Ode to the Book Cover
Last week I had a little epiphany that made me just the teensiest bit less enthusiastic about e-books as the primary delivery method for books in the future.
I’d been reading The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin on my Kindle. Then Joyce did a guest post for me and in the course of putting up her post, I perused her website and blog, and looked up her books on Amazon.
When I saw her book covers, I realized that although I’d already been reading the book, I’d never actually seen the cover. Don’t know why, I just hadn’t.
And as I looked at her book cover, I realized that if I’d seen it before I ever started reading the book, I’d have had a better feel for the book right from the beginning. I would have understood something about the tone and the feel of the book. I’d have known what kind of book I was reading. I’d have context.
That book cover—that picture—may not have been worth about a thousand words, but close.
And it hit me once again in a whole new way that when we go to strictly digital books, we’re losing something. I won’t talk about all the things we’re losing and gaining (because I know it’s a trade off and I do love ebooks), but this one thing is enough to give me pause. Book covers are a whole art form unto themselves. There are people who are incredibly talented at this exact art form—creating a visual design that sets a tone and prepares a reader for the words within the cover. How sad to think that we may be moving to an era where far less effort will be expended on actual “cover design.”
It’s not just that we “judge a book by it’s cover”—it’s more than that. The cover design tells us at a glance information that it would take several minutes (or more) to get in words. It can do this on a subconscious level, too, helping us to instantly recognize books that are “for us” and reject the ones that aren’t.
I can only hope that with the iPad and other technologies that have the capacity to show a beautiful image with clarity and definition, that book covers won’t become a thing of the past but will simply be viewed in a new way. And I hope publishers continue to put a priority on quality cover design, because no matter whether it’s viewed on paper or digitally, I believe the cover of a book is an integral and important part of the whole reading experience.
Q4U: How important is a book cover in your buying or reading decision?
(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent