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Cover Up

March 28, 2008

OK, I haven’t participated in Booking through Thursday in forever, but I just couldn’t pass this one up:

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.?

The Kite RunnerI fully acknowledge (and am a bit embarrassed) that I am what would be called a marketing / book publishers dream. I’m easily swayed into reading a book just by looking at a well designed book cover (and even wrote a whole post about book covers back in September). Having said that, I have very often passed up some great works of fiction, having somehow convinced myself that it can’t be that good since they hardly spent any money on the cover. It took me months after hearing time and time again “you must pick up The Kite Runner” to actually do just that, since I thought the cover was just boring. Imagine what I would have missed out on!

Another good example is The Book Thief (personal disclaimer: I got this book from the library last year, read about forty pages and just coudn’t get into it. Shocker, isn’t it! I’m thinking that maybe my timing was off and based upon all the rave reviews I’m willing to give it another shot).

Anyway, below left is the cover for The Book Thief here in the US. With the exception of the typography used for the title, I really find the cover uninspiring. Now take a peek at the UK cover, which I saw on Kimfobo’s blog. Now that would certainly make me want to pick it up, run home and curl up on the couch.

The Book Thief (Readers Circle)

As for the whole hardcover/softcover question, I have to say that I much prefer a trade paperback over anything else. I certainly don’t want to lug around a heavy hardcover and with the exception of my Harry Potter books (because really, who could wait for them to come out in paperback), I almost never purchase a hardcover. A few years back while visiting Hong Kong I hit the jackpot and purchased the trade paperback version of The Time Traveler’s Wife four months before it was due out here in the US. This past August, while back in that same bookstore in Hong Kong, I saw the trade paperback of A Thousand Splendid Suns, but had already got the hardcover from my Mom as a gift. Well, I guess I can’t complain since it was a free book from my own Mother, but secretly I really wanted to buy that trade paperback. See, I’m a perfect consumer!

21 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2008 9:27 pm

    Wow, I actually hadn’t seen the UK cover of The Book Thief until now. I love it!

  2. March 28, 2008 9:29 pm

    Andi – I know, it is so much more appealing than the other version!

  3. March 28, 2008 10:19 pm

    Same here…I hadn’t seen the UK cover, but it’s soooo much better.
    And I know I bought this book, but I can’t seem to find it. It’s driving me crazy!

  4. March 29, 2008 2:39 am

    When I see the covers side by side, I notice that I have a preference. It’s interesting that I did not think about that when determining my preference in the abstract.

  5. March 29, 2008 4:33 am

    I’m with you – I judge books by their covers all of the time! I head to the new book stand at the store and scan for authors I recognise – then I scan for good looking covers – then if I’m still empty handed I’ll have a read of the descriptions on the more dull looking ones *lol*

    I also prefer paperbacks as they’re easier to read and cart around – but yeah – my Harry Potters are in hardback too 😉

  6. March 29, 2008 5:17 am

    I haven’t seen the UK cover either, and I love it!!! I agree bookcovers do play a role when it comes to catching the readers’ attention, especially when new authors’ books are concerned.

  7. March 29, 2008 9:59 am

    That UK bookcover is much better! Definitely would draw me in for a read.

  8. March 29, 2008 10:54 am

    I’m with you on this one! A well-designed cover can really enhance the appeal of a book initially.

    I’ve never heard of The Book Thief. I will have to check it out.


  9. March 29, 2008 4:30 pm

    I have been wanting to read this book forever, but I see many mixed reviews on it. I am not sure if it will be worth it.

    Did you read the Francine Rivers book? Which one was it and are you going to post about it. I have read a few of hers. I love her and I also love Karen Kingsbury. My old favorite Beverly Lewis writes mostly about the Amish and for some weird reason I am obsessed with anything Amish.

  10. March 29, 2008 8:40 pm

    Hi…..I hate to sound ignorant, but what is the difference between a trade paperback and mass production paperback. I love to read but usually just pickup what ever soft cover I first come across.

  11. March 29, 2008 9:03 pm

    Joannah – The Book Thief is an extremely popular book in the book blogging world and is now out in paperback. Even though it is a YA novel, it appeals to adult readers!

