Book Covers: An Artform Lost in the Digital Age?
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes, I admit I do just that. I enjoy browsing the aisles of my favorite book store, letting my eyes run along the rows of colorful book covers, deciding which ones I want to pick up based merely on appearance.
I know it’s shallow. But, as a communications person by trade, I admire the book cover’s ability to convey its hundreds of pages worth of contents to the prospective reader in a tightly rendered, eye-catching image.
That’s why I’m saddened to see the art of the book cover decline as books move from paper to digital. Book cover art is a fascinating mix of fine art and advertising, but does it still have a place in the world of digital publishing?
Music album art faced the same fate when mP3 files replaced CDs. Most often, these covers were photographs of the band, but some featured graphic design, too. Either way, music fans got a little piece of art along with their purchase, and bands got the opportunity to express themselves visually as well as through their music.
Sure, albums still have a digital “cover” that is displayed on iPods or in iTunes. Digital books also have the postage stamp-sized images on places like Amazon, but most customers quickly scroll down to the nitty gritty details, from publication date and page count to reader reviews and other recommended purchases.
Speaking of reader reviews, perhaps these have replaced the book cover as a marketing tool for books online. These community-generated reviews have largely replaced the professional reviews proudly displayed on the back covers of physical books and Amazon pages alike.
But, isn’t the web brimming with examples of digitally-rendered art? Web design is big business, and no matter how important a role content plays, most users still expect to see an aesthetically-pleasing website.
Perhaps the digital book cover should take a cue from web designers, providing an interactive, animated experience for the reader. The cover itself could be clickable, providing information and social sharing options right from your e-reader. Then, just like the tactile, paper-bound book covers before them, digital book covers could continue to be part of the experience of reading a book.
How do you feel about the disappearing book cover? Share your thoughts, including the ways you’d like to see digital book covers being used, in the comments section below.