Friday, November 2, 2018

Publishing house releasing new book design to replicate experience of reading on a smartphone

I wrote a review a few years ago about Robert Darnton's homage to the book, called The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future, in which the Director of Harvard University's library makes the case that the book is an example of a technology so perfectly designed, it defies improvement.  Now Dutton Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, is releasing a series of books that may represent the first major design tweak in close to 2,000 years. This new design, which has already become "wildly" popular in the Netherlands as of late, is called a "dwarsligger." The pages in a dwarsligger are oriented like a horizontal flip book to replicate the experience of reading on a mobile device by swiping left. Dutton is hoping the new design will catch on stateside among younger readers who are used to reading on digital devices but may prefer an old school technology that avoids all the distractions associated with the former. 

The New York Times has a story on Dutton's book design gambit here. An excerpt:

Tiny Books Fit in One Hand. Will They Change the Way We Read?

Dutton, a Penguin Random House imprint, has just released its first batch of mini books, with a box set of novels by the best-selling author John Green.


“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic,” the cosmologist Carl Sagan once said. “It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years.”


As a physical object and a feat of technology, the printed book is hard to improve upon. Apart from minor cosmetic tweaks, the form has barely evolved since the codex first arose as an appealing alternative to scrolls around 2,000 years ago.


So when Julie Strauss-Gabel, the president and publisher of Dutton Books for Young Readers, discovered “dwarsliggers” — tiny, pocket-size, horizontal flipbacks that have become a wildly popular print format in the Netherlands — it felt like a revelation.


“I saw it and I was like, boom,” she said. “I started a mission to figure out how we could do that here.”


This month, Dutton, which is part of Penguin Random House, began releasing its first batch of mini books, with four reissued novels by the best-selling young-adult novelist John Green. The tiny editions are the size of a cellphone and no thicker than your thumb, with paper as thin as onion skin. They can be read with one hand — the text flows horizontally, and you can flip the pages upward, like swiping a smartphone.


It’s a bold experiment that, if successful, could reshape the publishing landscape and perhaps even change the way people read. Next year, Penguin Young Readers plans to release more minis, and if readers find the format appealing, other publishers may follow suit.

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Continue reading here.


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