Flipbacks: dead or alive?

Last year, British publisher Hodder & Stoughton introduced readers to the Flipback:

a revolutionary new book format, giving book lovers a real reading experience with the portability of a mobile phone. The Flipback is a new kind of book, which opens top to bottom and has sideways-printed text, so you get a full length novel in little more than the size of an iPhone.

The Flipback’s design was developed by a Dutch Bible printer who “set himself the challenge of improving on the paperback.” By printing on the same ultra-thin paper used in the production of pocket-sized Bibles, the overall dimensions needed to contain the full text of a book are reduced dramatically. The average Flipback weighs around 145 grams and is about 5″ inches in length. The spine is supposed to be very flexible so the book can easily be held open and handled. One woman in the above video comments on the “tactile” feel of the cover and paper, also an intentional design element.

eReader companies have all used the “portable, light, and fits in your pocket” tagline when promoting their devices, so it seems that Flipbacks were meant to be a direct response to this. If a publisher could figure out a new way to make reading physical books more trendy or convenient, they might be able to compete with increasing eBook sales. The novelty of reading a mini version of War and Peace cannot be overstated. These little books would probably sell very well at airports and news stands, and they would also appeal to collectors.

Over 1.5 million Flipbacks have been printed (mostly in Dutch), but the number of available English titles is currently limited to about eighteen. I’m not sure if those are even still in print as their links on the Flipback website all go to Error 404 pages. If the English Flipback line was discontinued, its limited selection was most likely the reason. They should have at least put out a line of classics novels (other than Jane Austen!).

Hopefully the Flipback design will live to see another day, and the fact that their website is still live is a good sign. Maybe one of my British readers can provide further insight in the comments section?

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