Mar 052014
book cover
Photo Credit: Chris Lott via flickr cc
The impact of book covers on reading choices

The saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t typically refer to books at all. It is a reminder to avoid jumping to conclusions about what someone or something is like based solely on what you see on the exterior. While this is wise advice, today I want to talk about judging books by their cover in a more literal sense.

Does the design on the cover of a book influence what you choose to read? Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, I am willing to bet it does

In some cases, the outside face of a book is irrelevant. If I choose a book based on previous reading experience with the author or a recommendation from a friend or interest piqued by a review, the cover plays almost no factor in my choice. However, when browsing through a book store or a library, what is on the cover has a huge influence on whether I pick the book up or pass it by.

The design of the cover often suggests genre. Romance covers show embracing couples, sultry heroines, or handsome men with brooding eyes. Mythical creatures suggest a fantasy novel. Blue-grey scenery partially obscured by fog or mist evokes a sense of the supernatural. Blood dripping from a knife suggests mystery or horror.

Beyond genre, good book cover design reflects the tone and content of the book itself. The colours used, the font, and the tone of the drawing, be it whimsical, eerie, or sombre, combine to give us a hint into the nature of the book as much as whatever object or person is portrayed on the cover. When we pick up a book, enticed by its cover, we have an expectation about the nature of the contents before turning a page.

How does book design affect your reading choices? Do you have a favourite book cover?

  5 Responses to “Judging a Book By Its Cover”

  1. It’s interesting that you raise this subject because I have been building a library of ebooks from what I have found online and one particular file I downloaded had 1500 ebooks in it. As I sorted through this file I tried to determine by the author and tittle whether it was something I wanted to keep or discard. When I couldn’t decide by the tittle or author I looked at the cover and decided from there. If I saw a provocative picture of a couple or a half naked female or male body I assumed it was a trashy romance novel and I wasn’t interested. Also if there were pictures of castles and knights and dragons my impression was of a Medieval fantasy story which I was again not interested in.

    I definitely think that covers force a first impression. Obviously to get more serious about the book one must take the next step and read the synopsis of the story to determine any interest. Covers are definitely used by marketers to target the audience they are looking to sell to.

    regards, Bob

    • I think we don’t often realize the impact of the book cover design until doing something like you’re doing and sorting through potential reads. Good luck finding books you enjoy and happy reading.

  2. If a book is recommended or I’ve done some research, the cover is irrelevant. If I’m browsing, a cover can catch my eye and engage me to at least pick it up and read the jacket. Thanks for sharing your post. 🙂

  3. Hi Donna,
    I’ve done some research on book covers pertaining to Kindle sales. A book that had a plain, two tone cover quickly skyrocketed to bestseller status when the cover was changed to a barely clad young couple striking a romantic pose. I think the visual aspect of a cover directs one’s imagination to a conclusion than does a mundane title.

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