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The "flipback", a new kind of book
March 21, 2011 9:08 PM   Subscribe

A new kind of book has been created in Holland, where its sold over 1m copies since it came out in 2009. Now finding its way to England, called the "flipback", the pages are super thin Bible paper with a special lay-flat spine and small format, making it suitable for reading with one hand, thumb page-flips, and shirt pocket storage.
posted by stbalbach (63 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is the only link I could find about it, maybe Dutch readers have more information.

Re: the article's 'compete with Kindle' hook, is obviously incorrect, but this is yet one more way to read books which are fragmenting into many formats and niches.
posted by stbalbach at 9:11 PM on March 21, 2011


It does look really really good for crowded subways, where you only have one hand free.
posted by hermitosis at 9:12 PM on March 21, 2011


Re: the article's 'compete with Kindle' hook, is obviously incorrect

Hmm. I think in-context it's hyperbole, but I think it might be 'right by accident' - lay-flatness and ease of one-handed reading are two of the biggest advantages my Kindle has over a paperback.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:13 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


At $16.2851 USD a copy, maybe not so much.
posted by kipmanley at 9:15 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


That does cost a bit much, ouch. Would be amazing for a cheaper price. Why would these cost more than a normal paperback?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:16 PM on March 21, 2011


I've gotta get one of these, I frickin love super-thin paper.
posted by facetious at 9:17 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't been in the UK for a while, but isn't a tenner extortionate for a novel?
posted by pompomtom at 9:21 PM on March 21, 2011


Also: I'll be reading a 750 page hardback on the train home tonight. I, and my co-travellers, will survive. This looks like a solution in search of a problem.
posted by pompomtom at 9:22 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Page-turning with paperbacks will see you elbowing your neighbour in the pancreas in no time.
Really? Really?? If you can't figure out how to turn a book's pages with your elbows at your side, you have no business riding the tube, or any other sardine-based transportation system.
posted by sysinfo at 9:25 PM on March 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


It does look really really good for crowded subways, where you only have one hand free.

Hey, reading a gigantic hardback book one-handed while dangling from a subway strap, dodging stray knives from the Shark/Jet fight at the end of the carriage, and fending off the guy trying to hit on you because he, too, likes David Mitchell, what a coincidence!, is not a problem.

It's a challenge.
posted by No-sword at 9:27 PM on March 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


Anyway, I don't like the sounds of this. If it's not chained to a lectern in a monastery scriptorium boasting at least two (2) mysterious poisonings per week, it's not a book, I say.
posted by No-sword at 9:28 PM on March 21, 2011 [34 favorites]


Yes, but how do joints rolled with the pages taste?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:29 PM on March 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


It does look really really good for crowded subways, where you only have one hand free.
posted by hermitosis


Other scenarios where "you only have one hand free" for $100, Alex!
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:32 PM on March 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I buy rolls of "bible paper" from a specialty printer in Holland (for use with paper art projects) and it is really, really thin. a real pleasure to work with.

but it's no different here; they're just using this same high quality thin paper to print regular books on, for the same ease of travel and weight that bibles have enjoyed for decades/centuries.

great idea on the behalf of someone at the paper mill!
posted by EricGjerde at 9:32 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Somewhere, Jack T. Chick is doing a facepalm.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 9:33 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"This looks like a solution in search of a problem."

And that problem is nursing. My hand would get SO TIRED holding open a springy-shut paperback and trying to turn the pages somehow without jostling the endlessly hungry newborn with no neck muscles. Borrowing my mom's Kindle was actually really good for nursing reading. But a very small book I could easily hold one-handed without fatigue, that stays open without straining my hand, and has easy-to-thumb-turn pages? PERFECT.

