Lately, I’ve been dabbling in graphic design and DIY/interior design since I’ve moved into a square dorm room. One of my favorite blogs to follow is Design*Sponge, a DIY/interior design blog. Recently, Max posted a lengthy, well-researched post about the importance of book covers, which I thought was interesting. He touches on several key points, such as the decline of book cover design as e-readers rise to prominence, the idea of books as an object to covet, and more.
The point that Max brings up is that people judge others based on what they read. However, this is slowly becoming impossible with the increased popularity of e-readers. He writes, “Replacing all of these titles are identical grey rectangles which bear little or no resemblance to the content held within. “ Max bemoans the decreased budget for e-book covers, as the turnaround process is faster than printed editions, leaving less time to mull over various ideas and revisions. It doesn’t matter anymore what the cover of the book looks like since the book is no longer a symbol of individualism nor a social status marker. The cover then, becomes something for the reader, and the reader only. What others see is merely a gray rectangular device.
For me, I rarely buy e-books because I prefer physical books to e-books so I don’t mind the cover as much. But the flaw in this argument is that people still do judge books by their cover, regardless of format—physical or e-book. Who’s going to be motivated by a cover that looks like it came out of Microsoft Paint? But the sadness of this new rise of e-books and decreased budget is that the cover only serves as a marketing device, no more as a topic of discussion between strangers (“Oh, you’re reading Gone Girl?) and no more as a decoration on the shelf when it’s not being read.
I appreciate books, the written words as well as the visual aspects of it as well. I love a great book design, especially the Penguin Classics series (so, so cute!). It makes me happy, especially in my sparse dorm room that there’s a good collection of books on my desk shelf. The proliferation of e-books removes this experience and books somehow become more disposable in the process.
However, with that all said, I can’t imagine that e-books will ever replace physical books. They compliment each other and as Coralie Bickford-Smith, a book cover designer for Penguin says in the Design*Sponge article, “maybe the flip side of ebooks being widely available is that when people ” Indeed, there’s a compliment for a designer to see people go out and buy physical novels when they already own the e-book versions. Similarly, from a purely reading point of view, physical books are just so much easier to read/skim through. choose to buy a physical book, they want something that enhances the reading experience, something well thought through and well produced.
But if e-books do replace physical books, I’ll forever miss the different textures, gloss and more of physical covers as well as the paper and edge type. I remember quite poignantly the delight in touching the rough pages of The Series of Unfortunate Events books, an experience that just isn’t possible with e-books, unless of course, someone invents some kind of screen that mimics paper.
Whether or not e-books will replace physical books, I do appreciate what e-books have done for people, who now seem to read more prolifically when they’re on the go as well as the rise of Netgalley. It’s a little disheartening to see the importance of book cover design decline, though. For now though, I’m going to pick up some books that I ordered from the library.