Thursday, October 07, 2010


There's been a lot of discussion going on lately amongst my colleagues and with art directors about the future of books and specifically, book covers. Most of us were raised in households filled with books and we grew up loving them. Nothing nicer on a rainy afternoon than curling up with a good book, that kind of thing... So we don't quite know what the younger generations are thinking about books. Do they have the same attachment to the traditional medium? And what about the covers? Will Kindle books not need them? At the moment Kindle is still in black and white, but other devices now come with color, so our covers can be displayed.  But you have to decide to look at the cover, instead of it being there throughout the reading experience. I enjoy having a beautiful cover, asking to be picked up and read. Another question is how are the books going to be sold, if the cover is only digital? Will there be full color displays in the bookstores? Will there even be bookstores? So many people have told me they respond to beautiful covers by picking up the book, greatly increasing the chances they'll buy it. I do the same thing.
One of my favorite things to do in Sarasota on a Sunday was to go into the Sarasota News and Books on Main Street. You got great coffee or cappuccino and croissants, all while perusing the latest books chosen by a very knowledgeable buyer. Sadly, like so many bookstores around the country, this place closed early this year.
Which brings me to the question, how do you pick out books? Do you read reviews? Are you a browser, who likes to pick up the books and read a bit?  Do you latch onto one author and read everything he or she writes? How  does the cover influence you? What do you think about ebooks?
Please leave your comments!


Hanna said...

I love traditional books. I'm 29 so I think I count as the digital generation but I love how books smell. And covers not only influence my choice in picking up a book, but they also set the tone while I'm reading. As an artist I will be sad if covers lose their importance just as I'm starting to try and get into that market. As a reader I feel that books will lose something important without beautiful cover art.

On the other hand, maybe it will increase the chances of my reading a book with an ugly cover if I don't have to look at it.

James Griffin said...

Hi Hanna,Great comments! My belief is that the will continue to need cover illustrations, whatever form the book takes. It might become more of an advertisement or maybe readers will just demand their covers back! That would be cool. So I think your career choice is still a good one. Good luck with it!

Eleni Konstantine said...

I haven't brought an e-reader yet, but do have some e-books on my computer. I do prefer paper but the times they are a'changing. Though I don't think print will ever go out. I never thought covers influenced me but I think a good cover can enhance my tendency to pick the book up since I love the visual form.

And like you James, I think cover art will still be around - the e-books I have mostly have cover art, only a few exceptions.

James Griffin said...

Thanks for your comment, Eleni. You're right, times are a'changin.I see people reading ebooks on the commuter train tho New York City. The big advantage is that you can instantly download the book you want to read into your device, instead of having to look for it in the store. When I go into the city, I usually stop at the Strand bookstore, which is a huge old multi-floor bookstore that's been at the corner of 12th and Broadway since the 1920s. I always come out with an armful of books; just things I saw on the tables and liked the look of. An author I'm enjoying now is Haruki Murakami. His After Dark is a haunting story that all takes place in one night in Tokyo. It reminds me a lot of movies by David Lynch.
What made me pick it up? The cover!

Venetia T. said...

Ah, the much debated print vs ebook format. I love traditional books (I think it's the smell), but I believe I've converted to the dark side. For me, it's a matter of ease and portability. I love being able to carry several books (or more) with me wherever I go.

However, I do understand the concern for cover artists. I, for one, am utterly guilty of buying books based on their covers (thanks to Mr. Griffith here) and I love staring at the cover before delving into the book. It seems like I want to have my cake and eat it too... but how hard can it be display the cover (and stepback) in ebooks? Unless, one is concerned about copyright issues, but that's a different story.

James Griffin said...

That's funny, Venetia, going over to the dark side! I don't think of ebooks as the dark side, unless they succeed in killing off paper books.
I had a conversation with a curator of a fantastic Library at the University of Southern California, Riverside, about printed books. He was printing small runs of books using 18th and 19th century presses on handmade papers. He felt that books might take this form in the future, as highly prized artifacts, collected by people who love books. I've been noticing an analogous thing happening with photography. People are resurrecting obsolete film cameras because of some fascination with the process and look of film photos. I've seen polaroid pictures become really popular, because of the look. People are very reactionary , when it comes to their literary/artistic side. I'm happy to be watching all this happen. I actually love digital cameras and am grateful to be rid of the hassle of film and processing, etc.
Thanks for your comment!

CindyO said...

I have always loved books. They are like an old friend. They can make you laugh, cry and think. I love the feel of the paper in my fingers it is solid and secure. The gorgeous covers attract me to new authors like nothing else. I have "lost" too much from electonic devices. Pictures never to be seen again, letters to never be looked at again. Even if I would ever buy an e-reader I am the type that would need the solid book. Just the feel of a book in my hands on a cold winters day is a comfort that I will not give up.