Readers do judge a book by its cover

Jessica Dang, Sports Editor

Author of classic novel “Slaughterhouse-Five,” Kurt Vonnegut sums up a book as “an arrangement of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numerals, and about eight punctuation marks, and people can cast their eyes over these and envision the eruption of Mount Vesuvius or the Battle of Waterloo.”

However, publishers often fail to translate the journeys, adventures and emotions hidden within books onto covers.

The design of book covers is the first impression that causes a potential reader to open a novel. Likewise, people resonate and connect faster with images than words, so a poorly-designed or non-contemporary cover leads to no emotional connection, genre identification or depth.

“When a book cover looks unappealing to me, I naturally don’t have a desire to read it,” senior Samantha Tran said. “That’s why I have to look at the summary on the back of the book and read reviews or the book just loses my attention.”

Key elements that showcase the best covers on retail shelves include simplicity, a professional design with layers and smart use of color, legible text and appropriate targeting for the genre audience.

The art on the new editions of “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte and “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury are fitting to their respective themes. The new cover of “The Wizard of Oz” gives tribute to its 1930s poster version where the three original colors are used more vibrantly. “Fahrenheit 451” now offers a match in order to spread the book-burning message on its cover. “Jane Eyre” captures its Gothic theme in an abstract, dark design.

“I read a lot,” Tran said. “Over time, I developed a personal preference for simple covers because it allows more room for imagination and I’m able to picture the characters the way my mind paints it out.”

Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. Consequently publishers are compelled to redesign flat, boring book covers to more aesthetically appealing styles to gain traction with readers of all audiences.

“I honestly love both the redesigned and original covers,” Tran said. “But the newer ones fit the story a lot better, especially the feel of it.”

According to “Smashwords” founder Mark Coker in an interview with the “Huffington Post,” “the image needs to make a promise to the reader that this is the book you’re looking for to experience: the feeling of first love for contemporary romance; fear for horror; edge of your seat suspense for thrillers; knowledge for a non-fiction how-to; the liberating feeling of financial freedom for a personal finance book; an inspiring story of personal journey for a memoir, etc.”

Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” series and J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series both underwent complete changes in cover art.

“I have great fondness for the old covers, but it was time for a change, and these feel fresh and new to me, cleanly designed, and with each character seeming frozen in a moment of story,” Clare said in a Tumblr post.
Movie and television studios use reimaginings of famous film posters, T.V. tie-in art and distinctive art style to create iconic imagery with a twist whilst avoiding visual spoilers.

The original artwork of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” has gone from mysterious, dark female eyes hovering in the midnight blue above a fireworks display to a mysterious DiCaprio pictured center page (DiCaprio played Jay Gatsby in the most recent film adaptation). Upon seeing the original dust jacket, Fitzgerald wrote a note to editor Maxwell Perkins that he had written the cover into the novel, so it couldn’t be changed.

In a world where the number of readers is getting lower each year the saying “judging a book by its cover” has never been more relevant.