks coming to America–other than that interview I ran in the spring (I think) that mentioned talks are occurring. If you do choose to order online, I recommend rather than going through Hodder & Stoughton in the hopes that shipping might be cheaper and faster. The shipping from the publishing company cost more than the book. I’m still glad I bought it, but I heard another American blogger raving about the delivery speed and decent price of the experience, so I’d recommend trying that.

  4. Jo Eberhardt says:

    I saw a review of the “new flipback books” in an Australian magazine a couple of weeks ago, and my first thought was, “Eh. They’re not that new. Besides, Laura told me all about them months ago.”

    But on to your question, I just finished reading Machine Man by Max Barry (will review it on my blog later this week) and am currently re-reading a dystopian novel that I first read when I was 13, Swan Song by Robert McCammon. (And wondering what the hell I was doing reading a book like that when I was 13…)

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