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Tiny Books Fit in One Hand. Will They Change the Way We Read? (nytimes.com)
196 points by ingve 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 180 comments



"It's a very old Orange Catholic Bible made for space travelers. Not a filmbook, but actually printed on filament paper. It has its own magnifier and electrostatic charge system." He picked it up and demonstrated. "The book is held closed by the charge, which forces against spring-locked covers. You press the edge - thus, and the pages you've selected repel each other and the book opens."

"It's so small."

"But it has eighteen hundred pages. You press the edge - thus, and so.. and the charge moves ahead one page at a time as you read. Never touch the actual pages with your fingers. The filament tissue is too delicate". He closed the book, handed it to Paul. "Try it."

I don't really have anything meaningful to contribute, this just so very much put me in mind of Dr. Yueh's gift to Paul Atreides at the beginning of Dune. A kind of retro-futurism, where the imagination can't conceive entire new forms of things, and so just tries its best to figure out what a faster horse looks like (granted, in this particular instance, there are other reasons). I wonder what books for a creature with three arms would look like.


Since we got on a bit of a Dune tangent here, I wanted to say that one of the most interesting topics (and this is more in the later books of the series) is that the ultimate "weapon" is being an unknown quantity in a universe dominated by a prescient god-king who sees all paths. The idea of "no-ships" and other places where you couldn't been "seen" seems very similar to dropping off of social media or trying to escape from the permanent record of your activities online, etc.

It really is a fantastic series. The first book is amazing and stands on its own, but it really is rewarding to read the entire series (that Frank Herbert wrote, not the new crap his son puts out).


I don't think there's anything in the story to suggest that the retro-futurism was because of a lack of imagination regarding future, alien-yet-familiar, sustainable information technology.

Perhaps the point was, the book aesthetic was important to the character.

> I wonder what books for a creature with three arms would look like.

Indeed, the book was probably designed for space travel, i.e. usable outside human limits. Perhaps, given the proper circumstances, the book would propel itself through the vacuum of space by way of induced charge ..


The book aesthetic was important because it is a religious text, and also because anything like what we would call a "computer" is not only banned, but seen as unholy. The story of Dune is one of religion, ecology, the fallibility and fatality of prescience, scatterings and exoduses, failures of humans, how mankind matures and develops over a 10,0000+ year period. The actual technology mentioned is often in passing, is often intertwined with some human ability, and almost never a plot device like in so many sci-fi stories (Death Star anyone?).


I believe that the technology in the book must be viewed through the lens of The Butlerian Jihad events of the Dune universe, and the commandment of not making a machine in the image of the human mind. It isn't retro-futurism, it's human-centric technology.

In the later books, shigawire is also mentioned as a data storage method, so I don't think it was a lack of imagination.


Herbert quite deliberately planned the Dune universe to be seemingly technologically backwards to remove the crutch of technology and focus instead on human potential.


Exactly, and this is why I think the series is such a standout.


Yeah, sorry, that's what the parenthetical about "this particular case" was supposed to allude to; that in this particular context, there were a number of reasons why this book took the form that it did


“A print-book!” It was hard to tell whether Dors was shocked or amused. “That’s from the Stone Age.”

“It’s certainly pre-Empire,” said Seldon, “but not entirely so. Have you ever seen a print-book?”

“Considering that I’m a historian? Of course, Hari.”

“Ah, but like this one?”

He handed over the Book and Dors, smiling, opened it–then turned to another page–then flipped the pages. “Its blank,” she said.

“It appears to be blank. The Mycogenians are stubbornly primitivistic, but not entirely so. They will keep to the essence of the primitive, but have no objection to using modern technology to modify it for convenience’s sake. Who knows?”

“Maybe so, Hari, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“The pages aren’t blank, they’re covered with microprint. Here, give it back. If I press this little nubbin on the inner edge of the cover–Look!”

The page to which the book lay open was suddenly covered with lines of print that rolled slowly upward.

Seldon said, “You can adjust the rate of upward movement to match your reading speed by slightly twisting the nubbin one way or the other. When the lines of print reach their upward limit when you reach the bottom line, that is–they snap downward and turn off. You turn to the next page and continue.”

“Where does the energy come from that does all this?”

“It has an enclosed microfusion battery that lasts the life of the book.”

“Then when it runs down–”

“You discard the book, which you may be required to do even before it runs down, given wear and tear, and get another copy. You never replace the battery.”


If you enjoy that kind of retro-futurism I recommend Asimov's Lucky Starr. For example the main character had the fastest spaceship that can go through the outer layers of the sun to take a short cut, but at the same time every output from the ship's computer gets printed because a computer screen was unimaginable. Also Venus is covered in water.


I would prefer someone come up with a new form of binding so books lay open flat and effortlessly, rather than feeling as if someone is seemingly implicitly telling me I should also invest in the purchase of a pair of Jaws of Life in order to use them.


The problem with most recent books is that they use a glue-based binding, but the glue seeps into the spine far enough that it makes laying them flat difficult.

However, if you bind it yourself, you can get the desired behavior pretty easily. I have a summary of my process in the footnote of an older comment[0], but I've been able to get it working with hardcover books, and experimented with using a little bit of thread to reinforce the binding. So far, none of my books have come apart and they all lay flat. The problem with this is that you either have to print your own books or remove the binding from existing ones and then rebind them, which is not especially time consuming but not exactly fast either.

I wonder why this style of binding isn't more common? Is it just too expensive or are there durability concerns?

-----

0. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15877525


I find it oddly satisfying and appropriate that in this forum where people are regularly recommended to just write a small program for themselves that solves their specific computer or technology problem, you reply to someone's problem with book construction with a suggestion and help for actually rebinding the book to solve the problem.

Well done. :)


Exactly, the binding is a function of the publisher and there are binding systems that have the behavior the GP is looking for. The rubber binding you've mentioned is fine but it isn't particularly durable (it is how notepads are bound for example.

There is an excellent resource on binding examples here: https://www.designersinsights.com/designer-resources/choosin... which goes over them. But since book binding is literally several hundred years old there are lots of good references.

Sunnyvale used to have an adult education class on book binding that ran during the summer. I still have my class project from that class somewhere (which was a sewn case binding).

All that said, if the paper is stiff then the only lie flat option is spiral or comb binding.


One binding method I rarely see on these types of tutorials is Smyth sewn binding: https://craftschmaft.com/smyth-sewn-book-binding/

It's got the desirable property of being lay-flat (like perfect binding), but also allows you to make a very strong/durable binding. I'm excited to try it for my next project.


So how long would you expect books bound this way to last? I took some pictures of the ones I've made for reference: https://imgur.com/a/60zP8vn . So far, none of them have come apart but I'm pretty careful with my books.


With cheese cloth and library tape? Many years. If there is just the gum on the binding (no tape or linen binding) then a couple of years with light use, less time with heavier use. One of the things that the binding class taught was that books would be rebound several times in their lifetime. I've rebound at least a half dozen paperbacks that eventually started dropping pages (became detached from the binding).


Expense. I can't share a link, but I had helped a friend self-publish, and she eventually ended up going the paperback route. She had the option to have the book bound in a similar way (sewn, not glued) but her out of pocket expense would have been 4x higher. Last I heard, she had recouped her costs, but there's still a case of books left.


It's still not clear from reading your description how this is better works? You're just gluing together the bottom of a whole bunch of pages?


