The fun lasts only a few seconds – these tiny books need little time to tell a story that can often include a surprising or curious end.
While one hand holds the book, the other thumb flips rapidly through the pages, creating the effect of a short stop-motion film.
“The flip book is the progenitor of interactive entertainment,” said Holger Schack, the 43-year-old owner of “Schacks Verlag,” a publisher offering the broadest selection of flip books in Germany.
The Leipzig-based publisher has about 300 titles on offer, many of which are imported from countries as far afield as the United States, Spain, Italy, Argentina and Turkey.
“Flip books are not intended to convey deep psychoanalytic truths,” said Schack, explaining that the animations, instead, are meant to deliver quick, concise messages in an entertaining fashion.
But flip books still have the ability to surprise and delight. One of Schack’s titles, for instance, promises to tell the “real” story of the Frog King.
“With some of our books, we had some fun with black humour and let it run free,” he said with a smile.
Schack founded the family publishing house in 1998 with his brother Michael.
“I, like so many others growing up, used to sketch simple little flip-animations in all my school books,” he said.
But he soon realized he didn’t have the talent to become a full-time animator himself. So the Schacks now work together with 10 to 15 illustrators at a time.
“My work as a publisher has become a kind of vicarious satisfaction for an artistic career that never quite materialized,” he said.
In German-speaking countries, the Schacks’ wares are distributed to wholesale dealers or delivered directly to book stores. But the internet has played an increasingly vital role in their business.
Through direct contact with customers, the Schacks have been able to expand their enterprise overseas.
“A Japanese collector orders from us once or twice a year, and we also have a regular customer from France, whose collection of 4,000 titles is surely among the largest in the world,” he said.
Much of their success is driven flip books’ popularity as stocking-stuffers and souvenirs, though.
When the Schack brothers founded the company 13 years ago, the flip book genre was floundering, but they are managing to keep it afloat by concentrating on creating innovative, customizable products.
“More and more, we’re creating personalized flip books for our clientele,” said Schack.
Thanks to the ever-increasing capability of digital cameras, customers can send their own pictures or short films to the Schacks and have them transformed into flip book form. These are then used as greetings to friends and relatives or novel party invitations.
Customers can have as few as four copies of their own flip book made, with production averaging ten days.
“We print smaller series in our own press here,” Schack said, “For larger projects we work with larger printers in the south of Germany and in Poland.”
This, the Schacks believe, will allow them to entertain flip book enthusiasts for many years to come.