Reading from a New Angle

It might be going a bit overboard to call it ‘a revolution’, but here’s an interesting idea, as featured on the Mail Online site. Hodder have imported a new publishing format from the Netherlands. Basically, it’s a paperback novel you read with the spine turned horizontally, with the pages in landscape position. The paper is extremely thin – based on the type used in some bibles. These two design elements allow the books to be much smaller than the typical paperback. About the size of an old-fashioned tape cassette, but thicker.
You have to read down the Mail’s article a bit before you figure out the real selling point of this format – it’s a light, pocket-sized book, but opens into a size that’s still comfortably readable. It makes the book more portable.
Hodder and – to a lesser extent, the Mail’s article – hail this format as a challenge to the ebook, but I can’t really see how. With ebook readers, portability is not the main selling point. The flipbook cannot contain a range of books in one volume – letting you read more than one book at a time – you can’t change the size of the type, read portrait or landscape if you choose, you can’t download your next book from the web, you can’t link through to other documents, and the list goes on. Whatever else this is, it’s not an answer to the ebook.
But all that said, I’m all for trying new formats that might make reading easier and more convenient. Reading is done over a myriad of different media, that’s the nature of things now, and it’s good to see publishers adapting. What isn’t all that welcome, is that these books are a bit more expensive, but I suppose that’s understandable with an experimental format.
There is one problem I can anticipate. I’ve heard the paper can be so thin you can see through it – you might even have to put tissue or paper between the pages to be make the text legible. This was a problem I had with a couple of editions of the Mad Grandad books (the picture inset here is from one of those – it’s not a flipbook) and I find it really annoying when I’m looking at the page of a book and I can see the page behind it. Let’s hope that’s not the case with these, but fair play to Hodder for trying something new.