E-book Covers for Public Domain Books

ShutterhacksThey say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I do.  When I was a child, I more often than not chose the books I read based on how they looked on the outside.  Of course I grew up and learned not to base my reading decisions off of a picture, but it still plays a part in what books I choose to pick up off the shelf.  And I’m not alone.  Back in August, book lovers were shocked, for good or for ill, by a new cover for Penguin UK’s Modern Classics edition of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ by Roald Dahl.  Most responses were negative, but some appreciated the dark mood the cover evokes.  The uproar one simple book cover caused shows us just how much importance we put on book covers.  (The Washington Post has a good piece about it here.  It features the new cover image )

We live in an increasingly digital world, and books will always be products of the times.  Instead of heading over to the local bookstore, consumers can head over to the world wide web and download their books.  Buying e-books is faster, more convenient, and cheaper than buying paper ones, and saves some trees.  Many e-books, primarily those that are in the public domain, have problems with book covers.  Some have generic, boring covers, while others have no covers at all.  At first thought, I would wonder why this matters.  However, we know why this matters: we judge books by their covers.

Leonard Richardson, Mauricio Giraldo Arteaga, and John Nowak of the New York Public Library Labs are developing an e-book app for borrowing and reading e-books.  Arteaga is doing the design for the app and wants to add attractive book covers to their e-books.  He says having a generic image for cover-less books is lazy, and I would agree.  In this blog post, he describes the process of making and remaking book covers for the public domain books that the app will offer.  He’s put a lot of thought into how the covers should look and recognizes the power a book cover can have.  He also welcomes feedback for his working designs, so feel free to chime in at the bottom of the page!

How about you?  What are some book covers you grew up with?  What are your favorites?  Have you seen a new book cover for a classic that you just don’t like? Let us know in the comments!

Image by shutterhacks. Retrieved from Flickr. Used under Creative Common's licensing.