“Join the reading revolution – A revolutionary new book format, giving book lovers a real reading experience with the portability of a mobile phone.” – Flipback launch brochure
With bible-thin pages from London-based Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN: 9781444730562, is this beautiful carry-around copy of Pride and Prejudice. But, positioning itself as the new-era rival to the Kindle and other eReaders, whether it is actually readable and has that “print experience” is up for debate.
This little cutie set me back $19.95 in Glebebooks (in Sydney’s Glebe, funnily enough) a month or so ago. It’s another adorable handbag or pocket version and, curiously, it reads in landscape and not portrait style. It is likened to a more “modern” reading experience, where we aim for increasingly compact goods – and this is around the size of an iPhone, opening ‘top to bottom’ but reading sideways.
The cover is gorgeous. I love the typography, the intricacy and yet the simplicity, and the way the colours all tie-together without looking overtly too modern or too simplified. Just gorgeous.
According to Amazon, the dimensions are: 11.8 x 8 x 1.8 cm (about a third of the size of a standard paperback). It has 648 pages (somewhat unbelievable considering those dimensions, but I’m telling the truth, honest) and weighs less than 145 grams. Because it’s on the side and to make it ‘flippable’ and to lie open without having to hold it, the spine and the pages are not attached. I really dislike this aspect as I think it looks incomplete, which is a shame as the rest of the book is well-made and of a high quality.
However, Flipbacks are not a Hodder & Stoughton-created idea, originating in Holland (as ‘Dwarsliggers’) and launched in September 2009, minimalising real estate needed to present the books. They were then launched in the UK in June 2011. Spain and France also have versions of this form of book. Jongbloed, who launched the Dutch original and is actually a bible publisher, indicated that it also helps reduce environmental impact (I’m not convinced the effect will be huge, although the idea is cute). I think the link between the two brands still exists, as they both use the same branding idea (dog holding book in its mouth). Watching the Dutch might be the way to figure out what is next to be published – they have The Hunger Games, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Book Thief among many others to boast in their collection. There are 1.5 million of these Flipbacks in print.
They also have their own Pride and Prejudice copy (‘Trots en vooroordeel’) which, while not as visually beautiful as the English version, is still an exciting development!
All the other Austens and even Jane Eyre are also published in the Flipback versions, but Pride and Prejudice has the best cover. The ‘Flipback Classics’ range was launched in November last year, and I’m pretty sure I’ve noticed some Dickens around as well.
There are some modern favourites under this new brand, including Shades of Grey, My Sister’s Keeper and One Day (that is now a film starring Anne Hathaway… anyone seen it?). There’s a generous sprinkling of Stephen King as well. I might get some more of these books, but it’s going to require some serious thought into shelving.
I’m a curious mix of both Kindle-adoration and print-fanaticism. While this book is delightfully compact, and wonderful to quickly browse through, I just can’t sit here and read it from cover to cover. I also don’t really subscribe to the idea that reading (or having the option to read) with one hand is at all beneficial. Even the iPhone5 is opting for a larger screen. But hey, it’s a hit in Europe and the thing is damn cute. Maybe it will take off here too as something kitschy to own, but my doubts about it “saving” print are considerable, and my doubts about it being able to “kill the Kindle” as The Guardian asked are even greater. Most of us like the print product because of how it is. Simple.
But what do you think? Is it “the next little thing” as the slogan would have us believe or is this just a print-minded attempt at bringing our traditional novels up to date?