Why Bother With Book CoversNow that we are all reading ebooks on our Kindles, iPad and Nooks, why would anyone bother to produce a book cover? After all, there’s no book to put it on. An ebook doesn’t come in the old standard 5″ x 8 1/4″, so why do we still believe a book needs to have a cover based on this dimension and ratio?

In reality, an ebook only needs an image for promotional reasons. Something to give potential readers some comfort before they buy a small electronic file of  rather boring black and white text. On a Kindle, a beautifully designed book cover looks no better than a grubby old photo taken with a Box Brownie. So why bother?

We bother because even though the publishing world had gone all gadget and super ‘techie’, readers haven’t adjusted as yet and still want a book cover. We humans are really dopey creatures sometimes, and old habits die hard.

So let’s ditch the habit and think about what can be used instead of the classic paperback design. I think the image I have chosen for this post would make an ideal promotional image for a romance novel. It’s in the shape of a heart and says everything I would want to say about a book perhaps titled, ‘My Heart Belongs To Reggie’. Why not make it move?! Now there’s an idea. Making an image move is called video. Why not have a video as a book image? Instead of the boring book cover image and ‘Look Inside’ on a book’s Amazon page, why not have a video book trailer. Now that would be more fun on an iPad or Kindle Fire.

Out with the old and in with the new. Well, it will take some time I imagine for the book world to realise that ebooks don’t really come with covers, so we will more than likely be stuck with this silly desire for old fashioned book covers for some time yet.

Why Bother With Book Covers?
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9 thoughts on “Why Bother With Book Covers?

  • 27/01/2012 at 3:51 pm

    Unfortunately Derek, despite the old saying ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’, folk still persist in doing so. The more lurid a cover is, the more chance of it being bought.


    • 29/01/2012 at 7:59 pm

      Jack, I’ve noticed that you always have amazing artwork for your goblin interviews. Where do you get your images, if I may ask?

  • 27/01/2012 at 4:00 pm

    Interesting post. At first I thought, like Jack, that of course a book needs a cover. But I see you’re going a little deeper than that. A book needs some kind of visual ident, but it doesn’t have to be the traditional rectangular (and static) image. Maybe it would be more accurate to talk of the “poster” or “logo” for the ebooks of the future.

    • 27/01/2012 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks for getting on my wave length Dave. There’s so much more that can be done to promote a book. But traditions are hard to break.

  • 27/01/2012 at 5:26 pm

    Hi all – so what we’re saying is (I hope) that the visual identity is at least as important for an e-book and probably more so when there is no physical book to assess, but that we should free that identity from the constrictions of a jpeg thumbnail? In fact many books do now have a Youtube trailer and publishers are encouraging authors to make them.Personally I find this a bit of a red herring – to choose a book I don’t really want to watch a film about it, although I occasionally listen to an audio clip of the text which to me is a better way to judge.
    However, we still need the visual ident and for many people just embarking on e-book reading I think the trad cover image provides a sense of security – they know what they’re dealing with. It’s also easy and ‘cheap’ to display. Maybe in the future it will still be the first point in our bookstore catalogues, but behind it we might find all manner of goodies – audio, video ..who knows?

  • 27/01/2012 at 5:28 pm

    It’s a great idea, and one that should not be restricted to the cover. Now that books are electronic, why can’t they include images and video inside, too, along with updates? why not sound to provide a musical interpretation, like a sound-track in a movie?

  • 27/01/2012 at 10:32 pm

    We may stop calling it a cover, but some kind of eye catcher will always be necessary. Experiment with shape is a great idea, as the above heart shows. The only restriction would be at the distributor’s level. Smashwords isn’t particular about the shape or size of a “cover,” but that might not be true of Amazon or others. When I read a book on my Kindle desktop app, my library can appear as a list or pics. I have it set for pics because I recognize the images much more quickly than I can scan down a list. That’s why sites like Library Thing offer both options.

    If the three-second (or however many seconds it is) rule applies to readers searching for new reads, nothing will do but a good static visual. Who’s going to take the time, at that stage, to watch a trailer? I don’t watch them even when I’m not specifically looking for something to read.

    Software is best served with graphics. Calibre uses a thumbnail in the description box, which helps jog my memory. The same is true for a Mac app that catalogues my DVDs.

    If older KIndles can’t display a graphic well, then the challenge is to design better covers, not trade them for bells and whistles. The bells and whistles may be fine–in the right context. But a book search isn’t the right context.

  • 29/01/2012 at 7:57 pm

    Couldn’t agree more, Derek. I was working on a cover for ‘The Black Ships’ when I realized that I was making a detailed scene (I’ve been using a 3D open source program to build covers) that might work on a paperback, but it was worse than useless on an eBook – far too busy for a one inch-high cover. I started over and built a model of the planet Mars, then threw in a sunrise and some textured letters. Much better for an eBook.

    With the loss in detail, we have an empty marketing niche that video would fill very nicely. You’ve put your finger on the pulse of the industry and come away with a very important diagnosis. With the move towards tablets, and with more sophisticated eInk devices on the horizon, the retailers need to incorporate video compatibility.

    After I loaded my book on KDP, I went back to my cover file and spent ten minutes making the planet rotate and adding in some sound. That was when I realized that I could animate the various scenes that I had been playing with, overlay a cool song I picked up the rights to and produce a decent promo video.

    I posted the very basic video cover on my blog and I plan to do a series of posts on the progress of the video. The next post should come in a few days. I’ve got a model of the Golden Gate bridge and it’s surroundings ready to go, I just need to model the sub-orbital airship and the scene will be ready to render.

    Doesn’t Smashwords have a spot for a video link?

    • 29/01/2012 at 8:07 pm

      Yes Andrew. Smashwords allow you to add videos to your book page.

      I have a basic video trailer for most of my books, but how cool world an animated or video book cover look in iBooks! Glad to hear you’re on my thought line here.

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