Dwarsliggers. Dwarsliggers. Dwaaaarrrsliggers. Pretty fun to say, right? Even more fun – it’s the Dutch word for a special print of pocket-size books. These tiny books are the size of a cellphone and flip horizontally, with pages “as thin as onion skin.” And just like a cellphone, you can hold these tiny books one-handed and swipe the thin pages upward with the flick of your thumb.
If you find yourself intrigued by these mini horizontal books, you’ll want to know that they’ll be called Flipbacks here. I’m going to keep calling them Dwarsliggers, for obvious reasons (see above).
There has really been very little innovation when it comes to the design and format of the book. There were Pocket Books introduced in 1939, Armed Services Editions during World War II, and most recently e-books. Dwarsliggers are an iteration that might seem “novel”, but might hold some ground moving forward.
The books are apparently very popular in Amsterdam and have spread across Europe. In the last 10 years, 10 million copies have been sold. Julie Strauss-Gabel, the president and publisher of Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, discovered Dwarsliggers and immediately began planning to bring the books to the United States market. The first author to be part of the venture? John Green. As it turns out, he once lived in Amsterdam and is familiar with the format.
As a massively successful author of young adult novels, John Green might just be the perfect first author for the experiment. As previously noted, the mini novel’s design and format are clearly reminiscent of cellphones. It is Dutton’s hope that young readers, like the fans of John Green, will be drawn to this familiarity and be captured by the minimalist-aesthetics. As Green puts it, “It is much closer to a cellphone experience than standard books, but it’s much closer to a book than a cellphone. The whole problem with reading on a phone is that my phone also does so many other things.” In fact, recent surveys have shown that young people are driving the trend away from e-books. Researchers believe young readers are looking for a respite from technology, and are therefore markedly purchasing print material. In this way, Dwarsliggers might be the perfect concoction – offering a break from the digital, but reminiscent of the digital.
Dwarsliggers made their debut in the winter of 2018. Be on the lookout.
Tina Chesterman (INFO 653-01)