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Google Fast Flip: Reading Online a Bit More Like Print

Posted by: Rob Hof on September 14, 2009

Print has its advantages. In addition to its portability, a magazine or newspaper is easy to flip through to find what you’re looking for, or run across articles or ads you didn’t know you’d want to read. Whatever other advantages the Web has, and notwithstanding Dave Winer’s “river of news” concept, this kind of quick scanning is still tough on a screen, no matter how fast your Internet connection is.

Google is taking a shot at solving this with an experiment out of its Google Labs operation called Fast Flip. A quick description from Krishna Bharat, distinguished researcher on Google News:

Fast Flip is a new reading experience that combines the best elements of print and online articles. Like a print magazine, Fast Flip lets you browse sequentially through bundles of recent news, headlines and popular topics, as well as feeds from individual top publishers. As the name suggests, flipping through content is very fast, so you can quickly look through a lot of pages until you find something interesting. At the same time, we provide aggregation and search over many top newspapers and magazines, and the ability to share content with your friends and community. Fast Flip also personalizes the experience for you, by taking cues from selections you make to show you more content from sources, topics and journalists that you seem to like. In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized.

Google has about three dozen publisher partners, including (full disclosure) BusinessWeek, the New York Times, Newsweek, the Atlantic, and ProPublica, with which it will share ad revenue on pages viewed. There is also a mobile version with tactile page-flipping for the iPhone and Android phones.

As Bharat noted in his blog post, “the publishing industry faces many challenges today, and there is no magic bullet.” (So I’ve noticed.) And since Fast Flip won’t be just for individual publications, there’s no guarantee readers will simply read a newspaper or magazine through, since Google is providing aggregation of many publications with Fast Flip. So even though this is the first time Google is essentially paying publishers for providing news content, I’m doubtful this will go very far in persuading traditional media. Some of them have complained that Google makes money from indexing content it didn’t create, that the search giant is really their friend.

But the sooner publishers can make their content online easier to peruse, not just search, the better off they’ll be.

Reader Comments


September 14, 2009 8:07 PM

A strain to the eyes.. no less.


September 15, 2009 2:27 AM

Lawyers, researchers, need references and this will change. As fast reading didn't work on print. The net reading quick, will help developing world, children, read than elders.


September 15, 2009 2:33 AM

you, like most people, use the word "peruse" incorrectly. perusing is precisely the opposite of the quick scanning, etc, that this article describes.


September 15, 2009 7:12 AM

Google Fast flip is indeed a delight to use on the iPhone!

Rob Hof

September 15, 2009 9:31 AM

Matt, you're right about the word peruse. But I think Fast Flip is meant to allow people to quickly find what they *then* can peruse.

Carter Cole

September 15, 2009 10:02 AM

i really dont think fast flip will work see my review of why


September 15, 2009 10:37 AM

So if I want to copy a sentence from a Business Week article in Fast Flip format, I can do that and under fair use paste it in my blog to comment, or is it locked up with DRM to prevent fair use?


September 15, 2009 11:38 AM

I understand what Google is trying to do, but it's not quite there. It's tough to see and only provides limited content:

Eddie Bakhash

September 16, 2009 10:10 AM

You may also like to check out SpaceTime3D at

SpaceTime3D allows you to search Google web pages, Flickr images, Wikipedia and more using a stunning visual interface that speeds up the search process by allowing you to flip through pages presented in a visual stack of search results.

I hope you give it a try.

John Smith

October 3, 2009 3:56 PM

Are You know, that Google not a first, who wants to convert all magazines to digital. There are dozen sites that give users this chance. One of that sites is, it free and there You can create Your magazine or catalog.
Test it now, good luck.

Peter Paterson

October 5, 2009 6:47 PM

The idea behind Fast-Flip is really good, but the current realization lacks many factors and in overall is very poor. Why screenshots? Is it more lightweight than standard text or HTML? Moreover, it prevents users from magnifying the texts in the case they are small and also the screenshots are not always accurate as stated in Carter Cole's review.
But what I think is that although Google knew about all these drawbacks, it wanted to make it public and this is just a part of their marketing plan and that the final product will greatly differ from what we currently see.

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