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Book Covers

I've been thinking about e-books recently, and what they might imply for book covers. E-books don't need book covers, after all. The books - all the many of them - are all contained within the device. A cover image is purely a decorative extra feature, so far as it's concerned.

I like book covers, especially when in social spaces. I like being able to see what other people are reading, without being intrusive, on the Underground or in coffee shops. It's a quick, superficial survey of a snippet of current reading tastes and trends. Sometimes, seeing someone reading a favorite book or author, that glimpse makes me happy, an invisible commonality with a stranger.

There's no point making a book cover visible on an e-book reader to other people. I can imagine several ways it would be done. A protective gel skin printed with the image and stuck on the other side - but then it's so much fuss to bother changing when moving on to the next book, so why bother? The image and the book need not correspond, but that discrepency partially defeats the point of having it there in the first place. (It would be more akin to displaying pins on bags and logos on clothing.)

The image and book need not correspond for a two-sided, two-screened e-book either, theoretically designed to display an image of the cover to the world. In practice, such an outward-facing screen would be widely use for other purposes instead, whether public service weather reports or insults.

By making reading even more private an experience than it already is, the e-book pushes its brand to the forefront as the visible point of interest, not the content. This allows much greater privacy, but it strips out most of the interesting information shared in the physical presence of a reader.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 3rd, 2009 02:00 am (UTC)
I think you've just inspired a product idea-- Kindle skins that have book covers that let the reader put their favorite book-- or one that makes them appear intellectual and well read.
Mar. 3rd, 2009 11:05 am (UTC)
E-books for me will never catch on. Not only do I find it tiring to read from a screen for long periods (that's partly why I edit writing on a print-out rather than on screen), but I love the tangible quality of paper. I like holding a book, I like turning the pages, and I like the weight of it in my hands. I like the collection on my shelves, I like the shiny newness of the most recent hardbacks, and the dullness and anonimity of the paperbacks that have been read so many times through so many generations that their spines have cracked beyond all recognition and only I have the knowledge of knowing which one is which.

So...er...yes. Slight tangent from your post. *grins*
Mar. 3rd, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
I can definitely see the appeal of an e-book to complement my current reading rather than wholly replace it. This is especially true for trips - spending three weeks in transit without running out of books or loading down too much of my luggage with their weight is extremely appealing!

E-paper is helping the e-book head in the right direction, but none of the current e-book readers on the market, as far as I know, fulfill all the things I desire in one. Still, I'm hitting a critical mass of downloaded PDF-format books from online book giveaways that I don't want to read on my computer screen, so I've been thinking about it a lot lately.
Mar. 3rd, 2009 12:05 pm (UTC)
One still has to buy an ebook though, at least if the book is still in copyright, and if you do that through a publisher's or bookseller's website there will need to be some sort of graphical component to try to catch the buyer's eye and maximise sales. The design of such a "cover" could be quite different from a hard copy cover since what looks good as a thumbnail onscreen is not necessarily what looks good on a real book cover on a table in Waterstone's. Actually thanks to Amazon and other online booksellers book cover design is already starting to evolve in this manner.
Mar. 3rd, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
A graphical component need not at all correspond to what we think of as a book cover. It can be a video. It can be a logo. It can be animated, or simulated 3-D.

What examples did you have in mind with cover design evolving towards online appealingness?
Mar. 3rd, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
Briefly, you're likely to see fewer and fewer white, beige or grey covers as these don't come up very well onscreen. Design elements are tending to become larger, with fewer tiny, low-contrast details.
Mar. 3rd, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
That is such an interesting notion, that you may see me follow up in my own blog... Meanwhile, you might like Seen Reading (if you don't already know it). I like not only to look at what other people are reading but to read about someone else looking at what other people are reading :)
Mar. 3rd, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
Indeed I do--Seen Reading is run by a friend of mine! :) (Apologies for the multiple comments... some sort of LJ server problem keeps telling me they're not posted the first time... hopefully sorted now.)
Mar. 4th, 2009 06:28 am (UTC)
I'm visualising a icon/cover uploaded with the e-book, that can be displayed on an external screen thing, so as to advertise to others what book you are reading.

(Though this will probably come with other advertising as well, and you'll be bombarded visually with even more mindless stuff than ever!)
Mar. 16th, 2009 09:30 am (UTC)
i also love book covers. Sometimes i buy books by seeing covers. if book cover attracts me, i buy that book as soon as possible.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )