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Could the Flipback be the new Kindle?

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(Read caption) Flipback books open top-to-bottom, with the text printed sideways, and with a spine that lies flat so the books are easy to read with one hand.

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Have you heard of the Flipback book? There’s an irresistible pull to present these new pocket-size books from a Dutch publisher in tech-world terms. “The Kindle Slayer?” asked a recent headline in the Daily Mail. “Could this new book kill the Kindle?” chimed in the Guardian newspaper. The Flipback Facebook page proudly noted this tweet: “If a smartphone & a paperback book had a baby, it would be a Flipback,” while an Australian paper called the book a battle of "Wee Book Vs. E-Book."

There’s actually no tech at all to the books. They’re light, small, pocket-size hardcovers printed on super-thin, durable paper, the type often used for Bibles.
They open top-to-bottom, with the text printed sideways, and with a spine that lies flat so the books are easy to read with one hand. The format gives book lovers “a real reading experience with the portability of a mobile phone,” notes the Flipback web site.

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The books were introduced in Holland in 2009, known there as dwarsliggers, where they soon took off, said the Daily Mail. They’ve been introduced in other European countries and, most recently, last week, in England. Look for them to come to the US – the company’s in negotiations with publishers here, according to one interview, but super-curious Americans can buy them now through Amazon UK. The first dozen titles in English are an engaging bunch, with authors from Jodi Picoult to David Mitchell to Jasper Fforde. In early reactions, fans have applauded the format and the quality, but found them pricey.

I can see the advantages of the Flipback over an e-book, but most of the same advantages hold true for any old dead-tree publication. I applaud any beautifully made and well-engineered book, though, and I’m looking forward to checking the Flipback books out. That’s true even though carrying around a regular book never seemed that onerous to me on anything short of a long plane flight or camping trip. I’ll look for a Flipback when they come to America, but it’ll probably go in my cloth carrying bag anyway, where my latest library books – and, ahem, my Kindle – already travel.

Rebekah Denn is a Monitor contributor.

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