Years ago, if you were to ask someone what a "flipbook" is, they'd likely explain it as a kind of 'toon tome-a small book with overlapping illustrations on its pages that, when flipped quickly via the thumb, creates the illusion of movement and instant animation.
Today, flipbooks mean much more-and offer much more-to creators and viewers alike, thanks to the increasing benefits of technology, the proliferation of digital devices to view them on, and the public's penchant for page-flipping-style digital publications. From online magazines to electronic catalogs, brochures and photo galleries, digital flipbooks provide an interactive, dynamic, and visually attractive format for text, graphics, audio, links and other elements to coalesce into a more engaging and entertaining experience for users. And unlike a PDF, which doesn't always display well on every type of device, a smartly designed flipbook is ideal for multiplatform distribution.
Yet, despite being around for several years and improving in features and functionality, not enough publishers and consumers are utilizing flipbooks like they should, say the experts.
"To this day, there are still people who have never seen a digital flipbook, which speaks to the potential growth of this vital marketing tool," says Marthe Rana, sales and marketing manager for flipb, a provider of digital flipbook publishing software. "A few years ago, no one even knew this type of technology existed, and since then the market for digital publishing and its solutions has vastly improved."
In the early days of flipbooks, for example, publishers struggled with creating pages that flipped smoothly and quickly and implementing convenient features like custom zooming and fast page loading. But with significant recent advancements in software and hardware, perusing through a flipbook in 2014 can be a simple, smooth, enjoyable, and immersive experience.
"The latest improvements come with the integration of HTML5 technology on top of pre-existing Flash infrastructure to ensure universal viewing and interactivity on all digital platforms and devices," Rana says. "Also, the emergence of social media has allowed flipbook content to be easily shared and distributed via popular social network channels-enabling companies to expand their reach and awareness. And with the rise in popularity of the various app platforms, incorporating your PDF content into branded flipbook magazine or catalog apps is becoming increasingly more commonplace when establishing a digital presence and monetizing on digital content."
Joe Hyrkin, CEO of Issuu, one of the world's largest digital publishing platforms for flipbooks, says flipbooks are also more interactive today, as they have become integrated into media and commerce sites. "Flipbooks commonly include multiple types of links to guide readers within the book and also generate external traffic. With a flipbook, each page is geared to deliver a clear content message without the distractions that typically clutter a web experience. The format evokes the tangibility of print media and its immediacy and intimacy, and works especially well for publications with rich and blended media," says Hyrkin.
Additionally, some flipbook software platforms now allow more advanced ecommerce options, including shopping widgets and popup carts to instantly buy a product listed on the page.
One stalwart believer in flipbooks is Maureen Murray, president of Precise Communications, LLC. Her company produces specialized flipbooks for home improvement and building product clients.
"We find flipbooks extremely useful for sharing content. We create them to look very newsy and informative. By creating a magazine appearance, it looks and works in a similar manner to most trade magazines," says Murray. "They also save time, because most of the work simply involves creating an original PDF document, converting the document using flipbook software, and uploading it (to a hosting site)."
Authors and content providers interested in going the flipbook route can choose from several programs and services to help create a flipping-page-style publication, including Issuu, flipb, Joomag, 3D Issue, Yudu, FlipSnack, and Flipdocs. While freebie options exists to perform simple tasks like converting a PDF to a flipbook, you typically get what you pay for (and don't pay for)-as freeware can be ladled with popup ads, watermarks on the flipbook pages, annoying free trial expiration reminders.
"Freeware doesn't offer as many functions and as high quality as professionally developed software. The better companies offer subscriptions for services ensuring that the product will always be up to date with the newest technologies and web improvements and that your flipbook will look perfect on multiple platforms," says Kirill Mesheriakov, director of marketing and sales for Mediaparts Interactive, publishers of FlippingBook software.
Before investing in flipbook creation, however, consider your goals carefully.
"An amazing digital reading experience starts with great, engaging content," says Hyrkin. "Depending on the type of content, different media and interactivity is appropriate. For catalogs, eye-grabbing links that drive traffic and purchases are appropriate. For magazines, integrating video and audio can keep readers' attention longer and make the content more valuable."
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)