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?