Books

This clever Dutch invention will transform the way you read forever

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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These ‘dwarsliggers’ will be able to fit in the palm of your hand like a smartphone. But would you buy into the tiny books trend?

What does the future look like to you? Flying cars? Lots of neoprene? Intelligent home assistants that do everything for you and that, maybe, you’ll fall in love with, like Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049?

When I ruminate on the future I always think about what we’re going to be eating. In every dystopian movie there’s always a scene of our hero or heroine taking a little dehydrated square of mush and stick it in a rehydrator – which looks suspiciously like a microwave – to turn it into a full meal. The food is usually a milky blue, or milky green. Everything looks miserable and unappetising.

Which is the much the same thing I would say about the reports that in the future we’re all going to be reading teeny tiny books. These books will be printed horizontally and held in the crook of your hand, using super-fine paper about the thickness of newspaper, allowing for pages to be flipped using just your thumb. (Imagine the kind of thin, but durable paper used to print Bibles.) The idea is that you can read the book with ease with only one hand, while standing up on a train on your morning commute, for example. 

Each book will be about the size of a small smartphone, and will be able to fit into a shirt or jean pocket. But fear not, the font size is the same as a regular book, which means no squinting. 

Would you read a tiny book like this? 

They’re called dwarsliggers, and they’re already hugely popular in the Netherlands, where they were invented in 2009. More than 10 million copies of dwarsliggers have sold in Europe since their launch of titles from authors including Ian McEwan, Dan Brown, Isabel Allende, John le Carre, Isabel Allende, Agatha Christie and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But the format has only just made its first move into the English language with the publication of beloved YA author John Green’s back catalogue in mini size this month in America. 

Green’s four books – The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines – have all been reissued in teeny tiny size, available for purchase as a boxset (approximately £36) or individually (approximately £9). 

“They really are an answer to a question, I think, a lot of print readers have in terms of the portability that we’re used to in our lifestyle, but with the luxury of print that so many of our readers we know prefer,” Julie Strauss-Gabel, the publisher at Dutton, Penguin Random House’s Young Adult imprint told CBC Radio. And they’re putting their money where they mouth is: Penguin is printing 500,000 copies of these tiny books to sell this year. 

“Like a lot of writers, I’m a complete nerd for book making and the little details that make a physical book really special,” Green told the New York Times. “It didn’t feel like a gimmick, it feels like an interesting, different way to read.”

Just how interesting and different it is can only be experienced by trying it yourself, he adds. “They’re objects that you almost can’t get until you’re touching them,” he told the New York Times.

Would you try one? 

Images: Unsplash, Penguin Random House

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Hannah-Rose Yee

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