Do judge a book by its cover
A book’s cover design is more than just the artwork on the front and back, unimportant once we’ve plunged into the storyline. In these days of limited readers and competitive markets, a good book cover screaming “I’m interesting! Buy me!” can make the difference between a sell-out and a washout.
Early hand-bound books, had simpler cloth or paper covers with little design. Decorative covers and printed book designs became common when mechanical methods of book-binding were introduced. The cheap production of books in abundance meant that more attention could and had to be spent on cover design.
In the early 20th century, especially with the advent of art noveau, book cover design became even more displayed, catchy and colourful, as enlisted artists experimented with new techniques to attract the reader’s eye.
Nowadays book covers play at both advertising the book and hinting at its content. Covers designers vie with each other to produce innovative artwork that subtly conveys the style, mood, story and theme of the book.
While some break the mould by flashy covers and convoluted, hard to read titles, some still follow a pattern. Books in a series often have similar formats for cover design to allow the reader to recognise other books in that series(think Bloomsbury, Harry Potter and the Twilight series). Similarly a specific author can have repeating design formats (for example, the Harper Collin’s Tolkien sets).
Publishers also often restrict themselves to a certain characteristic design or style, so that a book is instantly recognisable as a Vintage, Penguin, Everyman or Harper Collins. Reissued classics have some of the most beautiful designs and are collectible items for the avid reader.
Hardcover books can have elegant designs, sometimes on the cover itself or sometimes in the form of a ‘dust jacket’, a plastic covering for the hard-bound book. Dust jackets of older books can be valuable and are often covered by covers themselves.
There are even books about book cover design! Penguin’s ‘Penguin by Design‘ and ‘Seven Hundred Penguins’, and Faber & Faber’s Eighty Years of Book Cover Design are just a few of the books chronicling the best covers for some of the most famous books ever written. Talk about self-praise!
Finally, with ebooks coming on the scene book covers design have not, strangely enough, lost importance. In fact they are as important as ever, and their two-dimensional attractiveness still contributing to how well the book sells.
So with all that evidence – why not judge a book its cover? After all, that’s what we do.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.