Thursday, March 27, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Cover-Up

This week’s question comes from Julie, who asks:

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

It is a given that people do judge books by their covers, at least initially. While the final decision to read or not to read a book may not rest on the artwork on the cover, it still can and does make a difference in certain cases. How many times have you come across a book that caught your attention because of the cover, whether it be the artwork or the title, one that you hadn't considered reading before or was not on your list? In these instances I often pause and take time to look a little closer, find out what the book is about, and if it is something I am interested in I might add it to my wish list or even my TBR collection. Likewise, I might not bother to check out those random books that have a cover or title that fails to capture my interest or draw me in at all. Of course, when the book is by a favorite author or of a subject matter that interests me, the cover matters very little.

The cover of The Historian and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are examples of books whose covers first caught my fancy and had me eager to look inside. The trade paperback version I have of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated would have been a big turn off for me had I not looked beyond the cover, however, it is a book I ended up enjoying quite a bit. I am not too keen on the covers of the Stephanie Plum novels either, but I have found that the books guarantee that I will be laughing aloud. Bright covers with big letters usually do not garner my interest, I'm afraid.

I much prefer the cliche that it is what is inside that counts because that is what is most important to me. While the cover of a book may draw me to it in the first place, no matter how attractive the cover may be, it will not impact my enjoyment of a book nor will an unattractive cover detract from my reading experience in any way.

Fortunately my eyesight is not so bad to deter me from books printed in a smaller font. Yet. I am not at all picky about the style of the font, and, to be honest, do not even notice it most of the time. I admire nice illustrations inside books, but they are not necessary nor do they play a part in why I choose to read a book. As for size of the book and format, I discussed that at length back in February here.

While initially I may judge a book by its cover, it is a temporary impression that can easily be changed once I find out what is inside a book. What the author has to tell me is what really matters. The words written on the pages, the story told, the characters and setting that are brought to life . . . All of this is what matters most to me.


  1. Love the new look, Wendy! Spring is here!!

    I agree with you that the contents of the book that really matters... but still covers do play a part whenever I stumble upon books that the authors I'm not familiar with. And having an attractive cover does help in catching my attention. I'm quite particular with the fonts though, although I'm glad to say most of the books I read so far have just the right font and not those tiny little prints, haha.

    Happy Friday! :)

  2. I totally agree. It may add or detract but still it is what is inside that is important. Small fonts are enjoyment killers and if I need a microscope to read, I will not be finishing that particular book.

  3. Thinking about my response to this, I concluded that design matters more in books that you intend to display more than it does in those you intend to read.

    As always, I enjoyed reading your thoughtful answer, Wendy.

  4. Thanks, Melody! I thought it was time I got into the spring spirit.

    Yes, an attractive cover certainly can be incentive enough to pick up a book for a closer look. I guess I haven't come across a font I haven't liked yet. Maybe someday I will, although I hope not. :-)

    Jaimie - It's what is inside that counts!

    People are always asking me to read the fine print. I'm near sighted rather than far sighted, although I hear that changes as a person grows older. I don't have a problem reading the smaller prints, and so they don't bother me. Someday that will probably change though. :-(

    Florinda - I think you are right about design mattering more if books are going to be on display.

    I think that the new Borders marketing idea of placing books face out on the shelves might work for people like me. A book cover out is more likely to catch my eye. Of course, I'm just one person.

  5. I was exactly the same with "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell". Luckily the book lived up to its expectations.

  6. I think I have pretty much exactly the same view of books and their covers. A cover may attract me to read the blurb, but ultimately it is the story it contains the counts.

  7. Me too. I loved the Jonathan Strange cover and those illustrations were a nice touch.

  8. Hello again, fellow Front Street reviewer!

    I've got to say that I've been disappointed by too many book covers to be sucked in by them anymore. I spent too much time as a confused adolescent, being angry that what ws on the front of the book didn't match what was inside it.

    Perhaps that's silly and naive of me; I was a teenager! And I certainly do dream of what the cover for Trevor's Song will look like. But when it comes to buying something based on the cover, forget it. I'm always let down.

  9. I pretty much agree with everything you said. I'm also not picky about font size and whatnot, because so far I've been blessed with good eyesight, but there's something I have noticed. Books with smaller font can be a little frustrating, because since there's so much more text per page, I end up reading 10 pages in the time that it normally takes me to read 30, and thus I feel like I'm not making any progress. It's silly, since I know very well that it's an illusion, and yet the feeling persists.

  10. Stephen - Yes, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was very good--just like the cover.

    Rhinoa - That's it exactly!

    Susan Helene - Hi there! I do remember always comparing the covers to the content when I was a teenager too--why did that main character have blond hair on the cover when she had black hair in the book? I never let the cover be the deciding factor, but sometimes the cover is what draws my attention it it when I'm walking by the shelf in the first place.

    Nymeth - That is true. It does take longer to read a page with smaller font. It's not something I notice too much though unless a book is really dragging. Of course, there are times that writing style slows me down too, regardless of font size.

  11. Hi Wendy, fonts do not bother me too much too. I'm okay with anything. I do a lot of online shopping anyway, so I'm not picky with the way books are designed because I don't get to see them before buying. :)

  12. Alice - It is more difficult to judge a book by its cover online, isn't it? I tend to buy books more on recommendation when it comes right down to it and so cover art plays little part in that, but when I'm randomly browsing in the bookstore, it takes a more central role.

  13. To me, a cover should get you to pick up the book to read the blurb on the back. Because if you're not interested in the concept of the book, will you really buy it based on the cover alone?

  14. Trish - I definitely wouldn't buy a book based on cover alone. I have to want to actually read the book.


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