Kindle vs Paper Round 2: The Flipback?
As we all know by now, the Kindle was a ploy by Amazon to undermine the publishing industry, authors, and the generally transcendent experience of reading in general. It has long been known that reading a book on a piece of electronics will always be sub-par compared to holding an actual paper book in your hand for countless reasons not worth looking too closely at anyway, but the Kindle marketing machine is too strong. Readers have all but given up on paper, books are being burned, libraries are being shut down after falling into disuse, and machines may forever rule our lives. There is one hope remaining, however: The Flipback! Finally, a paper book that can compete with the Kindle in every way that matters.
Ok, that was all a bit ridiculous even for me, but I hope you see what I’m getting at. Recent press surrounding a series of hardcover, cloth-bound, bible-paged books called Flipbacks has made it sound like they’re the latest great hope for paper to make a comeback in the book world. I’ll admit that they are somewhat interesting. Basically, small hardcover books about the size of a bulky cell phone that are meant to be read vertically and one-handed, with pages being flipped upward rather than from right to left. The Flipback is lightweight, highly portable, and probably just as great for travel and commuting as the company making it is advertising. Of course, you’re still going to be paying $19.99 for a single book printed in super-small text on the kind of super thin pages rarely seen outside of a bible.
Even assuming that there were no real downside to this product — no text size issues, no quality concerns, and priced to move — where is there a good reason for comparison to the Kindle or any other eReader? Speaking on a personal level, I would say that this is almost worse for me than a normal paperback. The price is higher, the books themselves are less aesthetically pleasing than your average equally priced hardcover, and I really dislike the “onion skin” paper they are using. These seem to be a possible solution to a problem that already disappeared with the coming of the eReader.
To be a bit more objective than that, I think these Flipbacks have a chance if they can get the price down. Right now you can buy yourself a Kindle for the price of 6 Flipbooks. No matter how portable you can claim them to be, that just isn’t good enough even if they were competing with nothing but regular old-fashioned mass market paperbacks. Many people are likely to find that the paper book “experience” is as foreign with one of these new books as is the Kindle itself, again downplaying the potential for direct competition. There is a fair amount to get used to.
I think, however, that this could take off as a commuter’s impulse buy type of item in the next few years if they can get costs down enough to undercut the average paperbacks. Right now, it is still essentially a test run of 11 titles coming from a single printing house. Is there potential for a reading revolution? Maybe a small one, sure! Do we need to jump back up on the “Kindles are killing books” bandwagon again because paper has suddenly rendered eReaders obsolete? Probably not.