Never fear; this is not going to be a bloggy screed against e-books and their ilk. First, anyone who has read any of my blogs, tweets, and articles probably knows that I'm a big fan of the e-lit. Second, who wants to read another harangue about why something old is better?


I'm more interested in figuring out what works best, regardless of technology and time period. I think book design and specifically, book jacket design, is terrifically important. A tiny example: This weekend I've been reading an ARC of Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire. My younger Mini Maven looked up from tormenting one of our dogs for a moment and said "Hey Mom, I know that book!" Hmmmm, I thought -- Larsson's dark Nordic mysteries aren't exactly on my recommended reading list for Miss M-Squared, whose shelves are currently filled with tween lit like Sarah Dessen novels.


"How do you know this book?" I asked.


She dangled a tennis ball in front of the tormented dog and said "I saw it in PARADE magazine."


I thought: Wow, I've always known book jackets had a high recognizability factor, but I don't think I realized how far those covers could reach. Not to go all Chip Kidd on you, but a well-designed jacket is truly a work of art (and it's why I love standing in the Random House entry and staring at all of the beautiful jackets from different eras). 


Why shouldn't e-books have their own look/design/jackets? One of the things I detest about my e-reader is that it doesn't immediately display a book cover when I start to read. I don't want to see the cover after I'm finished; I want to see it FIRST. I also don't understand why I can't have an entire jacket, with copy/summary, blurbs, author photo/bio...


We can do some many things on-screen now.  Why not a decent version of a book jacket? Why not showcase the work of book designers? There has got to be a way to do this, and do it relatively soon. Tell me why you think this hasn't happened already. It might be DRM. It might be publishers. It might be technical difficulties. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Message Edited by Bethanne on 07-28-2009 05:34 PM
by Moderator Melissa_W on ‎07-26-2009 12:08 AM
I am overtly jealous that you have the Larsson ARC - I can't have mine until Tuesday.
by Choisya on ‎07-26-2009 04:20 AM

This is essentially the same thing that happened when the music industry switched from vinyl, then to cassette, then to CDs.  Vinyl records often had beautiful covers and inserts, cassettes had measly, hard to read, scraps of folded paper, CDs have even less.  Each time the industry charged us more whilst giving us less!  So it is with e-books.


As an aside: Last year I saw an exhibition dust jackets at the V&A and bought the book whose cover won first prize, not for the content of the book but for the extremely unusual dustjacket.  It was The Preservationist by David Maine - the dustjacket only covers two-thirds of the book and shows a wood engraving of the green sea, with a cut out 'wavy' top, on the front and spine.  Above this, printed on the book cover, is an engraving of the Ark and sky. When you remove the dustjacket you effectively take off the sea to reveal an engraving of the Ark on land, surrounded by animals.  I think it may become a collectors item so I have wrapped it in cling-film and have left it to my eldest grand-daughter in my Will!:smileysurprised:.     

by Bethanne on ‎07-26-2009 09:11 AM

pedsphleb, I guarantee you will enjoy your ARC, but the second book IS different. Just saying...


Choisya, you're exactly right with the music industry analogy. Do you think we have a chance to save book jackets, or will they go the way of album covers?


P.S., THE PRESERVATIONIST dj and cover are so gorgeous; I saved mine for the same reason! 

by Quzygirl on ‎07-26-2009 10:53 AM

I have to say I am also jealous that you have an ARC for The Girl Who Played with Fire! But that said, I am in total agreement with you about having a "e-jacket" for our ebooks! Even the books that do have a opening 'cover' don't open with it... Usually you have to hit the back button to see it. I love a nice book jacket! And I have to admit that I am drawn to look at new books because of an intriguing jacket... 



Chick with Books


by Sunltcloud on ‎07-26-2009 07:12 PM
I think that technology lags behind as far as  ebook jackets are concerned. My Kindle does show covers, but still in black and white. I am sure that third or fourth generation ebook readers will put more emphasis on quality and once they graduate to color technology a whole new world of design might open up, with graphic designers specializing on dust jackets, the way music players give us a variety of skins.
by Choisya on ‎07-27-2009 03:17 AM

At the moment the e-book industry is dominated by one or two companies producing the hardware, Amazon, Sony etc., but once the gadgets themselves become more widely used and the companies have to compete, I think we might find that they will pay more attention to 'dustjackets' as a form of advertising.  If B&N intend to enter the e-book gadget market perhaps we can make a start by persuading them to design eye-catching covers?   
by Moderator Melissa_W on ‎07-27-2009 03:44 PM

Choisya, I just had an odd flash of those "skins" you can get in various colors for cellphones/smartphones - but sized for Kindle, Sony, COOL-eR, Plastic Logic, etc.


it was a very odd picture of tweens with Twilight/Jonas Brothers skins vs. adults with Atwood, Mailer, etc. skins or the Vintage covers from Penguin etc.

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