We all know that I am an unapologetic lover of books made from dead trees and that despite selling lots of e-books, I have – to date – read the sum total of two of them. One was only available in e-book and the other was too short for me to justify purchasing in print, and while I read them I had to actively push down my Kindle-induced rage.
These two exceptions aside, I buy every single book I read (when I don’t get them for free, to review) and I like my words on paper, not in computer code. This is because books themselves hold an appeal for me that is entirely separate to the experience of reading them. I like looking at them all lined up on my shelves. I just love books, sometimes to an unhealthy degree. (We all remember the Vintage Books/Jo Nesbo/mismatched cover fiasco, don’t we? Thanks again for my matching set, Vintage Books!)
So when I heard about these new “flipback” books, my first thought was “They. Are. So. CUTE!” and my second was, “I must have them.” The idea is that the books are small (about the size of an iPhone), light (they’re made from bible paper) and extremely portable, so they tick the convenience box while remaining a real, live book. Or a real dead book, to be more accurate. As the name suggests, you flip the cover up to read them top-to-bottom as opposed to left-to-right.
Personally I don’t think books as they currently exist are in any way broken and I don’t mind going on holidays with two outfits and laundry money because I’ve filled my suitcases with a stack of summer reads – in October I actually left clothes behind me in the States to make way for a haul of books from The Strand bookstore in New York and I DON’ REGRET IT ONE TINY BIT – but I acknowledge that other people might not feel the same way and flipbacks are certainly the non-Kindle solution to your holiday suitcase problem.
But there are three things I don’t like about them.
The first is the price, which for now I suppose can’t really be helped. All flipbacks are made by just one printer based in the Netherlands so this explains the €12.50 price tag (although not why The Book Depository can manage to sell them for €8.49.) Maybe – hopefully – that’ll change in the future, especially as they start to add more titles. (Hello? The Help? Would that not be the best flipback title ever?) But it’s a Catch-22 situation because in order for the price to be lower they’ll have to be mass produced on a larger scale, but in order for that to happen there’ll need to be a bigger demand, and in order for there to be a demand people have to rush out and buy them, which they’re dissuaded from doing now because of the high price.
The second is that while I love how the flipback looks as a physical book, it annoys me that the spine text is printed in the wrong direction. Call me crazy – I know you do – but yes, things like that annoy me. When a book is a on shelf, the text should be the right way up with the front cover to the right. On a flipback it’s only the right way up if the front cover is to the left. Maybe, again, this is related to their Dutch origins but if you want me to collect the whole set, the whole set is going to have to look cute on my bookshelves, not make me bristle with book-lover annoyance every time I see it.
Lastly, reading a flipback is easy and comfortable, but only when you get passed the first fourth or fifth of the book. At the beginning the whole weight of the book is hanging by a page, and that just feels weird. Also I don’t believe this read-with-one-hand business. You can hold it with one hand, yes, but if you read quick there’s no point, because you’re turning the pages so quickly that it’s hardly worth your while putting down the other hand. And why are we aspiring to read with one hand? Because we can with a Kindle and the flipback is trying to compete? I hope so, because otherwise I have to ask: we’re talking about reading a book here. How lazy are you people?!
Having said all that, they do have a high novelty factor, they make a great present (they are much easier to post half way around the world than their bigger brothers) and they’re collectable. They are also so beautifully made that you can practically hear them whisper quality. As a cover junkie I particularly love how well the original cover designs have been so perfectly re-sized to fit the flipbacks, with Misery, one of my two flipback purchases, looking particularly good. But with only 12 titles available for now – and my local Waterstones only stocking four of them – I don’t think they’re quite there yet.
And I can only hope that the Guardian’s headline “Could this new book kill the Kindle?” was penned for effect and not because they actually think there’s a chance in hell the two things are related, because they’re not. It’s like asking, “Could this new spork kill the spoon?”
(Incidentally, my favorite line from that piece was, “Unlike an ordinary paperback, the book lies open without intervention on my part, due to its special spine.” This goes hand in hand – no pun intended, HA! – with the reading them with one hand thing. Again: how lazy a person do you have to be for this to be a selling point?!)
But I don’t doubt I’ll be buying more in the future though.
We all know I’m a sucker for a novelty item, especially if it’s book-related.
What do you think about them? Will you buying one? And what titles would you like to see in flipback form?
(On a related note, I’m extremely disappointed that one of the flipback titles is A Million Little Pieces and that on the cover it’s referred to as a memoir, on its listing all the glowing reviews are pre-Smoking Gun exposé and so contain words like “memoir” and “honest”, and there is no mention of the fact that is a big stinky heap of complete and utter bullshit. A disclaimer inside the book is not enough if you’re going to act like it doesn’t exist whenever it suits you.)