After my mom and her magic Kindle went home, I ended up watching a lot of Hulu until he got strong enough to hold up his own head and I could more or less use my second hand as long as I kept him supported in the crook of my arm.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:35 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


"The paper is wafer-thin." What kind of wafer? because every wafer I've ever come into contact with, thin though they may be, was thicker than a regular sheet of paper.
posted by kingv at 9:37 PM on March 21, 2011 [18 favorites]


It's known as OTA-binding. The Dutch are great at this. You'll generally see this type of binding used in educational texts, due to the stay-flat nature.
posted by Sreiny at 9:53 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ooh, I would love it if these caught on. It aggravates me quite a lot how books that once came out in mass-market paperback now come out in trade paperback: bulkier, floppier, harder to handle, harder to read while holding in one hand, all around less convenient, yet more expensive. To see the opposite happen - more compact, easier to handle! - would make me very happy.
posted by mandanza at 9:54 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why would these cost more than a normal paperback?

Volume.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:03 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would imagine that part of the high cost is the relative newness of the format. I would imagine that for it to be economical (read: widespread, cheap to buy, even cheaper to make) is that printing presses will need to be manufactured/installed/rejiggered. And on preview, what b1tr0t said.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:05 PM on March 21, 2011


Want. And I have a Kindle.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:18 PM on March 21, 2011


Wafer thin
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:25 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lousy for teachers who could not use it to slam it on the desk to get the class's undivided attention...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:54 PM on March 21, 2011


Tiny books in Russian
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:57 PM on March 21, 2011


Has the practice of reading ebooks on mobile devices really just not caught on here (or in Holland, I suppose)? I have an iPhone, where the Kindle app exists and is extremely good for reading books (I assume that on Android devices it works similarly) and reading one-handed is not at all a problem for me.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:25 PM on March 21, 2011


It's an interesting experience to read one of these; it's much smaller and obviously the routines of reading are similar but transposed. Familiar but different.
You read two pages as one. Which makes that a small book size makes for a page size double that. So sentence length and font size are bigger than you'd regularly expect for a small book.
Obviously the small size makes it easier to stash in a pocket. In comparison to ebook readers conventional paper books can seem bulky. I think this book form addresses that somewhat.
posted by joost de vries at 12:04 AM on March 22, 2011


Hmm, books that leave one hand free. I think I see a niche.
posted by Segundus at 1:53 AM on March 22, 2011


I haven't been in the UK for a while, but isn't a tenner extortionate for a novel?

The average price is 8 or 9 quid.

Hmm, books that leave one hand free. I think I see a niche.

This is the sound of one hand fapping.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:55 AM on March 22, 2011


Why would these cost more than a normal paperback?

Dutch books are expensive. And there's a fixed book price -- for the first 18 months -- so no shop can sell new books any cheaper than an other. € 12,50 is the standard price for a paperback.

I can buy three English books, and have them flown in, for the price of almost any new Dutch book.

[And no, I don't get why so many books have to be so expensive. Last year, one of our best essay writers' died. Rudy Kousbroek. A man every should read. This year an anthology of is best work is published. The cheap version costing € 34,95.

That's not even trying to get a public].
posted by ijsbrand at 2:26 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The average price is 8 or 9 quid.

Ta.
/oldfeeling
posted by pompomtom at 2:27 AM on March 22, 2011


That does cost a bit much, ouch. Would be amazing for a cheaper price. Why would these cost more than a normal paperback?

They had to hire like nine really burly guys to turn the printing press on its side.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:39 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The paper is wafer-thin." What kind of wafer? because every wafer I've ever come into contact with, thin though they may be, was thicker than a regular sheet of paper.

Ooh ooh ooh pick me, pick me! Is it silicon wafers?!
posted by chavenet at 2:41 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


the pages are super thin Bible paper with a special lay-flat spine and small format, making it suitable for reading with one hand, thumb page-flips,

Ummmm.....no. Super thin pages rip during thumb turns and the edges are hard to separate (in the semi-rare cases you need to do that with your thumb). And lay-flat books don't press back against my hand enough to actually hold them open that way. The best one-hand reading books are simple paperbacks.

Trust me, I have a lot experience trying to read with one hand, especially while doing other things. (Like walking, you pervs. Or emptying the dishwasher. Also taking showers.)
posted by DU at 2:52 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was just demonstrating to a 5 year old that I could read a book with one hand and noticed that for a regular paperback I actually need to separate the edges *every* time. So...double no-thanks to superthin pages.
posted by DU at 2:54 AM on March 22, 2011


This seems way more environmentally responsible than the Kindle.