I took some pictures to demonstrate the final product[0]. I am not an expert bookbinder, but it works well enough and is cheap and easy to do by hand. This is the result of tinkering; presumably someone who knows what they're doing could achieve better results.

-----

0. https://imgur.com/a/60zP8vn


I really hate the bindings on most textbooks and technical books that I possess. You pretty much have to break the spines to get them to actually lay flat, and not have the pages turn on you, but if you do that and actually handle the book at all, sheafs of pages start falling out. Spiral binding would be so much better.

If it was just a little bit cheaper to get on-demand printing done, I'd love to get some of my books converted into something like a rugged three-ring binder.


Warning: rant. These terrible bindings you have to fight are a relatively new development. Back in the 80s even mass-market paperbacks, while they didn't open flat, at least were not "perfect bound" (the orwellian term for this cancer on book UX -- OK, I have feelings about books).

When I ordered a new Knuth volume 4A and found it couldn't be comfortably read -- you had to hold this heavy book open firmly at just the right angle or else the text on the inner margin would start to edge into hiding -- it was the last straw. Reading it in bed was an exercise in weightlifting. Even Knuth can't stop this? People can warez e-books instead, you know.


The cloth version of Knuth 4A (Additon Wesley) has real binding which lies flat and has visible inside margins. Are you talking about a paperback?

Some of the worst books I have seen are the print-on-demand ones by Springer. It’s tragic that pretty much all of their math books from the past 10–15 years are only available in this format. Springer used to produce very nice books up through the 1990s.


God, those Springer books are horrid. All the algebraic geometry students in my grad school department had copies of Hartshorne fallen into multiple pieces. One originally got a copy whose pages were printed at about half-size with huge margins around the edges. But my favorite was the person who ordered a Complex Analysis textbook, got a book that said "Complex Analysis" in big letters on the cover, only to open it and find a completely different book.


If you want a readable Springer math book, either buy an old edition from >15 years ago, or pirate an ebook.

Urge your colleagues/teachers to stop publishing their books with Springer.

https://www.math.upenn.edu/~chai/story/story18.pdf

"""We reported this to Rachel, Heinze and Kölsch. Rachel responded promptly. As regards the material used for the cover, she informed us that

“The word cloth is a semantic term that incorporates many different types of covers, including this one.”

It was illuminating to learn that Springer can no longer tell the difference between cloth and paper. Imagine how much money the new owners of Springer could save if, instead of wearing suits made of cloth, Springer management switched to paper suits; no one at Springer would be able to tell the difference. On rainy days this could pose a problem, but we know that Springer has suppliers with plentiful stores of glue. If Springer repairs its paper suits with the liberal quantities of glue it uses in its books, then board meetings could turn into stiff, uncomfortable affairs. """


It's a hardcover, iirc from the year it came out. The paper and typography were fine, but the difference in binding is really obvious next to the volumes printed in, say, the 80s. I don't know just when it changed.

Nice to hear that a better version is available. I wish the online listings made it clearer what you'd get.


It’s possible the ones from the 80s are nicer, I don’t have one of those. The modern one seems acceptable to me, but maybe my standards have gotten weak in the face of many truly atrocious modern books.


I took a couple textbooks to my local copy shop – Kinkos back then – and had them cut off the spine and hole punch the pages. Placed them into a 3-ring binder.

Only for books you're keeping I suppose. Or maybe you could re-sell directly.


We have a binding machine in my office. I use that for our technical and procedural documents. It's more compact than a binder, and you can still slip plastic covers around it to protect the contents when put away. Updates require a bit more effort to insert but I've found that it's not too annoying.


You have to dig, but I know for a fact that all the Pearson published textbooks I have needed are avaliable in a 3 ring binder form. The search term you are looking for is "loose-leaf edition". I hate Pearson with every atom of my being, but that is at least one nice thing I can say for the company.


I remember when many technical books were spiral bound. Ah, Tandy computer documentation, how I miss you.


Also the C-64 reference manual. What a gem that was.

https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Commodore_64_Programmer%27s_Re...


Yes. I've felt this way since reading thick science fiction paperbacks as a kid. It's a pain to hold these things open for hours at a time. And, making matters worse, these paperbacks were printed in small fonts. It's no surprise I've had glasses since I was 12.

As to bindings, I've always been a fan of spiral bound books.

There's also the Japanese style of printing shorter books in multiple volumes (at least I think this is the case - correct me if I'm wrong).

Given my aversion to paper-based reading, I've enjoyed using my Kindle, smartphone, and tablet to read. However, now there's two more problems. First, my smartphone is a constant source of distraction (calls, texts, work emails, personal emails, app notifications, etc.). Second, it feels like I spend the majority of my waking life looking at either a computer screen, a smartphone screen, or a Kindle screen -- it's kind of unsettling.


> It's no surprise I've had glasses since I was 12.

You might have been facetious, but FYI, the favored theory for the cause of normal myopia is insufficient UV light exposure during childhood. Eyestrain and close focal distance are not thought to produce it even though the latter is correlated with low UV light from being indoors.


I guess you mean most favored theory by you? I do not find UV exposure to be a consensus opinion after a brief glance at the subject.

There is at least some support for myopia being associated with close focal distance activities, as mentioned in this meta analysis:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4618477/


No, I was going based off my memory of this 2015 article, which summarizes the evidence and expert opinions:

https://www.nature.com/news/the-myopia-boom-1.17120

In particular, my article discusses randomized experiments and the opinion of multiple disagreeing experts. Your article (also from 2015) is a meta analysis of observational studies on the correlation between near work and myopia, not the overall question of myopia origins. As far as I can tell, I don't think they try to test whether light exposure is the underlying cause, nor does you article claim represent the opinions of anyone besides the three authors.

I welcome links to more recent and comprehensive reviews, though. I definitely don't think this case has been closed.


This is why I switched to a Kindle. I can comfortably hold it in either hand without having to pry the pages open.


Same. I have a big protective cover for my Kobo that when opened doubles as a stand. So I don't even need to hold it. I keep my hands warm and only use them to change page.


Spiral binding is the solution, but it looks ugly, there is no spine area anymore and the pages rip out more easily. Good for technical manuals, less so for fiction.

I do actually have a few 'publishers proof manuscript' (presumably for pre-press copy editing and review) spiral bound copies of books that I found in a second-hand shop, and although easy to read, the pages got crumpled and torn very quickly when I transported them in my backpack.


Can’t effectively stack them.


It was invented long ago. Section sewn or case binding allows a book to lay flat. It is considerably more expensive than other methods, though.


lie flat

Lay is a transitive verb, it requires an object e.g. he lays a book open.

Lie is intransitive e.g the book lies open.


Wow, I'm usually the one correcting grammar. Good catch!


There have been several of these already. Paperbacks where the spine is not glued to the perfect binding. O'Riley used one such technology at one point (RepKover, by Otabind—not sure if it still does). But it is quite a step more expensive. I'm not sure whether the sales are worth it.


We already have that and most paper notebooks have that feature: spiral- or circular-bound pages.


Smyth-sewn bindings lay flat.


one of the pictures in the article certainly makes it look like the books are willing to lie flat, with just a little effort.

(i was expecting this article to be someone reposting an NY Times article from the introduction of mass market paperbacks, and forgetting to put a date on it.)


