Flipback Books and The Future of The Book

I’m always fascinated with quirky new forms of book design and how the envelope of book innovation can be pushed.  The Netherlands has given us a lot of things, from edam cheese, clogs and windmills, as well as some of the best artists in the world, but back in 2009 at Manuscripta – a book and literary exhibition – Dutch Christian publishing house, Jongbloed, introduced the Flipback book. The Dutch refer to it as the ‘Dwarsligger’, now a registered trademark to describe a convenient pocket book that fits in you shirt or jean pocket or in your purse. It is made from the same wafer-thin paper used for bibles and will stay open on it’s pages without the need of both hands to hold it open.
Dwarsligger (from the Dutch word, dwars – crossways, transverse; intractable, contrary, and liggen – to lie). It can also mean a person unwilling to cooperate, who is stubbornly resistant to everything; an obstructionist or troublemaker.

Last month the Guardian newspaper rather foolishly suggested that it might be the ‘Kindle Killer’ in a news headline, and while it certainly isn’t the beast in the bushes, European publishers – who have always been innovative about book design formats – have taken the format on board in Spain, France and now the UK by Hodder & Stoughton when they release titles by David Mitchell and Stephen King in June of this year.
It got me thinking about book design historically and the future of the printed book. We may find that the physically printed book becomes far more cultured and treasured a possession in the future, where the very form itself reverts back to a bygone print age when book design was ornate and the book was a ‘gift’, celebrated and adored. I treasure my paperback copy of Werner Herzog‘s Walking on Ice with its continental style dust jacket embodying the simple paperback lying underneath which Jonathan Cape published in the 1990’s.
Just as publishers must embrace new digital technology – they must also embrace the printed book with a new and respectful vigour.  
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