And you have an endless supply of Dutch quality rolling papers!
posted by three blind mice at 3:29 AM on March 22, 2011


chavenet: ""The paper is wafer-thin." What kind of wafer? because every wafer I've ever come into contact with, thin though they may be, was thicker than a regular sheet of paper.

Ooh ooh ooh pick me, pick me! Is it silicon wafers?
"

Perhaps surprisingly...no. Most silicon wafers sold nowadays are 200mm or 300mm diameter which are 725 micron and 775 microns thick, respectively. This is quite a lot thicker than paper. Almost all of the wafer thickness is for mechanical strength, as most devices use only the top few microns.

It does give me an opportunity to shoehorn in my favourite industry joke, though:

Q. Why did the baby microchip cry?
A. Because his mum had been a wafer so long
posted by Jakey at 3:59 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've had an AskMe question brewing in my head about what these books are called. I didn't realize they were invented in the NL. I've seen a few people reading them on the train. I thought their appeal was more than they are lightweight, rather than that they are easy to hold in one hand. The first time I saw someone reading a flipback (it was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), she was sitting next to a woman who was reading a traditional paperback copy of Anathem. Both had plenty of space for their elbows and whatnot, but I felt sorry for the woman who had to carry a ~1000 page novel all day.
posted by neushoorn at 4:51 AM on March 22, 2011


Wait...this is being sold as a Kindle killer?! lolol

Listen, I'm not a fan of the Kindle (for DRM reasons) or ebooks in general (for many reasons). But if I did switch to an ebook format, it would be because

a) I can put whatever I want on there
b) I can carry many books at once
c) grep

A tinier version of paper books does not give me any of those and therefore is not a "kindle killer" for me. Unless the problem you've been having with paper books is that your arms are too weak, it isn't a killer for you either.
posted by DU at 4:58 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think it might be 'right by accident' - lay-flatness and ease of one-handed reading are two of the biggest advantages my Kindle has over a paperback.

Somebody tell Cory Doctorow. At The Story last month, when he was interviewing Graham Linehan, he said as an aside that he'd be more interested in Kindles if they were, like, £10, so you could read them in the bath and not worry. Linehan: "Haven't you just invented the book?"
posted by penguin pie at 5:47 AM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Dang! I would pay a premium to get a lighter-weight little version of Fagles's translation of the Iliad! I keep meaning to re-read it, but it is rather heavy to take on the subway. This would lovely for that.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:50 AM on March 22, 2011


This seems like such an obvious idea that there must be a reason it hasn't caught on already. What's the catch? Is it cost? Do they fall apart more easily?
posted by NoraReed at 6:30 AM on March 22, 2011


In Japan they sell (or used to sell, back when my family lived there in the late 80s) lightweight paperbacks intended for subway reading -- a standard sized novel would be split into two or three volumes, each about 4x6 inches and printed on lightweight (though not Bible-thin) paper. They're great for travel and the paper has a wonderful feel to it; I've often wished other countries would get on the bandwagon.
posted by bettafish at 6:41 AM on March 22, 2011


If books had been invented after the computer, they would have been considered a big breakthrough. Books have several hundred simultaneous paper-thin, flexible displays. They boot instantly. They run on very low power at a very low cost.

Prof. Joseph M. Jacobson, MIT Media Lab,
quoted in the N. Y. Times, Apr 8, 1988, page B2.
posted by iotic at 6:43 AM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Chiming in with all the other bibliophiles to say that this looks interesting, and I'd get something in this format, but for reading on public transit my smartphone is pretty awesome, also only requires one hand, and also lets me post to Metafilter.

I do like that they addressed the rolling paper factor in the article. Made me want a flipback Illuminatus Trilogy. But again, if I'm on the road and need skins it's usually trivial to get a Gideon Bible, and the price can't be beat.
posted by jtron at 7:00 AM on March 22, 2011


Yes, but how do joints rolled with the pages taste?
From the article: "Great for making rollies,"
posted by MtDewd at 7:00 AM on March 22, 2011


I am reminded of "The Holmes-Ginsbook Device", by Isaac Asimov.