They launched this format, calling it "Flipbooks", in the UK in 2011: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/mar/20/could-this-kil...

It wasn't a success. In all, it looks like they only released a handful in the initial 2011 launch period, then didn't release any more.[1]

I had a copy of Cloud Atlas in flipback format, and it was... okay. I bought it in that format purely for the novelty of it. It felt a bit like reading off a pair of playing cards hinged together, but wasn't entirely unpleasant. Reading a fullsize paperback is nicer if you like the paper reading experience. The paper alone makes a difference; it's very thin and crinkly, like old onion skin paper, or the paper in a Bible, or the paper you buy to roll your own cigarettes.

The main advantage it has over a Kindle or Kobo is that the book itself folds down smaller -- a little bigger than an iPod Classic or a pack of cigarettes -- and it won't run out of battery power. In most other respects, the eReader has the advantage.

I don't know anyone else who's ever read one.

[1]: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=as_li_ss_tl?rh=n:266239,k:fli...


Wow, your very own 'Flipback' copy of Cloud Atlas can be had for just over GBP 200 [0] according to Amazon! Are they that rare? Hopefully you kept your copy in good condition - eBay awaits...

0. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cloud-Atlas-Flipback-Publisher-Pape...


Crikey. When I checked that page earlier, just before I posted, there was a second-hand copy for about £6. Perhaps someone from this thread bought it?

As for my copy, I gave it to a friend when they went travelling. They came back, but the book itself has gone on further travels and has yet to return.


Books that aren't currently in print occasionally see their used price spike on Amazon. As far as I can tell, the spike is meaningless and doesn't reflect that there are any sales occurring at that price point (so you probably shouldn't hustle over to eBay). You just have to wait for the price to go back down.


One thing about eBay is that it will show you sold listings. It's a checkbox on the bottom of the left-hand column. There are people who apparently set a price for an item and just re-list it. The asking price may or may not have anything to do with what people actually are willing to pay.


The electrified books I read on my iPhone fit in one hand. Of course, the limiting factor here is (still) which books are available in that format. Other than that, the ability to carry arbitrary libraries in my pocket weightlessly has been sort of a game changer for me.


On the flip side, they are also DRMed to hell and back, so you don't actually own them. You lose your right to sell or share them, you can only read them on devices approved by the vendor who sold them to you, and that vendor can even reach into your reader and take them out of your library under certain circumstances.

(Yes, it's technically possible to remove the DRM with tools like Calibre, but now you're breaking the terms of the agreement under which they were sold to you in the first place.)

I occasionally check out ebooks from my local library via Overdrive. The DRM doesn't bother me in that scenario, since I have no expectation of being able to keep a library book. But I would never in a million years "buy" one.


> But I would never in a million years "buy" one.

As I age and my eyesight gets worse, the ability to pick a large font is a godsend. I'm not happy with the DRM, but I'd be even less happy not being able to read just about any book I choose.


I used to be so worried about DRM. I very diligently only purchased books from publishers like O'Reilly and Baen that sold completely unencrypted books. I was building my collection that would last me forever.

Of course, I'm not going to live forever, and as I get a more realistic appreciation for what books I might re-read in my limited lifespan remaining... I just don't worry about DRM anymore.

I'm not going to be passing on these books, the next generation likely won't be interested in most of them. The really good stuff will stay in print somehow at a reasonable price (or at least there will still be piracy).

The other stuff, meh.


You can buy an e-book (or a physical book) to ensure that you legally paid for the content, and everyone in the book production pipeline get their agreed share.

Then you can download a de-DRM-ed copy, and use it, because they often come in a better layout, actually fit for reading, and are not going away.

Maybe publishers will eventually understand that their books is going to be pirated no matter what, and start to compete with pirates on quality and affordability. See, this actually happened to most of the music, so there's hope.


I'm not so worried about the DRM since I rarely read a book twice, and I typically just donate paper books to a local book drive, so not being able to sell them doesn't bother me.

But what I don't like is that publishers have been jacking up the book prices to the point where they cost more than the cost of having a physical book shipped to me. When I see that, then I usually just buy a used book, to make sure the publisher gets no revenue from me at all.

I thought digital publishing would be a boon for publishers and readers alike -- reducing prics by eliminating the cost of printing and keeping inventory, yet the publishers are using the convenience of the eBook reader that I paid for to charge me even more money for that book.

2 years ago I was reading 75% ebooks, 25% paper books, now that's flipped the other direction.


You don't get to put restrictions on things that are sold.


I can't understand why people still bother with physical books anymore, other than not having a good enough device or the book isn't available digitally.

We spend a lot of our time reading long-form content online already; there's no reason books should be any different. People come up with reasoning based on the feel of pages turning and the like, but I don't buy it.

This move feels like a gimmick to me.

I imagine physical books will become completely obsolete and go out of style within the next decade or two.


There are (at least) three things that physical books will always do better than e-books:

1. Be single-purpose. There are no notifications, no distractions, no temptations to tab over to something else. It's a classic "less is more".

2. Never run out of battery. It's super-cool that e-ink readers last for weeks or more; but if I throw a paperback in a travel bag, I don't have to worry about a charger at all.

3. Sit on a shelf, as a living artifact. This seems silly, and there's certainly something laudable about a minimalist lifestyle that eschews shelves. Nonetheless, there's something beautiful about creating a space (shrine?) to showcase one's beloved books. I also adore perusing the bookshelves of someone I've just met, to learn what they're interested in, and it makes a great conversation-starter. The good news is, electronic media is invisible; the bad news is, electronic media is invisible.

All that said, it's good that we don't have to choose, I enjoy reading in both formats! :)


I read books on an eBook reader most of the time but one thing that's really lacking is ease of skipping around to different sections, reference pages etc.

Having said that, there's a lot of obvious effort in the software to help get around that limitation (footnotes appearing in a popup window, searching the book for any text, bookmarks, etc).


I also read in both formats and agree with all of the above. Two additional benefits of physical books:

1. Marginalia. While you can note-take on e-readers, I vastly prefer to do so in physical form. (I'm not entirely sure why, but I know I'm not alone - when I was in college a few years ago, people would print out the lecture slides to take notes on when they easily could have done so on their computers.)

2. Signaling. How else are you going to show people on the subway, in coffeeshops, etc. that you aren't just browsing Instagram and are instead a Very Serious Reader? :)


Re: 1, many people find the physical act of writing to improve their ability to remember information.

I wonder if anyone has done studies on writing vs typing vs listening/reading-only baseline.


I read enough books in public transport. No one cares. Even myself I had perhaps one 5 sec encounter like a glance on a book cover I known


1. get an e-ink reader. No distractions.

2. charge it up before you travel. It'll last the whole trip!

3. as someone with thousands of books, the shelf system is more of a liability


Reading technical literature (think mathmatics etc.) is painful on a 2 dimensional medium like an e-book reader or computer screen. You'll often go back and forth between non-continous pages in your book using your left hand as you're writing stuff down with your right. Can't do that comfortably or fast using a laptop or e-book reader.

Being able to show a lot of dense information on a small area also really helps comprehensibility. Computer screens can't do that while still being comfortably readable and e-book reader screen resolution just isn't there yet.

That's my thoughts on digital books as a student of mathematics. When reading fiction in my spare time, my Kobo Aura HD/H2O can't be beaten by conventional books though.


