Publishing Forecast–Part 3

Janet Grant

. Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

In two recent posts, I looked at a couple of potential publishing trends. You can read the first one, regarding the rise in audiobooks, here. The second publishing forecast post, regarding book subscriptions, can be read here.

Today I want to prognosticate about still another way in which books will be delivered to readers starting on October 23.

The Tiny Book

The author John Green is about to make America aware of a book-format that’s existed in Europe for almost ten years. This month, four of Green’s books, including The Fault in Our Stars, will release as miniature books (three inches high) and designed to be read horizontally. A special hinge-type of spine results in the book remaining open to the page being read without requiring the reader to do any gymnastics. Essentially, the format is created so only one hand is required to read. The little book mimics a cellphone in terms of size and how the user interacts with it.

The Flipback version of John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” is about the size of a cellphone. (MUST CREDIT: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Julie Strauss-Gabel, president of Dutton Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers, didn’t know this format existed until a Dutch edition of one of Green’s novels came into her office in this startling shape. Called “flipbacks” or “Dwarsliggers,” (meaning “to lie crossways”), in The Netherlands, where they were developed, they can be cradled in the user’s hand. “The minute I picked it up,” Strauss-Gabel recounted, “I thought, ‘How do we not have these in this country?’ ”

John Green Becomes the Guinea Pig

When Green was asked if he would like to be the first author in the U.S. to release a mini-book, he readily agreed. “I haven’t seen a new book format that I thought was at all interesting,” Green says, “but I find this format really usable and super-portable. It only takes a second to get used to. I’m shocked by how readable they are.”

The Flipback version of John Green’s “Paper Towns” is read horizontally instead of vertically. (MUST CREDIT: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Strauss-Gabel intends to release many other titles in this chunky format in 2019. She believes readers will readily take to the portability and ease of reading.

You can read more about flipbacks here.

Does the idea of flipbacks appeal to you? Where might you find yourself reading that you don’t now?  Do you think they’ll catch on?


On October 23, Americans will be introduced to a new book format. Click to tweet.

Will the new format of tiny books make a big splash when they’re introduced this month? Click to tweet.

28 Responses

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  1. This is a great idea, Janet. Many years ago I sustained a wound to my right forearm that cut all the tendons and muscles on the ‘top’ of the limb; the ones that would raise your fingers and hand.
    * The surgeon was brilliant, but recovery was slow, and one thing I remember was that very difficulty in holding a ‘tight’ book open. About all I could read were books that would stay open themselves, like a well-loved Bible, and in view of the latter that might not have been a bad thing, as reading that loaned Book set my feet on the Pilgrim’s road to Faith.

    • Pat Iacuzzi says:

      Wow. I guess the Lord got your attention, Andrew! God bless you.

    • Janet Grant says:

      That’s what I call a long-term benefit for an initial time of intense pain. I found it interesting that you mentioned being able to read your Bible. The printer/publisher who came up with the idea for the flipbacks is known as a printer of the Bible. He used the same techniques and thin type of paper for flipbacks as he used for Bibles.

    • Wow, Andrew nasty wound that lead to a true healing, FYI. As a student nurse, I once had to put pressure on a man’s left brachial artery in ER. His arm had gotten caught in a machine at his work and sliced open his lower forearm and hand. If I didn’t squeeze that after closed using both hands he would have bled out and died. It was one of the many life-death situations I found myself in.

      I can very much appreciate the fact that you are alive today, even apart from the cancer. God indeed has His hand on and in your life on this earth.

      • Betsy, thanks…and that experience that you describe, it’s life altering. I’ve had my hands in savage wounds; I know the feeling.
        * For a long time I hewed to the lines from ‘Invictus’; “I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul.”
        * But it’s wrong. I’ve always been in God’s Hands. He is the Captain, and the Master. He is the Sculptor; I am the clay, and now, very glad it is thus.

  2. Pat Iacuzzi says:

    I think this is a great idea…I use journals for plotting etc. with hinges that keep pgs. flat (especially if you’re reading them on your lap in a car or bus)–and love them! Hope the text is of a good font size for those who have vision issues, though. Thanks for up-to-date info, Janet!

