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Covers: how much do they play a role in your bookish life?

Last week, I talked about books in a series (Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet in particular, which like many others I am obsessed with) and I briefly mentioned my need for the covers of her other novels to ‘match’. That started me wondering, am I alone here? Have I lost the plot in wanting the covers of my books to have the same theme?

So, this is what Text Publishing has done with the covers of the Neapolitan quartet – all black and white with gold and red accents. I love how the woman on the cover ages throughout the series.

And this is what Text have done with her other novels – different colours, but clearly linked with a similar font and border. They were made to sit next to each other on the shelf!

Like a lot of people, I used to be a big eBook reader. I still have two devices, even though both of them can be a bit sluggish at times. When I first got my Sony eReader in 2010, eBooks were quite limited in supply. Then the market opened up, and bam! They were cheap, they were instant (I remember downloading the first book in a series in the middle of the night after realising I’d bought the second just before boarding a flight). But one thing has always annoyed me about eBooks: the cover. If your book is lucky enough to have one, it might not be memorable. It might look like someone’s English assignment. You might be lucky and it could be copy of the paperback cover. But it doesn’t stick in your mind – I see it once, I flick to the next screen and after I’ve finished the book, I file the eBook in my Read shelf and I rarely see it. This is not good at anchoring the book in my head – I’ll then pick it up in store and get partway through the blurb before I realise I’ve read it. The title just doesn’t stick.

With paper books, covers are a longer term relationship. You see them every time you put the book down. You check again and again to see if they are hiding a clue to the plot (Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things is an excellent example of this). You critically appraise the hero or heroine of the cover to see if they match the author’s description (and I have it on good authority that authors receive a lot of feedback if the cover picture has the wrong coloured hair or eyes)! In fact, the cover might be the thing that drew you to the book in the first place – the picture, the colours, the font.

Plus, if I’m going to display a book on my shelves, I want it to look good. I don’t care if it doesn’t match the rest of the décor, but I want it to reflect what’s inside – the delight of entering new worlds and thoroughly enjoying them. That’s why I want my series (and preferably the author’s entire works, but that’s difficult when backlists get a redesign every few years) to look like they belong together. If I’m going to invest time in a series, I want the eyes of visitors to be drawn to them, ask questions and hopefully I can entangle them in bookish discussion!

However, if the only way I’m going to get my hands on a book is by reading an ARC or grabbing an international design, I’ll sacrifice the beauty of a good cover quite happily. There is something alluring about a plain black and white ARC, because the reader has to make up all the images on their own.

So while I’m sometimes picky, it’s the story that will win me over in the end.

What are your opinions on book covers? Do you need to match your editions of Harry Potter? Or does it not worry you in the slightest? Do you need the cover to remember a book?

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15 thoughts on “Covers: how much do they play a role in your bookish life?

  1. I’ll investigate a book based on its cover. Since I do most of my book shopping on line I can discover more than what’s in a blurb and review quotes. Sometimes I’ll read a sample and I scan reader reviews, good and bad. It helps but not a guarantee of enjoyment. Usually, the cover is just the cover, but most of us are visual creatures–attracted by shiny objects, so the covers matter..

  2. I’m very influenced by covers although slightly less so since I’ve been reading more on my e-reader – as you said, you don’t see the cover every time you open the book.
    On that note, I agree that The Natural Way of Things has a superb cover. Equally good last year was Jill Alexander Essbaum’s Hausfrau – the (two) covers used for that book held interesting clues. In contrast, I was cranky about the cover for Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – the yellow and black cover contains a spoiler in my opinion!

  3. I’ve been thinking about your post. Generally I think covers influence me quite a lot, unless it is an author I know, then I will buy the book regardless. I must agree with your comments re e readers and the cover. I do like e readers because of their convenience.

  4. If my books are in a serie, I like th covers to match. Eg my Terry Pratchett discworld books. I mad sure I hunted down the UK Corgi (I think) books illustrated by Josh and Paul Kirby where possible. Th illustrations were very impressive and the plain Versions by other publishersdidnt do it for me. If it’s a standalone book I’m fine with whatever design. But as part of a series, I prefer matching covers. Oh and I still don’t read e books lol!

    1. I think not reading ebooks is a good thing Paris – the one click to buy is super dangerous! I’ve also bought physical books of eBooks because I have no recollection of that one click!

  5. I love searching out beautiful, meaningful covers of my favourite books. They give me joy and pleasure every time I see them on the shelf.

    One of my all-time favourite covers is Molly Peacock’s The Paper Garden. It’s a gorgeous work of art, as is the story inside.

  6. I know exactly what you mean about covers and the story sticking on your mind. I think I understand why they say some people forgot easily what they read on devices.
    I’m still a big lover of ereading and I do love my Kobo because it displays the full cover when sleeping or powered off. Granted not in the beautiful colours it could be but enough to be locked in my mind.

  7. I like my books to match, so it annoys me when they change the style of an author’s catalogue. I agree about it prompting memories too, and sometimes a cover style can give you an indication of what sort of a book it is.

  8. Oh, I am a lover of covers, but since I read a lot of e-books, the only times I see them on Pippa, my Paperwhite, is when they are closed and lined up on the screen. Except for the ARCs, of course…they don’t have a cover at all…sigh.

    Vine print books sometimes have the pretty covers, but at other times, they have that ugly black and white cover, or the pink and white scrolled cover. A blogger friend and I bemoan these “ugly” covers.

    Interesting post! Thanks for sharing…and for visiting my blog.

I enjoy reading your comments! Thanks for stopping by.

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