Math major here. When in school, I almost exclusively used PDFs of my textbooks. My desktop at home had three monitors: a 21x9 ultrawide on the bottom and two 16x9 monitors above. This meant I could have LaTeX, a web browser, and three or four windows with different pages of my book open at once. Well done digital books can quickly be navigated via a sidebar table of contents, or simply using ctrl-f. It all made for a much nicer work flow than sticking different fingers/pencils/etc between pages and constantly switching my attention between a book and a notebook, and a screen. Admittedly this was much trickier on a single laptop screen, but with a few virtual desktops I still preferred it to the analog approach. I think that the real hold on textbook ebooks is the horrendous web based formats that most come in. The above approach would admittedly have been impossible if I were acquiring my textbooks legally.


Down sides to e-books:

- Reading them sucks except on e-ink screens, for a variety of reasons, including that screens shut off while you're using them, the glow and eye strain, battery life of such devices, distractions, and more.

- E-ink devices aren't great at: footnotes, keeping a finger in an index/end-notes page (generally, bouncing between multiple reference pages), and so on. They're fine for contemporary fiction and that's about it. [edit] big example: only one page visible at a time. Two-page layouts can be practically necessary for many (mostly non-fiction) books, but even in fiction having more text available to look back at can be really nice.

- Physical books are a memory aid—I often forget the title and author of e-books I'm reading because I don't see the cover or spine or top-of-page notations, and spatial memory kicks in for certain things as far as depth-into-book and location-on-page. An edge case, but sometimes I have to locate a book by size and spine color.

- Personal effort that's probably not common, but most of my books are arranged chronologically by (often approximate) date of author's first major work, making the shelves themselves a learning tool. I've not seen a digital equivalent to a book shelf that does anything like this effectively, and certainly it wouldn't be there all the time in the room for passive absorption when you're not actively engaged in browsing.

- They're also often cheaper than ebooks if you're not just pirating those. Used books are pretty cheap, and you can recover (usually only a little, admittedly) money from them if you get rid of them. Used fiction paperbacks can be so cheap they're effectively disposable.

In ebooks favor, they're incredibly space and weight saving and they're searchable, and those are definitely big points in their favor. But if I'm going to go to the trouble of reading anything other than contemporary fiction or very skimmable/low-value non fiction (think: popular business books) I'm going to want a real book, so I can take advantage of the features of real books, not for smell or feel or whatever.

[another edit] oh and you can leave several currently-reading books around the house without having to buy several $100-200 devices (wait why isn't my book on this one anymore? Oh one of the kids picked it up and changed it to Wind in the Willows, hold on, gotta go to the menu...) or go grab your e-reader from the other room or whatever. Ebooks may win for overall convenience, but they don't take it without giving up a couple goals to physical books.


I find that the way of reading that gives me least eyestrain, is using a phone or a tablet with an OLED (important for "perfect blacks") screen, setting it to some warm color (e.g. orangeish yellow) on black, and dialing the brightness level down to exactly the point where it's readable without straining for a given background light level, but no brighter.

The benefit of this arrangement is that it works in a wide variety of lighting conditions. When I read at night in bed, there's practically no light around at all, and so I dial the brightness all the way down - and read without losing night vision.

Between the ability to do that, and the ability to adjust font size, I find e-books to be light years ahead of anything on paper, in terms of ergonomics.


I'm also in favour of e-books but you do have some notes wrong.

- You can arrange your books chronologically, by author, and other ways on e-book readers, at least the Kindle you can.

- Switching the book on your reader doesn't remove your reading history of the previous book. You can always switch back to a different book and it will be at the same location you left it.

- You have it the wrong way around for price. E-books are majority of the time cheaper than regular books. Also, almost all classic books are available for free through e-books.

- While reading the book on a Kindle, you can click the menu button and it says the Title and Author of the book.


> - You can arrange your books chronologically, by author, and other ways on e-book readers, at least the Kindle you can.

I'm aware of "sort by" but it does not achieve the same effect at all. My "screen" is the size of all my shelves and all the books are on that display at the same time. I can realistically take in the layout of maybe two hundred books at a time in one "view" (without physically moving) and I can engage spatial memory for recall. Not limited to six covers or a list of a dozen titles at a time whatever a given digital interface shows, with no fixed physical layout in space for any of it. The word "effectively" in my original post was intended to qualify out a simple "sort by" and limited digital view of a list or tiled covers, which is barely related to what I'm talking about as far as what it accomplishes.

> - Switching the book on your reader doesn't remove your reading history of the previous book. You can always switch back to a different book and it will be at the same location you left it.

Did I write that this wasn't the case? Though I do dislike using the OK-by-ereader-standards menus on my Nook enough that I try not to touch them more than necessary.

> - You have it the wrong way around for price. E-books are majority of the time cheaper than regular books. Also, almost all classic books are available for free through e-books.

Has not been my experience. Cheaper than new, yes. Cheaper than used? Rarely. Used popular fiction paperbacks or pop-business books (again, only ones that aren't badly crippled on an e-ink interface) are really, really cheap.

Free public domain classics are great and I've read a few, but books old enough to be free usually benefit strongly from additional, newer material—introductions, footnotes, and so on, often still covered by copyright. If in translation, the best translation(s) are often not yet out of copyright, and besides, the presence of additional, recent scholarship is even more useful for works in translation. If I'm gonna bother to read War and Peace I'm going to read the version (in English) that strikes me as best, even if I have to pay $6-7 for a used copy or something, because I'm going to be putting a lot of hours into it and may well never read a different version, ever. Project Gutenberg doesn't always (often does not) cut it, as much as I appreciate them.

- While reading the book on a Kindle, you can click the menu button and it says the Title and Author of the book.

I know I can look it up. This is about starting to talk about what I'm reading then realizing I can't remember who wrote it because I'm not seeing their name in large print every time I pick it up, every time I look at the table it's sitting on even if I'm not reading it just then, and maybe also at the top of every other page. It's automatic—almost unavoidable—with a paper book.


Two additions:

* Another comment mentioned fiction and historical books that contain maps not having good-enough resolution.

* There're some books out there that straight up can't be rendered on e-readers, such as House of Leaves.


You forgot one big point in favor of ebooks: large fonts for people with poor eyesight.


Good point, and the thing that might finally convert me (and just keep me from reading whole categories of books at all, as a consequence) in (hopefully very) old age.

[EDIT] to be clear, I'd love for e-readers to actually achieve enough of the important features of physical books that I could mostly switch over. I'd probably hold on to a few real books but I'd happily ditch 90+% of them if they weren't a better interface for their particular content, in ways that really do matter, than ebooks. Color, higher resolution, and probably at least two screens per device (or one foldable screen I guess) would be required to even take a realistic stab at that, though.

Then again there's no way I'd pay new-ebook (only kind) prices for all the books I have. I could slowly start converting, though, if they were good enough. It's a features thing, not (entirely) a nostalgia thing.


You can change the text justification too. Every printed book I've seen is full-justified, which is is IMO the worst option. You get uneven spacing between words, no visual cues for vertical position along the right edge, and words unnecessarily split up with hyphens. I much prefer left-justified text.


People have been saying that about paper and books for at least 50 years, and we still have them and still use them just as much if not more. It's also a popular dismissive canard here on HN, which I suppose is to be expected in a site with this userbase.