  3. Carol Ashby says:

    I read books on my Kindle Fire with it locked in landscape mode. It’s one-handed and not tiring because the cover drapes over my hand to stabilize the tablet. I think this new format is a good idea for shorter novels. I’m not sure it would work as well for those that are >300 pages in 6×9-inch format. I’d have to see how well that thick spine works.

  4. This tiny book idea does appeal to me. I have many tiny books in my house, mostly photo books and children’s books, of course. For it to house a whole book, it must be pretty thick, it would seem. It would sure be a perfect fit for a novella sized book. Knowing me, I would probably fall in love with it more for decorative purposes than for the reading. But I don’t know … I’d love to give it a try. 🙂 And I think the idea could go over well here just because tiny things are so darling. Seems like a great Christmas present idea.

  5. Dan Smith says:

    The old traditionalist in me says “NO!” The reader in me said, “Let me take a gander.”

  6. I think it could work for certain types of books, and for people who do have a difficult time holding a traditional book open.
    Although, for about five dollar Office Depot and Office Max will cut of the glued book binding of a book and replace it with a spiral. I am planning to do that with some of my resources.

    Personally, I can visualize this taking hold in a variety of books that can be tucked in a purse; something I do on a regular basis. My creativity is already set in motion. But, that said, I don’t believe it would be conducive for larger text books, research, and other types.

  7. I agree that the format would be handy, but only for short books. Imagine trying to read an encyclopedia or huge dictionary that way. Books like that may encourage reluctant readers and kids to read more and they might work their way up to traditionally bound books.

  8. I love this idea. It’s trendy and visually pleasing. Is it cheaper to produce?

    • Janet Grant says:

      It’s probably more expensive, but I’m just guessing. The printing employs a special type of binding and thin paper such as used in Bibles. The paper helps to keep the book from being too hefty. We won’t have a clue about the production cost until we see what this version sells for.

  9. The first time I did my daily Bible reading on-line, I thought, “This is really weird.” Now it’s routine. Yes, you can teach diehard readers new tricks.

  10. This is an interesting idea. I’d be more likely to purchase them as gifts than for my own collection, but who knows? I might fall in love with them once I see one in person. It would definitely be more convenient for travel, and with all the books I purchase, my family might be relieved to see investing in smaller versions. Or I could just keep adding bookshelves. Either works. 😉

  11. Oooooh, that looks so cool! I could see them being really easy to tote around … if you don’t have a bathrobe. My 12-year-old wore two bathrobes to school over his school clothes (he’s a creative) and managed to fit like 8 paperbacks in the various pockets of these 2 bathrobes. So his teacher took a book away as he was reading in class and he just pulled out another and another until she confiscated the bathrobes. As a mom, I was simultaneously horrified … and proud! But you wouldn’t need bathrobe pockets for these, I’m all for it!

    • Kristen, what a great idea your son had. I wonder what the employees and customers would think if I put on my fleece work out pants, sweatshirt, red fleece robe with my pockets stuffed with books, ordered my light roast and mini Turkey bacon sandwich and plopped myself into one of the big leather chairs near the fire place. You know what? Given I’m in Minneapolis, I think they’d smile, and it might even start a trend–robes and reading at your local Caribou! The kids and teens Im6sure would have a ball.

    • Janet Grant says:

      I love the image this story paints in my mind. Hooray for your creative son!

  12. Judy Gann says:

    Personally, I like the idea. But the librarian in me says, “What a nightmare!” 🙂

  13. Mary R. P. Schutter says:

    Flipbooks have been made and used in the U.S. for many years. My husband’s elementary students created their own flipbooks at least once a year. The flipbook was created in a larger format to allow the child to be author and artist. When finished, the children would travel down the hallway to read their flipbooks to younger students. Anyone who remembers creating his/her own flipbook in school would be delighted to read a flipbook novel.

  14. Anne Riess says:

    I love the idea! How convenient to always have a book in my purse!