    Chris – Yep, I read my first Francine Rivers book, Redeeming Love, and plan to review it within the next two weeks. All I can tell you is that I wasn’t dissapointed (and I lent it to Mom to read while hanging at the hospital)!

    Julia – I never new the difference between Mass Market and Trade Paperback before I started blogging, so don’t worry about it.
    As described by Wikipedia, a trade paperback is a paperback book in which the text pages are identical to the text pages in the hardcover edition. It is usually the same size as the hardcover edition. The only difference is the softbinding; and the quality of the paper is usually higher than that of a mass market paperback. Trade paperbacks are typically priced less than hardcover books and higher than mass market paperbacks.
    A mass market paperback is a small, usually non-illustrated, and inexpensive bookbinding format. They are commonly released after the hardback edition, and often sold in non-traditional bookselling locations such as airports, drug stores, and supermarkets, as well as in traditional bookstores.
    So, the trade paperbacks are the larger soft cover books, while the mass market are the small versions you get in the supermarket!

  12. March 29, 2008 10:25 pm

    Hey Steph! Liveing overseas I learned that the whol paperback vs hardcover when releasing a new book comes into play due tot the price of shipping shipments. When we first moved to Okinawa back in 2005 I went to the on-base bookstore (five bookshelves in the PX) and found the newly released “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova in trade paperback form. Now I worked for one of the largest Borders Books and Music stores in the country at the time (1997-1998 White Flint Mall, Rockville Maryland) and I knew that that was not the American Way. I found out that it’s the International Shipping/Release way. Also the whole discussion about different country different cover art is made evident on author Jennifer Weiner’s bolg site
    You’ll see along the right side of her blog all the different covers of her books in all different countries and languages. Very cool.
    I may just have to post something about this on my site too. Do I have the creative juices for this task today? It’s a lazy Sunday with nothing on the schedule but joining my best friend here for her birthday celebration over cake and ice cream.

  13. Tara permalink
    March 30, 2008 10:38 am

    As a “book” lover I love the ENTIRE book – cover art, pages, binding, jacket cover; hardcover, softcover; whether it’s in pristine condition or falling apart and held together with duct tape…so the idea of buying a book because you’re drawn to the cover seems perfectly justifiable to me!!

  14. March 30, 2008 3:03 pm

    Planet Books – that’s for clarifying the whole “why can I get my book in trade paperback in Hong Kong first” question! Lucky for you over in Asia!

    Tara – you are right, it isn’t only the cover, but the feel of a book (although I have to say, when I purchase a book at the store I generally look for the more pristine one of the bunch! I love finding a book that lies perfectly flat. I know, it’s just a weird quirk!

  15. March 30, 2008 11:25 pm

    Why are the English covers usually more inviting than the US’s? I really like the UK’s version of Book Thief one hundred times better.

  16. March 31, 2008 7:39 am

    I hate you for showing that cover for Book Thief. I will never like my copy any more!

    I completely agree that book covers matter a lot. A great book consists firstly of content, then a lot more. In that lot more, I guess cover comes first. I hope people stop taking it as a mere marketing strategy. It is as much an art as any.

  17. March 31, 2008 5:07 pm

    I pick books from a wishlist, so I don’t do a whole lot of book browsing (other than at Target while grocery shopping, but I’m only allowed to look–not buy–so says husband). I do really like the cover of The Book Thief, though (UK).

  18. April 1, 2008 11:30 pm

    i just wanted to say hi and hope all is well! i posted on this topic on another blog and admit to being a pawn of the evil marketeers. i’m a sucker for a good book cover!

  19. April 2, 2008 7:31 pm

    Ugh, I had the exact same feeling about The Kite Runner. I didn’t read it until last October when my book club picked it. And I ended up loving it. Other books that I held off on: Lovely Bones (still haven’t read), The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Water for Elephants.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who judges a book by its cover despite the constant nagging not do to do so.

  20. April 3, 2008 12:41 pm

    I like book covers to be works of art! Recently, I fell in love with the trade paperback cover of The Boys in the Trees.


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