The book will probably never become obsolete or go out of style as long as humans exist as we do now. I imagine we'll print and sell fewer of them, but that's not the same as becoming obsolete. The book could only truly be replaced by something absolutely better than it in every way, which an eBook isn't -- it has as many advantages and disadvantages as a paper book.


I see two largest cases for paper books.

* Art albums. You can't expect a handheld device to have both the same size and same pixel density. This is niche, of course.

* Kids books! Those need to be large, lightweight, durable, damage-tolerant, and expendable. Yes, at 10 a kid may prefer to read a book from screen. At 4, physical kids books are indispensable.


Just like vinyl albums have, I'm sure.

I'm not a vinyl collector, but I understand those who are. I read a lot of ebooks, but I do love paper books. It's an aesthetic thing, I think. Much like the look and feel of wood vs plastic.


I like to take notes and highlight and write all over my books when I read and I have yet to find an e-book software that fits my use case. However -- if any one has any recommendations please let me know. I greatly prefer the convenience of my phone.


> We spend a lot of our time reading long-form content online already

That's exactly the point. There are things I do on paper for no other reason than I'm tired of looking at a screen all day.


Hello,

I read your 2-month old post for front end developer at Atlantic Media in the DC area while job searching here on hackernews. Well, I checked out the Atlantic media site and they have a opening available listed on there for a Back-end Python Developer.

So, I see that you work for Atlantic Media. Don't know if that still holds up but I wanted to check if the Back-end Python Developer job is still available?

I'm a guy who has been going the self-taught route where I enjoy using and working with Python as far as learning purposes go. And after quickly reading your post here I figured to reach out and try a somewhat different approach than the old cover letter and resume email method and contact you if you may have any info to this current opening at your company?

So with that said, here I am..and I wanted to inquire to find out if this opening is still available? If so, do you have a contact email to learn more about this position and the things you require in regards to the nature of the job? My apologies in advance that this may not be the response to your post that you were looking for but I figured why not take a chance and try something different to reach out and learn what I can do to improve my chances to be part of the Atlantic media team.

Any help in this matter will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

--K

Also, coffeefirst... please feel free to contact me at pydeveloper22@gmail.com

Thanks


There's a couple of developer positions open. Please throw your hat in the usual way--those forms go straight to the lead developers and we really do read everything.

Good luck!


Hi there, thanks for the prompt reply. That's very encouraging news to hear that there are a couple openings available and that the applications to straight to the lead devs rather than HR. I appreciate all the help and will go ahead and apply and send it what I have. Once again, thanks for all your help.

--K


I can read a book in the bathroom and leave it on top of the toilet if I want, and know it’ll be there and it’ll be readable when I come back. I can’t do that with a tablet.


You can't leave a tablet in your own bathroom?


Format shifting is allowed in USA copyright, presumably this means a service to scan a book to ebook format is allowed?

That's no different to using iTunes to rip a CD surely?


I converted my entire collection of physical books to e-books by using a scanning service that scanned them destructively (spine removal.) It was super empowering to dispose of 50 boxfuls of physical books with content that can fit on a few GB and be available wherever I happen to be.


It's silly of they have to rescan and process every time, a waste of resources.


Well, I would prefer the scanned book to preserve my notes and markings so I appreciated the scanning from original. I suspect there might be a copyright reason as well but not sure.


As mentioned in the article, over here in the Netherlands we've had these for quite some time now (called the 'dwarsligger'). It probably won't change the way we read, but it's a nice form factor for reading during transit or travel for those who prefer to read from paper.


We've had them here in Belgium as well for quite some time. (Not that surprising, we can share translations :P).

Personally I'm not a fan of it. Even in transit, I often have a backpack with me and can read the paperback books I have just fine.

Plus, what's a better replacement to me, is just having the kindle app installed on your phone. When I don't have a paperback with me, I just open the kindle app and read from there.

Which arguable is even easier to carry for being in-transit than a small book, since people usually have their phones weith them.


The format was invented by someone at Jongbloed publishers and printers, which specializes in printing on thin paper, usually used for bibles and hymn books.


I've nevet seen a hymnal with thin paper. They are generally rather rugged because they are designed to hold up to long term use by multiple people.

Is it common where you are to print them with thin paper?


Most of those used to be combined bible/hymnals, but the most recent (2013) hymnal of the mainstream protestant churches is so large that it is also printed on thin paper (maybe not the thinnest?).

Those combined bible/hymnals are usually personal, not for multiple people, and they're most common among denominations that only use the 150 psalms and a small number of hymns on texts directly from the bible, although I do have one with the bible and the entire Liedboek voor de Kerken (from 1973). Normal hymnals usually used to be printed on normal paper here.


And they were available in the US about 5 years ago as "flipback books". I have John le Carré's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" in the format. It is kind of cute and smaller than modern phones, but the claims that were made at the time that it was going to be an ebook killer never materialized and eventually they stopped selling them here.


Ha - I had an experience with one of these recently, entirely by accident[0].

I purchased the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Teens for my oldest boy this summer on Amazon. It's an older book so, naturally, I went to the used/new and found a listing for the 'paperback' version of it for a few bucks delivered (compared against over $10).

Then it arrived. And it was about 4cm x 5cm (estimated). I laughed, figuring I'd been working a little too quickly when I hit the "Buy Now" button so I went back to the listing. Sure enough, the picture was of the original paperback and there was no note about it being the "Tiny Version"[1]

At first, I thought 'scam', and it probably was one, but at the end of the day I ended up with a book that had the content I needed -- not sure if it was abridged or not, but being that the target reader was an almost-teenager, this resulted in the material appearing to be a "quick read" which he was able to complete in a day. And I paid less than 20% of the original price despite discovering that -- at least in this case -- it was a better option.

[0] Maybe ...

[1] It may not have been; it's entirely possible that my seller was just selling that version


This seems to be about the format of Reclam[1] books. I don't particularly notice any differences in the way German speakers read them. Other than them being cheap and conveniently sized I guess.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reclam


I used to be a paper purist and I still believe paper is better for educational reading, but nowadays I read my fictional books on an e-reader and couldn’t be happier.

I can take all sorts of books with me and the reader remembers my place in the book

I can read in the dark thanks to the backlight

Reading from E-paper feels pretty much the same as from real paper and the form factor is more comfortable than a 1000 page book

I can read noiselessly, thanks to which I can read in bed at all, or rather, am allowed to read in bed at all because my wife is a very light sleeper and the rustling of paper wakes her up. The backlight here helps too.


I think for reading fiction, ereaders are great, bascially because you read straight through and illustrations/ equations are not important.

I find for technical books, paper is far superior. The layout is much better for graphics/ equations, plus the traditional layout of a book (with some post it stickies) is optimized for easy navigation/ jumping back and forth.

One thing I miss about paper books is their three-dimensionality. If you are an experienced reader, knowing where you are in the thickness of a book is just as important for navigating the book as a whole as where you are in any given page. And I don't think the GUI bookmarks work quite as well as paper, personally.

Really, it is all about fractions of a second, but it adds up.

(Personally, I don't care about the aesthetics, feel and smell of the paper, blah blah, I just still think paper technical books win for .)


I feel like we're on the cusp of being able to have a qualitatively better technical book using interactive media instead of page flipping, but to date this has not materialized. For casual introductions (i.e. browsing wikipedia) a phone or table is fine, but a technical book that seeks to lead the reader from basic understanding to deep knowledge remains tantalizingly out of reach for anything but a physical paper book.