Synopsis: In the distant future, a team of scientist-inventors develop a stand-alone system for lighting cigarettes that is a match for any other, and a new technology for presenting text, away from the computer screen, in a convenient portable package.

At the same time, it's a sort-of parody of Watson's The Double Helix.

Originally published in Opus 100, which has been out of print for years.

I would provide links, but the story is now only available electronically as a not-for-free (like 99c) download -- for Kindle or Nook. You can figure that one out yourself, if you're interested.
posted by Herodios at 7:00 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like this idea and I hope it opens up the gateway for all sorts of neat print alternatives for books away from the Kindle mistake currently enjoying it's little day in the sunshine, but soon to be as obsolescent as the 8-track tape because it's user experience will never beat out the perfection of a book with pages you can leaf through.


Books have several hundred simultaneous paper-thin, flexible displays. They boot instantly. They run on very low power at a very low cost.



Far as I'm concerned, first person to make those several hundred (or lets make it an even hundred) simultaneous paper-thin flexible displays able to refresh and retain text upon them is going to win this game, race/challenge.

But the materials aren't there yet, so such a thing would probably require too much energy generate too much heat (if it was electron based) and crazy expensive.

But it's going to happen. I hope. And hopefully it's not all owned by AT%T or Verizon, or present and future information overlords.
posted by Skygazer at 7:46 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


or our present and future information overlords.
posted by Skygazer at 7:48 AM on March 22, 2011


It does give me an opportunity to shoehorn in my favourite industry joke

I would be interested to hear all the other microchip industry jokes.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:57 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would be interested to hear all the other microchip industry jokes.

There didn't used to be a lot of hurts/hertz puns, but their frequency has doubled every year.
posted by I've a Horse Outside at 8:05 AM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm definitely on board with the onion-skin-thin paper and the spine that lets the book stay open, but there's no way my eyes could read such a small book with its tiny print.

One feature of e-books I really like, and which helped convince my FIL that his Christmas-gift iPad was irreplaceable, is the ability to make the font larger for easy reading. As soon as he saw this meant no more "large print" section of the library for grandpa, we had another convert.
posted by misha at 8:16 AM on March 22, 2011


Relevant:
@TVsAndyDaly: Great. My book ran out of batteries. Stupid future.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:38 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe, I'm ill-informed, but this Dutch reader was unaware of this type of book until this post. I do like the idea.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:13 AM on March 22, 2011


away from the Kindle mistake currently enjoying it's little day in the sunshine, but soon to be as obsolescent as the 8-track tape because it's user experience will never beat out the perfection of a book with pages you can leaf through.

Cars will never catch on - you can't feed an engine a carrot!
posted by TypographicalError at 9:17 AM on March 22, 2011


This reminds me a lot of a lesson I got in my high school journalism class. The teacher taught us how to read a newspaper. No, you don't hold it up by the edges of the two-page spread, holding up two pages in front of your eyes. That takes too much space. So you fold the front over to the back, giving you one page in view. Then you fold that in half (along the horizontal fold) and then into quarters, only seeing the 1/4 page with the story you want. You can hold that in one hand easily and the paper doesn't go all askew. Or if the story goes above and below the fold, you take the single page view and fold it in half along the vertical axis.
Each of these techniques makes the paper 1/8th to 1/4 of the size of a full two page newspaper spread. So it works great in tight spaces like reading on the subway or bus.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:39 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Having been blessed with both shovels for hands and fine motor skills I am lucky to have never had a problem with turning pages one handed, regardless of whether it's softback or hardback. I think it's an interesting solution although I would also say that it's going to have the same issue that Kindle currently has: the lack of books I want to read.

