These tiny 'flipback' books are 1/4 the size of a paperback and can fit in your pocket

A new line of books from Penguin Random House is re-thinking - and shrinking - the size of popular fiction paperbacks.

Penguin Random House to launch new 'Minis' with young adult titles from John Green

Penguin Random House is set to launch a line of books about 1/4 the size of a regular paperback, starting with 4 young adult titles by John Green. (Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers)
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A new line of books from Penguin Random House is re-thinking — and shrinking — the size of popular fiction paperbacks.

Penguin Minis are about a quarter the size of regular paperback books, with text printed horizontally. The books forgoe a regular spine for a hinged one that allows for easy flipping between pages, and ensures a more compact footprint when reading on the go.

"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, president and publisher of Dutton, a young-adult focused imprint of Penguin, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

The books are printed horizontally on super-thin paper, with a special hinged spine making them easy to read on the go. (Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers)

They're similar in size to a typical smartphone, albeit slightly thicker — making them even easier than a regular paperback for people to take with them and read while travelling, such as a morning or after-work commute.

Four titles by young adult author John Green will be the first wave of releases in the Minis line: Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars.

The first print run of 500,000 copies launched in late October, according to a press release by Penguin Random House. The books retail for $16 each, or $64 for the set of four.

The small, horizontal format has long been popular in the Netherlands, where it's known as a dwarsligger, or flipback.

According to Strauss-Gabel, they're popular for genres such as travel guides or cookbooks in addition to popular fiction and nonfiction. She believes, however, that YA readers are the perfect demographic to start introducing the flipback format.

"One thing we know about young readers — and across the whole spectrum of people who read our titles — is they really love print books. We know that they are looking for print titles. They're not migrating to [ebooks and e-readers] as some adults have," she said.

John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, poses during an interview in New York in June 2014. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

Ultra-thin, super-strong paper

Anyone worried that they'll have to squint or bring along a magnifying glass to read these books shouldn't have to worry, as the text size is about the same as a regular paperback.

Penguin Random House contacted Dutch printer Royal Jongbloed, which produces a special ultra-thin paper stock typically used for Bibles.

The paper is produced at a mill in a village in Finland. It's super-durable and "as thin as an onion skin," as described by the New York Times' Alexandra Alter.

"We had a laundering of one of [the books] in my household. My son left one in a pocket, which most books would not survive and yet came out a little soggy on the other side," said Strauss-Gabel.

"But the paper was completely intact. So they can put up with a lot."


Written by Jonathan Ore. Segment produced by Ashley Mak.