Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm Not Leering, I'm Peeking at Your Kindle

My friend Arlene forwarded me an article from today’s New York Times about the e-book era bumping book covers off the subway, the coffee table and the beach.

Book covers have had such a profound importance to both readers and publishers and I became a little panicked after reading the article. I LOVE BOOK COVERS! When I’m on an airplane or in a coffee shop, I always sneak a peek at what others are reading. And when I browse Maria’s, my local independent bookseller, book covers are what draw me in — the graphics, the colors, the typefaces used. A captivating book cover invites strangers to ask what you’re reading and whether you’d recommend the book. I wouldn’t feel the same about peering over someone’s shoulder to read their Kindle. (And with my deteriorating eyesight, the task would prove impossible or dangerous anyway.)

Publishers stand to lose as well. Book covers are an important marketing tool, a chance to create an iconic look that others recognize. (For example, the blood-red apple used on the black cover of Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight.)

In the bookstore, where a majority of sales still take place, covers play a crucial role. “If you have already passed that hurdle of having a customer be attracted to the cover, and then they pick up the book,” said Patricia Bostelman, vice president for marketing at Barnes & Noble, “an enormous battle has been won.”

I haven’t considered a Kindle because I love the heft of a book, the way the paper feels, how bookshelves add warmth and interest to a room (and say something fairly public about who you are by what you’re reading).

Have you purchased a book based on the title and book cover alone? Do you have a favorite book cover to share? I especially liked “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” whose cover has a cut-out of the black poodle. Or have you given up printed books in favor of e-readers?


  1. Wow, this really touched a nerve! I totally agree with you about the appeal of the book jackets -- some great, iconic art has come from some of the most creative. I read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell a couple of months ago -- 900 pages, and the heft was definitely part of the charm. I had the satisfaction of knowing when I had reached the half-way point because the book balanced so nicely in my lap, and then like an hourglass, the pages dwindled until I knew I wouldn't be spending too much more time with this friend. But more recently, I read Shutter Island on Jeff's e-reader. It was a quick read, and I could pull up the sheet over me in bed and read to my heart's content without having to maneuver my booklight from page to page. And I could enlarge the font and read without glasses. I'm on the fence -- but I think they both have advantages.

  2. mandy u r so right! book covers are like wine labels, u want the contents to be nice but the graphics certainly grab your attention initially.

    i loved the cover + shape of the book of donna tart's the secret history. i bought the book just for these reasons. it turned out to be an enjoyable read.

    i understand another advantage with kindle is it's lightness while traveling [as opposed to toting several books]. i have not quite made the switch myself.

  3. I also love the cover of "The Curious Incident" and I am definately attracted by interesting book covers. I also agree about Kindle. I love the feel of a book, and seeing a collection on a bookshelf. I stare at a computer screen all day long. Why would I want to "turn the pages" of another computer screen when I'm relaxing with a book?

  4. So glad to know I am not alone here-- especially with the new lure of the ipad and all its ebooks... I'm terrified of a world where ink and paper no longer dominate the literary world... there is an intimacy in the bound pages of a well worn book which I do not want to lose.