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Could the Kindle killer be an actual book?

Amazon’s Kindle e-reader is touted for its advantages as a reading device: it is lightweight, portable, and employs easy-to-read, low glare e-ink. Almost from its first appearance, critics and competitors have been predicting the advent of a “Kindle killer,” a device that will overtake the product and leave it in the dust. According to a short piece in the Guardian, the latest contender for the Kindle killer crown is, well, a book.

The new format is called a “flipback book” (pace Yann Martel), and it’s due to be released in the U.K. this summer. The Guardian‘s Patrick Kingsley explains the history and defining features of the flipback book:

It is all the rage in Holland, where it was introduced in 2009, and has since sold 1m copies. A version has just been launched in Spain, France is next, and the flipback reaches U.K. shores in June, when Hodder & Stoughton will treat us to a selection of 12 books. They cost £9.99, and will include David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Stephen King’s Misery.

I am keen to see what the hype is about so I take a pre-released copy on my travels: Chris Cleave’s The Other Hand. Nearly 370 pages long in its original format, the flipback version has more than 550 “ but still fits easily in my pocket. The book’s not called The Other Hand for nothing. It’s so small that I can perch it in one fist, and keep my other hand free for shopping. How? The paper is wafer-thin.

In other words, this putative Kindle killer is in fact a small book printed on onion-skin paper. (The name “flipback book” refers to its distinctive spine, which allows it to lie open on a table without support.) Should this format catch on in a concerted way, it will prove one of the most insistent ironies of the digital age.