Flip Book, Flipbook, Flipping Book

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You’ve probably seen it written in different forms. Some call them flip books, some flipbooks, others go even further, to call them flipping books. But, regardless of how you decide to call them, they basically refer to the same 2 things. In what follows, we’ll discuss the semantic differences of the word, so we’ll talk a bit about the conceptual meaning and the associative meaning, and then we’ll go a bit further into detail, to fully understand how the word has evolved in time and what people associate it with these days.

What is a Flip Book?

According to the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary, the conceptual meaning of the word flip book refers to a series of illustrations of an animated scene bound together in sequence so that an illusion of movement can be imparted by flipping them rapidly. Basically, back in the 19th century, this was the type of animation that kept children busy, as flipbooks were initially geared at kids. Later on, they were used to appeal to adults as well, but in the beginning, they were intended for the entertainment of children.

In its most primitive form, a flip book was a small book of drawings. Flipping the book at a regular pace resulted in a short animation. In the video below, you can see a few examples of some amazing drawings that are turned into beautiful, animated films that tell short, but very enticing stories. 

Andymation Compilation // My Best Flipbooks

Also known as a kineograph, these flip books weren’t even the innovation. The history of the moving pictures goes back to the phenakistoscope, the first contraption of the kind, invented by Joseph Plateau in 1829. Then, the daedaleum made its appearance. Also known as the zoetrope, this was probably one of the most famous forms of primitive animation. Being a ‘90s kid, I remember we had projects in school where we had to make our own zoetrope, so we most likely all had one at home, even if it was a very rudimentary and cheap version.

Zoetrope Animation Toy Of A Galloping Horse | Zoetrope

Then, in 1877, Charles-Émile Reynaud invented the praxinoscope. This one worked similarly to the zoetrope, but it was enhanced by mirrors to simplify the viewing process. As you can see in the video below, this was already a very complex contraption, meant to make the whole process easier and more enjoyable.

Praxinoscope—The Movie

The first flipbook appeared only in 1868 and, contrary to the previous inventions we have already mentioned, it was the first type of animation that used the linear form, instead of the circular one. This was the beginning of many amazing things discovered in the photography field. One of the people who contributed most to the moving images was Eadweard Muybridge, who found a way to make cameras take similar pictures rapidly so that when put together they created a very rudimentary type of movie.

I know it’s hard to comprehend how much of a difference these small things made, especially since nowadays, we can make videos by just pressing a button. But, to put things into perspective, what Muybridge did was to come up with the grandfather of the GIFs! If you want to see more examples of different techniques used throughout time, here’s a great article you can read. And here’s a video on how to draw your own flip book!


Now that we have some background information about the conceptual meaning of the word flipbook, I mean flip book, or flipping book, if you prefer, let’s talk a bit about the associative meaning, which refers to something closer to our times.

Digital Age Flipbooks

A few years ago, if you were to ask someone what they thought about when they heard the word flipbook, I will be as bold as to say that not many would have talked about digital magazines or catalogs. If they had some general information about the early photography period, they’d most likely tell you about the conceptual meaning of the word, which refers to the flipping books we were talking about earlier.

Or they would have said they didn’t know what it meant… maybe a book that you’re supposed to be flipping? I don’t know!

Truth is, no one would’ve thought about a flipping book referring to a digital magazine, catalog, or any type of publication, for that matter, before the pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, created an unprecedented interest in these new digital age flipbooks. It’s because everything went online and everyone who was using printed materials had to find a way to share those materials faster, while also keeping the real effect of the flipping pages.

Here’s an example of an app that has seen great success during the pandemic. Flipsnack, the flipbook maker is an app that helps you create interactive magazines, catalogs, or any type of publication that look just like real-life ones, even if they’re digital. They even make the sound a real-life magazine makes when you flip their pages. The reason why these flipping books have seen an increase in popularity during the pandemic is that they allow people to still enjoy turning the pages of a newspaper, or a magazine, even if they’re digital!

Not only that, but such apps don’t only allow you to create amazing publications from scratch or by turning PDFs into interactive magazines, they also have workspaces that allow people to collaborate (a great feature especially for the education field), they allow companies to share internal documents in a secure space, and they even allow you to follow how well your publications are doing, by using analytics, if that’s something you’re interested in.

Basically, flipping book animation apps allow you to do a wide range of things, depending on your needs. And they’re very far away from the flip books that were popular in the 19th century! Here’s a short video about how you can create a digital age flipbook in just a few simple steps:

How To Create a Flipbook Online | Flipsnack.com

As you can see, the whole concept is very simple! You don’t need much to create amazing interactive publications that you can then use for business, school, or for personal endeavors. Long gone are the days of boring PDFs sent as attachments, you can now create interactive flipping books that will make the reading experience a more immersive one.


So… is it flip book, flipbook or flippingbook? It’s any and all of them. And, if you’ve read so far, you now know the difference lies only behind the meaning of the word, not the way it’s spelled. These words refer to the same thing – either to the old-school flipbook that was used as an animation tool, or to the digital flipping book that concerns publications of all kinds.

I think it’s safe to say that you will never not know what a flipbook is, regardless of its spelling! And it’s time to get creative, you’ve seen how an animation is rendered with a flipbook, you’ve seen how a digital flipping book is created – time to do your own and share them with your friends!