Being able to rapidly backtrack and sidetrack seems to be the critical issue; paper allows you to do this so easily with a thumb or other improvised bookmark. Hypertext and forward/back navigation and tabs seems like it would be perfect for this, but it doesn't quite work.

Learning effectively from a technical book has to be like lazily reading a detective novel -- you have to be willing to look at the ending. You do this before you're in a place to understand it, and then build up that foundation to the point where it supports what the end goal is going to be. Maybe it's a question of having a writer who can make this idea a first-class one, by repetition and backtracking in a forward direction; effectively first presenting page 8, then 4, then 2, then 1, then 2, then 8, then 2, then 3, then 1, then 4, or some similar scheme to allow the reader to shore up their understanding, while allowing them to skim through parts that seem boring or are too confusing, with the knowledge that they'll have another chance to review the material, without having to manually backtrack.


I have been thinking about this in the context of my own reading habits and how they have changed over time.

I have read textbooks with a lot of patience spending way more time per page, letting the content sink in, thinking about it, taking notes on the bitsy corners of the book etc. However, these days as a professional, when I read tech books, I could see myself rushing for facts, and "how-to"s instead of deeper reading. May be I'm getting older? Wiser? Falling into Attention Deficit Disorder? I don't know. But, I do know that if a tech book does "8,4,2,1,2,8,2,3,1,4" like you said, I'm lost at third step, finding something else where I can get my facts quick...

This is where interactive books could jump in and help keep the attention in place with more relevant information in view instead of needing repetition.

I remember Apple tried something with a free app called iBooks Author. I need to spend more time with it and see if I can make use of it for some tech stuff.


The content being a website with hyperlinks would solve most of this. Keep pages open in tabs and bookmark them.


The act of clicking on links and adding bookmarks, well, just doesn't feel the same as interacting with a physical book. I think the 3 dimensionality of the book adds intuition, cues, and a coherence that are lacking in the free for all of hyperlinks.

I also think an experienced reader can navigate more quickly (yes fraction of seconds) in a physical book than possible when you have to set bookmarks and use them in some drop down system.

I would love to see a human factors study comparing hyperlink eReader versus paper book.


Relatedly, my tabletop RPG group is about to start a new campaign, and for the first time I've finally picked up a paper copy of the players guide. Just gets so tiresome paging back and forth through PDFs and 25 browser tabs to find what I want to reference. Much happier to just have a physical book with a dozen sticky note bookmarks poking out of it.


Agree, hard to go back to paper once you taste the convenience of e-readers. My main grievance with e-paper readers is that it's really not practical to take notes or to highlight stuff in books - sometimes the selection is just awkward, and typing is very slow. Another issue is that you can't have your books sitting around for everyone to look at like in a bookshelf. I think this is somewhat damaging because I discovered a lot of books I would have never read just by looking at other people's bookshelves. In the digital era this is just not as easy to do, and recommendations tend to show you what people like yourself like, but its not the same, and bookshelves can be good conversation starters too.

But apart from what I described, E-readers pretty much win on everything else.


I went back after a few years experimenting with an eReader. I mostly read history and fantasy books which often have maps and images that are generally illegible on an eReader. Some books offer aesthetic treats as physical objects that are totally lost in eReader form (e.g. Steven Johnson's Wonderland). Flipping back to check on a previous passage/reference a map or just generally browsing through a book to see what's there are also terrible experiences. I enjoy the physical presence of books in my home, many of which have little tab notes for quick reference back to passages I've enjoyed. I can share/pass on/donate books that I no longer want. Finally, the eBooks were generally no cheaper than a paperback, and often cost more. It offended my sense of justice to pay the same or more for an electronic book that has no printing or distribution costs.


> no cheaper than a paperback, and often cost more.

True, this is certainly something that does not make sense, market-wise. The good thing though is that you can get all the books that are now public domain for absolutely nothing (even Amazon has tons of old books with 0$ price markings).


I love reading digitally, and I love my e-reader. My only peeve is that for some reason, no one makes a pocketable e-reader. I would love a smart-phone sized e-reader, maybe a 5-6in screen at most.

Kobo made one for a while, but has since EOLed, as well as Papyrus IIRC.

As a consequence, I tend to read on my phone, but it's not nearly as comfortable as reading on my e-reader, and I tend to get eye fatigue much more quickly.


> no one makes a pocketable e-reader

Funny, I went for the exact opposite. I had a Kindle paperwhite and purchased a Kobo Aura precisely because I could get a 7 inches screen. I'm much happier with a larger surface, and I read all the time in public transports.


I'm kinda on the same boat. I love physical books and have hundreds of them. There are some books that are, in my opinion, best read in physical format -- generally old books, because there's more than just the words to add to the story (feel, smell, etc).

But I consume almost all my modern sci-fi on an e-reader of some persuasion. That, too, adds to the story.


>There are some books that are, in my opinion, best read in physical format -- generally old books, because there's more than just the words to add to the story (feel, smell, etc).

So those books were worse when they were published because they didn't have that old book smell and feel?


Stop being abrasive for the sake of being abrasive.


I am of the same persuasion, but my parents are the opposite. For them, the physical dimension of a book is a prerequisite to their enjoyment; turning a page is their little dopamine hit of achievement. When they travel, they get anxious about ruining a "precious" e-reader, whereas a cheap paperback can get abused with rain or sand with little thought - possibly even a hint of pride for turning an object into a unique memory.

Then again, they hate flying, and travel in a campervan...


The _disposability_ of a paperback is a distinct advantage. I dislike abusing my books, and love finding older ones that have survived in a used bookstore, but at the same time there's comfort in knowing that, if I lose it, or leave it on my car, or drop it in a bathtub, or I accidentally run over it with my car, or otherwise ruin it accidentally, I've lost only a small amount of value.

Similarly, I can buy a slightly damaged book and still enjoy it, or give one to a friend and not worry if I get it back.


I actually prefer buying used books because of the patina of them being worn.


I purchased a sony DPT-RP1, and while the build quality leaves something to be desired (panel gaps), It is the first tech product in a while that had a little bit of that magical feeling to it. I don't have to truck around all of my textbooks anymore, and the epaper means my eyes don't tire as fast.

(I do not work for Sony)


The only thing that would make electronic book-reading, for me, replacement for paper books is guaranteed, 100% future-proof integration.. like, I need a book-reader that will last 50 years at least, have the ability to store books and retrieve them (i.e. zero lock-in), be solar-powered, and most important of all, an actual feature of books nevertheless unmatched by computers, user-maintainable at the hardware layer.

I think we have a way to go, but I'm sure there are devices out there that will last 50 years or so, as a place to put all the books I've loved...

Until then, I maintain a fleet of computers of course, however under the known circumstance that when the lights go out, there'll be not much to read.


Fiction can be moving and transforming. The typeface, cover, colour, and smell of a book can work as mementoes -- when I pick up a book I read when I was 23 it might remind me who I was then, and it might remind me of the journey to where I am now.


Very true. There is less charm to e-reading and that is why I was hesitant to start reading this way. In the end, though, I think e-reading offers many practical benefits over paper and these allow me to read more. So it becomes reading more with less charm vs reading less with a bit more charm. In the end, reading more wins.

I was very proud though when my then 13 month old daughter pulled 1984 off a shelf and walked over to me proudly carrying it. "She is woke already" I said. An e-book can't beat that.


I read about 95% of books on my phone. It's just so easier and more comfortable to hold.


> I can take all sorts of books with me and the reader remembers my place in the book

This is by far the biggest reason I'll continue to use my Kindle. I still buy certain physical books, but being able to take my entire library with me is so useful.


An article about holding a small book with one hand, so you can easily read it, that has no pictures of anyone doing so. Why does this happen so often in newspaper style articles? Argh!

Personally, I've moved from paper fiction to an ebook reader and couldn't be happier: it's so much easier to hold—particularly with one of those popsocket grippers affixed to the back.


Here's a photo of a person reading the book with one hand: http://geaplamp2.cipal.be/images/uploads/wommelgemdwarsligge...


A week ago I had the opportunity to visit a rare book library and view some medieval manuscripts.

One of the ones I handled was just as small as these. A few more were much thicker, but smaller in the other two dimensions.

Unlike these books the text still ran in the "normal" directions, the size of font varied greatly between books, but in the small books mentioned it was generally much smaller than this (and in one small book in particular was easily the smallest font I've ever seen, including on students size restricted cheat sheets).

Of course, the place of books in society back then was very different than their place today, so this isn't actually terrible relevant to the article, but I thought it was an interesting anecdote regardless.

As an aside, if you ever get the chance to view medieval manuscripts, take it. The art in them is absolutely amazing, everything you see in books today simply does not compare.


These seem like they would be unbelievably tiring to actually hold and read (horizontally.) What's the advantage supposed to be over the mentioned Pocket Books short newsstand paperback format? Why can't we just have those back, and with them 500+ page books being published as multiple volumes? I've always been an objector to the growth of massive softcovers; I thought they were an excuse to increase unit cost.


They really aren't tiring, though. They actually work quite well, although I doubt that they will really catch on given the competition with ebooks (which can be read on a phone for similar competition in regard to portability). As for the old "Pocket Books", I remember those from growing up but always thought the name was a bit silly because, while smaller than a hardcover, there was no way those books could fit in a pocket. For what it's worth, these tiny books do.


Am I the only one who wants a list of such books somewhere? I've been looking round for one and not finding it.


I couldn’t find any either. Maybe we’ll hit the right pages by searching in a few weeks.


I actually stumbled into some - stocking stuffer aisle of Barnes and Noble had a few John Green titles. As of Nov 1, they’re still stocking those shelves though


Considering that miniature books have been a part of literary and publishing history since at least the 16th century, I doubt this modern rehash will drastically change reading any more than the existing four centuries of iterations.

That said, mini books with this horizontal orientation are a cute and maybe convenient idea for some people. Anything that removes barriers to reading paper books is great.


I got the Lord of the Rings "pocket" set about a year ago and I really liked everything about them. For reference, here's someone else holding "The Hobbit" with the other books visible too: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/VM9ZInBNPw4/hqdefault.jpg

The covers are some kind of faux-leather so they fall in between a hardback and paperback book; they are flexible, but the covers don't fold like a paperback. The binding was, in my opinion, excellent; you couldn't lay the book open, but you also didn't feel like you were cracking the spine when you were reading. The paper is quite thin but tough enough, and I didn't find that the other side showed through or anything. They were harder to read in dim light due to the smaller type, but they were laid out just like a full-sized book.

IIRC I paid something like $30 for the set on Amazon. I would absolutely buy other books bound in the exact same way.


As many people in India do (due to the role of missionaries in the country), I studied in schools run by Christian missionary societies, in primary and high school. In one of them, they used to give out (to all and sundry) these pocket "Gideon Bibles" (IIRC the name). Religious aspects (on which I'm neutral) aside, I thought that was a good idea, to have small pocket books that you can take and read anywhere.

Update: I googled and it seems I got the name right:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gideons_International


The Beatles song "Rocky Racoon" mentions the subject (Rocky Racoon) going into a hotel room and finding "Gideon's Bible".

Rocky Racoon goes to the hotel to shoot the man who had stolen his girlfriend's heart. He loses a shootout, and heads back to his room.

>Now Rocky Raccoon, he fell back in his room >Only to find Gideon's Bible >Gideon checked out, and he left it, no doubt >To help with good Rocky's revival

The song was written in 1968 when The Beatles were in India studying transcendental meditation. Makes me wonder whether Paul McCartney was gifted a Gideon Bible in Rishikesh.


Interesting story. I had read about the Beatles studying meditation in India.


The "Livre de poche" [1] has been a thing since the 1960s in France, coming from a francophile culture like mine I was a little surprised when I found out that in the Anglo-sphere there is still such a strong emphases on hard covers.

[1] https://www.franceculture.fr/litterature/linvention-du-livre...


Not only is the emphasis on hard covers for new release - meaning you have to wait a bit to get a decent paperback - but the paperback sizes are always too huge to fit into a jacket pocket.


yeah those in the article seem a bit very light, but I don't think I've ever had more than 5% of my books in hardcover form and paperback has been the norm since the 80s...


I want to think that most of the cheap mass market paperbacks I used to buy were in the vicinity of 4" x 6", and about 300 pages long, which is not far off from these, and most importantly, were convenient to stuff in a coat pocket or the back pocket of a pair of jeans. At that kind of size and weight, they weren't at all painful to read for an extended time. And they were so cheap that it wasn't a tragedy if I happened to drop one in the mud coming back from my deerstand or it fell overboard fishing.

I don't really buy fiction on paper anymore, but all the paperbacks I see in the stores or airports are much bigger. Part of it is ballooning length, but there's a lot more printed at something like halfway between a trade paperback and the old mass-markets. Or those really awful awkward tall narrow paperbacks that remind me of the aspect ratio of the original Microsoft Surfaces.


Do you have an example of what you mean by "tall narrow" paperbacks?


There's was a run of Vince Flynn and Steven King paperbacks that were really bad for a while, but I'm at work and my library is at home. But this[1] pretty much shows the difference. It's really glaring next to older pulpy paperbacks that are undersized compared to the standard size to begin with.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/witcher/comments/5p8bne/this_is_jus...


I see what you mean. I don’t care for those either.


No one mentioned the Minibuk (http://minibuk.com) printed in the USA. Just as portable, but in a familiar portrait format. There are lots of use scenarios and they make excellent corporate gifts, giveaways, business card alternatives, etc.


Am I understanding this right? https://www.minibuk.com/pricing.php

It costs $2.2 for a 64 page black & white book (first option, 500 units)?

This can sure make a neat corporate gift!


Concur. I remember ordering 250, once upon a time. I don't have a relationship with them other than that of a customer. You could print user manuals, checklists; lawyers could print various sets of rules; a printed wiki for a project; there are a lot of options besides Cloud Atlas. I think their maximum page limit is 400 pages or so, which gives you a great deal of room. Their saddle-stitching (lie flat) option is 48 pages.


Hi, I’m David from MiniBük. Interesting discussions you are having. While our product is “under marketed”, we have continued to grow nonetheless. We have several sizes, including now 4 1/4 x 6. I agree perfect binding is far from perfect, we do use super premium paper, with the paper grain parallel to the spine. This makes the books much more flexible and the pages turn more easily. The books are also bound with PUR glue, Which is more flexible and durable then standard perfect binding glue.

