There’s no denying that we all judge books by their cover. In libraries, book jacket covers come into play most often in readers advisory. By looking at a cover, our patrons make snap decisions about its content and how much they will enjoy it and it is sometimes the librarian’s goal to coax users into books whose covers don’t appeal to them. To learn more about book jacket design, check out this article The Jacket Designers Challenge: To Capture a Book By Its Cover. It’s about designer Peter Mendelsund whose new book Cover explores the art of book covers and features explanations as well as rejected designs.
I liked his note that dead authors get the best book jackets because there are less people to go through for approval. I also appreciate that he reads the books before he designs a cover. I get the feeling from some of the other book jackets I’ve seen that this is not always the norm.
I attended a virtual seminar last semester that talked about the concept of a coverflip, which is basically changing the gender of a book with gendered cover art. The purpose behind this is to create interest in the work from the opposite gender. My first reaction to gender stereotyped book cover is that I don’t believe gender is a binary and that books should be targeted at readers of every gender in order to get the widest reading interest. However, books are regularly marketed at one gender through graphic representation on their cover. The best example illustrating this disparity is The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian from this site. The real cover is on the left, the imagined female version on the right.
Clearly cover art is affecting reader—positively or negatively—though their design. Something for librarians, especially those doing readers advisory, to be aware of and keep in mind as they suggest titles to readers.