Monday, October 17, 2011

Musing Monday...You Can Judge a Book By It's Cover!

Let's head over and check out this week's question from MizB at Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing asks...
Do you judge a book by its cover?

I admit it.
I am a shallow person.
I do judge a book by it's cover.

Of course, it is not totally about me being a shallow person. We are meant to judge a book by it's cover to some degree, aren't we? Or why would publishers bother to put what they think is an attractive cover on the book if we weren't meant to use it to judge the book. They design a cover to attract a certain audience. Hopefully one who will like the book. But first they have to make us pick it up and take a look and the cover is a large part of making that happen.
At least for me.

However, I think it is meant to be a short, shallow period of judgement, maybe just enough to make us pick up this book rather than that book. Then we will start to read what the book is about, maybe read the first couple of page and we will be so caught up that we will run to the register with out Visa card waving in one hand, the oh-so delightful book in the other. At least, I assume that is the plan.
Sometime it works, sometimes it doesn't.

I do think a cover can catch our eye, make us pause and make us pick up one book as opposed to maybe dozens of others sitting on a table in a bookstore. But usually it will only buy the book a moment's chance. Still, a moment is better than nothing.

I wonder how many really good books, books that I may have really liked, I have passed over because of a poor choice in cover art. I am thinking of a book that was recently reviewed on another blog, Pudgy Penguin Perusals, a book called The Woman Who Heard Color. If I did not always read her blog every day, most likely I would not ever have read that review and never taken even a look at that book. The cover is one often seen on historical romance books, romance books...the oh-so popular headless woman, her dress partially undone. Not my cuppa tea. Yep, I would have not given it a second glance. But actually, reading the review, it seems like a very interesting sounding book.
Someone at that publisher made a poor choice in representing what the book is really about and targeting it's audience.

Then, you have an example of the opposite case.
I read a review on Beth Fish Reads of a book called The Taste of Salt. The minute I saw that cover, with that little stack of beautiful sea glass, I knew I would buy that book. Even if I hated the book, which I did not, I would not be unhappy to own it just for the cover. And now I have quite a hankering to get hold of some sea glass...

I don't know a great deal about the process of picking a cover, of how much input the author has, of who has the final say, but I think, especially for a writer who does not have a well established audience, it is critically important. It is not a matter of fooling the reader but just helping the target reader pick that books from all the many, many other books out there. Yes, I think a really great cover can be a very important factor in a book's success.

And it is something I have noticed, and do not like, about about e-books and audiobooks.
With a 'real' book, every time I pick the book up to read, I see that cover. If it is one that I especially like, it adds to the pleasurable experience of my reading and it part of my whole enjoyment of the book. And, in the future, just looking at the cover again as it sits on a shelf (or one of my many piles) will remind me of a book I loved.  But with an e-book, while it has a 'cover', and on some readers it may even be in color, most likely I only see it the first time I 'open' the book. In the future, the reader will just take me to where I left off and I will not see the cover again. Sad.
Same with an audio book. If I download it to my iPod, when I do so will be the only time I glance at the cover...a small, little version of the cover at that.

Yes, I admit it.
E-books do have some advantages, but like the loss of those beautiful old album covers when we went to CDs and MP3 downloads, those advantages come with a price.


  1. Yes, I agree. That's what publishers are looking for and to be honest, that's why I don't like ebooks. I like to pick up the book and look at its cover, especially if it looks good.
    Thank you for stopping by :)

  2. I am a total cover junkie and absolutely love some book covers. I agree that there is something lost in the e-book realm in that regard. I love my Kindle, but boy, do I love a vivid cover. Nice discussion.

  3. I'm totally turn on or turned off by covers. It seems weird to judge a book by its cover, but I often do. I love eBooks but the downside (at least with Kindle) b/w cover art:(

  4. I too am shallow .. and about a lot more than a book cover .. I admit I gave into using my iPad with a Nook app because in addition to being shallow I have arthritis in my neck and schlepping hard cover books was killing me .. would I give up having a book with me all the time in favor of a less achy neck? No. So I now carry an extensive selection of books with me .. on my iPad... oh and you can still go back to the 'library' while reading an ebook to look at the cover as often as you like!

  5. I was going to do another rant about The Woman Who Heard Color but you beat me to it. Thanks for the mention. Anna at Diary of an Eccentric said her hubby asked her why she was reading erotica when he saw the cover. That is what it looks like.

    Despite my mother's admonishment to never judge a book by it's cover, I'm just saying I do. Can't seem to help it but I do.

  6. sure, with an e-book, you can go your "library" and look at the cover, and "if" you have a color Nook, it actulaly look like a real cover...but honestly, how often do you when you pick the book up?

  7. I'm certainly guilty of judging a book by it's cover.

  8. Glad I tempted you! I am equally shallow. I have been known to buy books solely based on the cover. Sometimes it's good thing, sometimes, well, not so good.

  9. I really love the cover of "The Taste of Salt". It's beautiful!!

  10. I thought the same thing when I read that review on Pudgy Penguin's Perusals. I would have never expected the story she described based on that cover.

    And I love how you managed to get a slam on e-books in there. You're very tricky!

  11. a slam! me? I am shocked!! ;-Q

  12. I don't really care about the cover as sometimes I will read books with bad covers just because...LOL

  13. I think savvy readers just have an inherent bias - if we see a poor cover, we think that the publisher didn't think much of the story to make a significant investment in it, so it can't be that good.

    Hopefully, the importance of a cover's smoke and mirrors effect when it comes to the value of a book will take on less significance with the advent of eBooks.

  14. I do like books with beautiful covers. If they don't, I will still read them and they usually are great books. :)


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