I have a confession to make: I judge books by the cover.
I can’t help myself — I trawl through dozens of bargain books several times a week, and I browse through book covers to “separate the wheat from the chaff,” so to speak, especially if I don’t recognize the book title or the author. And then when the cover captures my fancy, that’s the only time I’ll scan through the rest of the data: title, author, and the blurb.
It saves a lot of time, and the method has worked for me so far.
Another confession, and this is freakier: when I’m in a big hurry, I even judge books by the spine! I can actually spot the spines of certain book series I collect off the bat, I’ve practiced the cursory scan enough times to pick out the books I like!
And another confession — when I really like a book, I collect different covers that I like, which is how I came to amass a collection of over a hundred Harry Potter books in different languages!
Because I’m totally engrossed in reading book 3 of the Millennium trilogy, I’ll leave you with an article I wrote for Manila Bulletin Students and Campuses section this weekend. Feel free to add your thoughts on the subject in the comments section!
They say one should never judge a book by its cover, but book covers remain one of the top factors that influence the purchase of the book.
According to the 2007 National Book Development Board (NBDB) Readership Survey, 35 percent of Filipino non-school book readers (NSBs) pay attention to the packaging of a book, and 61 percent agree that books that look good are bought more.
Book covers spark the first connection between the book and a reader, especially for impulse purchases, and for books whose author or title the reader is not familiar with.
The Manila International Book Fair explores the phenomenon of the book cover, and how it serves as an important marketing tool that can capture the attention of a potential book buyer.
Now on its 31st anniversary, the Manila International Book Fair celebrates the written word on Sept. 15-19, at the SMX Convention Center.
Books did not always come with covers. In the early 1800s, books were sold as a bundle of loose sheets, and book collectors commissioned book binders for their personal libraries, usually favoring the same handcrafted binding and cover for all of their books.
It was only in the 1820s when pre-bound, cloth-cover books were sold, often stamped with simple block illustrations. Dust jackets came about around the 1830s, duplicating the book cover but usually discarded like packaging.
As mass production techniques developed in the 1900s, covers became more decorative, and dust jackets also became an integral part of the book. By the 1950s, they became prime marketing space to attract buyers and readers to the contents of the book, incorporating not only cover art, but also summaries, recommended cover prices, author’s blurbs and photos.
Readers speak out
Not all readers regard the cover as a major consideration for purchasing a book. “The cover doesn’t really matter to me. I respond more to the price point, reviews, summaries, and genre,” notes geodetic engineer Maricris Ricana.
But in the sea of book covers that assault the sight in the storefront window or the rows and rows of shelves with each visit to the bookstore, book cover design can make a good first impression, leading to the purchase of a book.
“Book covers influence my decision to buy a book,” states book blogger Peter Sandico. “I hate garish designs, and I love subtle artwork in book covers.”
For medical intern Dianne Singson, the cover is a deciding factor. “Book covers give me an idea about the tone of the book, which helps me decide whether I would like the book or not. I also collect books I like in various covers, and I buy some books thinking about how good they would look on my shelf.”
Most readers take it on a case to case basis.
“If I don’t know the author or have not heard about the book, the cover influences my judgement,” states microbiologist Mike Bahrami. “If I know about the author or have heard positive buzz about the title, I really don’t care what the cover looks like.”
“I look at the awards the book has received, the title, and the author,” adds crafter and illustrator Ajie Taduran. “New authors are tricky, so the cover is a big factor because I’m very visual.”
Likewise, trainer, teacher and book blogger Gege Sugue says that book covers attract her attention to works and authors she is not familiar with.
“Covers invite me to read the blurbs, reviews, summary, and even the first sentence. A great cover will not be enough reason for me to buy the book unless the other elements also interest me. A bad cover will not stop me from buying a book I really want,” Sugue explains.
“I often pick up a book because I like the cover. It’s a definite draw but I have to read the blurb or synopsis, and if I like what I read, then I go buy it,” quips Janise Ruiz, a marketing and business manager.
Resident physician Cecille Francisco agrees. “If the book cover is eye-catching or intriguing, it makes me pick the book up, but ultimately it’s the blurb that makes me decide to buy the book.”
For writer Cezar Tigno, not all books are judged by the cover. “I rarely bother with the cover when it comes to novels. But it’s a major consideration when I buy cookbooks, art books, and coffeetable books.”
“The cover is an indication of how good or bad the collective effort of the author, illustrator, editor and publisher is,“ puts in content editor Michelle Ciriacruz. “An attractive cover will catch my eye, but story and personal taste will still determine whether I buy it or not.”
Now let me get back to reading about Lisbeth Salander!