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Are Tiny Books Going to Be the Next Big Thing in Publishing?

John Green is one of the biggest young-adult authors in the world.

Now he wants to get small.

Four of his best-selling novels — including The Fault in Our Stars — will be released this October in a radically new miniature format. All the original words will be there, but the pages will be squeezed down to something about the size of a cellphone.

But that’s just the start of this real-life episode of Honey, I Shrunk the Books. These Penguin Minis from Penguin Young Readers are not only smaller than you’re used to, they’re also horizontal. You read these little books by flipping the pages up rather than turning them across. It’s meant to be a one-handed maneuver, like swiping a screen.

For anyone accustomed to holding a book, the first reaction is likely to be delight and then bewilderment. As Umberto Eco once said: “The book is like the spoon, scissors, the hammer, the wheel. Once invented, it cannot be improved.”

Green would beg to disagree. “It really only takes a second to get used to,” he says. “I’m shocked by how readable they are.”

Green first saw these mini-books in the Netherlands, where they’re called Flipbacks or Dwarsliggers (dwars, crossways; liggen, to lie).

“I thought the quality of the bookmaking was really magnificent,” he says. When his U.S. publisher asked if he wanted to be a guinea pig for Flipbacks in the United States, he readily agreed.

“I haven’t seen a new book format that I thought was at all interesting,” Green says, “but I find this format really usable and super-portable.”

And young people might be the perfect audience for a new way to read: “They probably aren’t as set in their ways in how they interact with books. And in some ways, these books are more similar

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