Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The book you scroll

I was traveling in Italy where I spend a lot of time in bookstores. I'm looking not only for books to read, but to discover new authors, since Italian bookstores are filled with translations of authors that I rarely see in the few bookstores remaining in my home town of Berkeley, CA. While there I came across something that I find fascinating: the flipback book. These books are small - the one I picked up is about 4 3/4" x 3 1/4". It feels like a good-sized package of post-it notes in your hand.

 From the outside, other than its size, looks "normal" although the cover design is in landscape rather than portrait  position.

The surprise is when you open the book. The first thing you notice is that you read the book top-to-bottom across two pages. It's almost like scrolling on a web page, because you move the pages up, not across.

The other thing is that they are incredibly compact. The paper is thin, and some of the books contained entire trilogies, although only about 2 - 2.5 inches thick.

Because there is no gutter between the two pages, you essentially get a quantity of text that is equal to what you get on a regular book page. Oddly, the two contiguous pages are numbered as separate pages, although only the odd numbers actually printed, so you have pages 37, 39, 41, etc. However, the actual number of open pages is about the same as the paperback book.

The font is a sans serif, similar to many used online, so that whole thing feels like a paper book imitating a computer screen.

I haven't read the book yet, so I don't know if the reading experience is pleasing. But I am amazed that someone has found a way to reinvent the print book after all these years. Patented, of course.

There are few titles available yet, but an Amazon search on "flipback" brings up a few.


Lukas Koster said...

Hi Karen, in The Netherlands we've had this type of book since 2010 (see http://www.dwarsligger.nl/). The Dutch name "dwarsligger" literally means "something that lies across" (or however this would be in correct English), but it is also an expression for a person who is always obstructive ;-)
I have read a couple, but I don't find it particularly convenient.

Karen Coyle said...

Thanks, Lukas. Interesting semantics to the name. I'm just starting reading this one, but have not yet gotten the hang of it. (And the thin pages stick together while paging.) But, as some with small hands and small pockets, I really like the size. Then again, I'm used to reading on my ipod (not IPAD), which is the size of an iphone but even thinner.

Cosmic question: are there other ways we could reinvent physical books?

Lukas Koster said...

I think I might actually prefer a real traditional scroll. No pages, just turn and flow. Butonly for the ease of handling. In my view an ebook is more like a traditional scroll than a codex. There are definite similar disadvantages with ebooks and scrolls. It is not easy or actually impossible to look at two pages simultaneously, for checking quickly what was said on a previous page. If you check a previous page, or the ToC, or anything else, you lose your current location