If you’ve ever whined about how the Kindle, compact though it may be, doesn’t have the look or feel of a nice printed novel – put this in your pipe and read it: the newly invented “flipback” book. Released in Britain this summer, it is being touted as the, er, new Kindle: the tome that’s smaller and lighter than an e-reader, but made out of pages, not bytes.
It is all the rage in Holland, where it was introduced in 2009, and has since sold 1m copies. A version has just been launched in Spain, France is next, and the flipback reaches UK shores in June, when Hodder & Stoughton will treat us to a selection of 12 books. They will include David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Stephen King’s Misery.
I am keen to see what the hype is about so I take a pre-released copy on my travels: Chris Cleave’s The Other Hand. Nearly 370 pages long in its original format, the flipback version has more than 550 – but still fits easily in my pocket. The book’s not called The Other Hand for nothing. It’s so small that I can perch it in one fist, and keep my other hand free for shopping. How? The paper is wafer-thin.
“Great for making rollies,” says my nicotine-addicted lunch date. More to the point, it’s also great for reading. Unlike an ordinary paperback, the book lies open without intervention on my part, due to its special spine.
So much for the overseas hype. I have been carrying around one of these flipbacks for a couple of days and I have to say they are pretty special. Not much bigger than my iPhone, the flipback is built to last and it doesn’t leave you with a dislocated shoulder from lugging it around all day in your handbag. Small and perfectly formed, they are a winner in terms of convenience and style, but I am wondering if the reading public will want a correspondingly small and perfectly formed price, and this ain’t it.