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.