I've got a couple of hundred books on Kindle but my last 8 or 9 purchases have been dead-tree editions that simply weren't available on Kindle or in any other electronic format. It's going to be a huge uphill struggle for any new format to overcome this hurdle but I suspect it may not be a massive issue as I in in the minority. Most people want to read "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" or "Twiglet:New Moon" rather than the sort of rubbish I choose to read.
posted by longbaugh at 11:07 AM on March 22, 2011


@TVsAndyDaly: Great. My book ran out of batteries. Stupid future.

There's a fucking battery indicator on the top of the page every time it's switched on and the battery life is awesomely long.

So my alternative read of that comment is -

@TVsAndyDaly: I am too stupid to own any electrical device separate from the mains electricity.
posted by longbaugh at 11:09 AM on March 22, 2011


Cars will never catch on - you can't feed an engine a carrot!

Yes you can.

Turn it into methane (simply let it rot), and use it to power an electrical generator. Plug in your car. Viola...carrot fed to car.
posted by Skygazer at 12:58 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a fucking battery indicator on the top of the page every time it's switched on and the battery life is awesomely long.

I'm glad you like your ereader. Please don't take a TV personality's mildly humorous comment about the silliness of modern life as a personal affront about your technological geegaw.

@TVsAndyDaly: I am too stupid to own any electrical device separate from the mains electricity.

Yeah, just like every other book ever made.

Oh wait.

Seriously, man, your snark is in the danger zone. Kenny Loggins could write an up-temp pop rock anthem about the snark.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:12 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


goodnewsfortheinsane: "Maybe, I'm ill-informed, but this Dutch reader was unaware of this type of book until this post."

This.

When I found the dutch site (dwarsligger.nl) I vaguely recalled a news piece from 2009 about this. But considering there seem to be less than a dozen brick and mortar stores that sell them, I wonder a bit about the 1m sales figure.

And honestly, the portability seems to me the only positive side of this format. I can't imagine that reading or page turning is in any way superior to a normal sized paperback.
posted by HFSH at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2011


I have (in storage, sadly, so I can't measure it) a boxed copy of The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, printed on similar paper, with glued-in paper maps that fold out, and it's no thicker than an inch, at the size of a standard hardback. It's really a lovely object, but I'd never read it, for fear of tearing one of those onion-skin-thin pages...
posted by benzo8 at 2:50 PM on March 22, 2011


Hi Metafilter

I'm a book designer with the danish design bureau 2Krogh who helped the dutch printer Jongbloed develop this book concept. The dutch name is Dwarsligger, but other publishers give them other names such as Flipback (Hodder & Stoughton), Librinos (Verbo Divino) og Transetto (Cambridge University Press).

I've designed a good number of Dwarsligger titles and I can address some of the issues raised in this thread.

Binding style: The binding is similar to OTA, but it's different because the cover is only attached to the back. Dwarsliggers really do lie very flat without any tension in the spine, and this is why we can treat a spead as if it was a single page in a normal book. In fact, the text-area of a Dwarsligger novel is roughly similar to a smallish regular novel, and we aim to have equal readability.

Paper: The paper used to print dwarsliggers is indeed bible paper, from the Bolloré paper mill in France. The paper weight ranges from 22 grams pr. square metre (used in Dwarsligger bibles and dictionaries) to 60 GSM for the shortest novels. Regular Dwarsligger novels are printed on 40 GSM. For comparison, most photocopy paper is 90 GSM and a regular book is usually 115-130 GSM. The paper is FSC certified, very smooth and very durable. It will not rip during use - but it does get wrinkled. this is normal for thin paper. More information here: http://us.bollorethinpapers.com/our-papers/our-papers.htm

Price: The dwarsligger concept is printed at Jongbloed on a custom web press, and is designed to print as efficiently as possible. The format uses all of the surface area on a roll of paper, so there is no wastage of paper. As with any web-press production, print volume is a huge factor in the production price.
Because it's a small format, it's easy to mistake it for a discount version, but the binding style, high quality materials and quality handling experience makes it more of a premium product. It's one of those things you have to hold in your hands . . .

If anyone has any specific question, i'd be happy to answer them here or at andreas@2krogh.dk

(oh and War and Peace as a Dwarsligger? No problem at all)

- Andreas
posted by 2Krogh at 1:24 AM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


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