Personally, what do when I read a full size book, is tear the cover off, cut the spine off and coil bind it. Yes, books bound like this all look the same on the shelf. I also cut away a lot of the excess paper, which in 90% of the cases is glorified news print. This keeps the weight down. Marketing has turned out to be the most popular use for our books. Savvy, energetic entrepreneurs have used them to dramatically elevate the arc of their success. Cara Silletto of Crescendo Strategies, is a poster child for this. She gave away nearly 30,000 of her MiniBük over a three-year period and skyrocketed her career. Books of been direct mailed with great success by James Lange of Paytaxeslater.com

Happy to send out samples. Please request via our web form. Please state your specific interest for sample customization.

One more thing: I searched for Cara Siletto, and the first thing that popped up was a PDF e-book download which we prepared for her. Using the same files we print from, these PDFs display perfectly on a smart phone. So you cannot only distribute them electronically, but you can use them as a hook to build a great email list. Also, books under 88 pages mail with a one or 2 ounce stamp in our special envelopes.


I adopted eBooks about 15 years ago because I preferred the tiny form factor and portability that offered. (I read purely free books from Project Gutenberg on a Nokia N-Gage, the second gen one, ah the memories.) That's why today I still prefer to do all of my entertainment reading (basically anything 100% reflowable) on my phone.

This feels like a decade late effort to compete poorly on the same basis.

That said, I'm convinced reading is vastly more enjoying in a visual form aligning with news columns vs. the large space in trade paperbacks and the like. So if you're a paper slave, I'd suggest giving the small form factor a try.


I read several Dostoevsky novels from Project Gutenberg on my Nintendo DS Lite about ten years ago. The fact that I could actually hold it like a book was quaint at the time.

These days my primary eBook reader is a Nexus 7.


Reading off a DS screen Jesus I’m not sure if I should envy or pity your eyesight at this point.


I read a number of Project Gutenberg books on my Palm Pilot in the late 1990s. 160x160 monochrome.

To beat that you'd pretty much need to read a book off of one of these: https://www.newark.com/lumex/lcm-s01602dtr-a/dot-matrix-lcd-...

Now, I'm sure someone is either A: going to pop up to claim that they did or B: pop up to say they now have their next Arduino project. "E-Readers are so big and expensive, so I thought I'd roll my own with parts I just have lying around..."

Anyhow, when I see people talking about they can't possibly code with anything less than a 4K display, I still find myself chuckling a bit. Not that they're bad things by any means, but... well... it's a pretty big leap over where I started. I remember the excitement I had in college when I could get 800x600 and 1024x768 for the first times. So much text!


They used to give out these things: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/One-QuickPAD-word-processor-H45-T... to students when I was in school for word processing. If I remember right it could display 2 lines of text on the screen at a time.


10 years ago I used to read in class on a Cowon iAudio 7, tiny screen but perfect to hide in my sleeve.


Dear lord, how did your eyesight fare?


The homebrew app could switch the contrast to be white-on-black instead of black-on-white. That helped quite a bit with the glare.


A paper slave? Really?


Oh wow, I know one of the patent attorneys who worked for the law firm that helped Royal Jongbloed way back when they created this format! It feels like a lifetime ago, and since the original patent[0] was filed in 2006 that is kind of true, I guess.

> Jongbloed, which was founded in 1862 as a bookshop and later became a Bible printer, created the flipback format in 2009, and quickly realized there was a wide audience for compact, portable books.

> But getting English flipback editions of Mr. Green’s books proved endlessly complicated. Jongbloed is currently the only printer in the world that makes them, using ultrathin but durable paper from a mill in a village in Finland.

So from what my friend told me back then, Jongbloed was a fairly small printer, and struggling with ever-decreasing Bible sales (the Netherlands has gotten more secular over the generations). They knew they couldn't compete with the big printing companies because of economies of scale, but unlike them, they had the technology and skills to print on ultra-thin paper, because that was the traditional way they printed their Bibles. So they decided to try and create a new niche for themselves based on this edge, and came up with the sideways, one-handed pocket idea.

Based on all the software patent horror stories I hear, I guess that in the Netherlands it takes more effort to patent things - basically, the US patent office defers checking the validity of the patent to whomever challenges it in court, whereas the Netherlands patent office does not. It's the combination of printing on ultra-fine Bible paper with a sideways pocket is ultimately what got them the patent.

I remember my friend being really excited about it. Haven't spoken to him in ages, but we originally studied physics and switched careers. He told me he loved being a patent attorney because it boils down to writing out ideas in a really exact language, which basically meant he gets to be a technical consultant for people with novel, interesting ideas that he would have never taught of himself.

[0] https://patents.google.com/patent/NL1032073C2/en?q=Jongbloed...


Pocket hardbacks in miniature are not a new thing, I have several from the 1960s which comfortablly go into pant pockets.

But I remember a fad from 3-4 years ago, for enabling one handed reading, called flipback binding, ie paperbacks with printing that goes in the long direction instead of the short direction on the page, so you hold it with one hand, read top to bottom, flip next page again go top to bottom, rinse and repeat.In theory a great idea, but I haven't actually tried one.


That is what the article is about.


I think the parent comment is a perfect answer to the question posed in the title.


Loeb library is like this but I’ve never seen anyone walk around reading them. Maybe this is because of who I hang out with :)


I haven't tried this format yet, but I think I'd like it. I do nearly all of my reading in bed and this format seems like it would eliminate the issue of having to hold the book up in the air every other page so I can see it (which is the main reason I started using an e-reader).


I loved reading books but i realized for myself that a book is a tool for reading. I like my kindle very much.

I have even ripped books in half to read the first half first and than the second because those books with 1k pages are horrible to read.


I tried reading books on my phone, but gave it up because it drained the battery like a torpedo below the waterline.

I'd buy an e-ink reader with a form factor the size of a phone. The usual ereaders don't fit in a pocket.


Likewise I am considering replacing my 6 inch kobo with a 5 inch model.


It's a shame Kobo now only make 6"+ models. I really hoped that they'd release something with the form-factor of the Forma HD but with a 5" screen: https://uk.kobobooks.com/products/kobo-forma


Oh, I didn't know the mini was discontinued. It's still on sale in Belgium in brick and mortar shops.


This isn't a new thing. I remember miniature books from several decades ago. Maybe 2.5-3 inches tall. And ultra-thin paper was also used to make large books relatively small.


In the age of e-readers, I wish they would put more effort into making unique hardbacks. It seems every new hardback is just made to be oversized with a very generic-looking sleeve.


I don't have any data but I don't think this isn't true at all. I have read at least two articles describing the extra lengths publishers are going to in order to compete. I have bought many beautiful hardbacks released since e-readers took off.


A good reference also might be pocket bibles. Although they are somewhat used, anecdotally I still see more people with the full size "normal" books at church.


Would the paper hold up to marginalia?


Not really -- it's incredibly thin. You'd need to write carefully, either with a pencil or a non-bleeding pen. You also have almost no space to write in: see this picture halfway down the NYT article to see how small the margins are: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2018/10/22/books/00TINYBOOKS...


I keep wanting to print some books in magazine format. Any takers?


Thought that's what e-readers were for.


I will stick with my kindle


To answer the article: no.


where can I buy these?


"An Abundance of Kathrines" (title image) was a pretty cool book.


Ha. I can just read books on my watch. Nice try


Betteridge's law of headlines applies here I think.




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