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Don’t Judge a Reader By Their Book’s Cover

Beautiful Creatures and The Postmistress

I recently read an article in the NY Times [2] that got me thinking about book covers, something which I admit I’ve only previously thought about in passing. The article describes how publishers use covers as a marketing tool and discusses how people like to show off what they are reading. Ebooks are making this more difficult and apparently people miss the ability to see what others are reading as well. According to the article:

With a growing number of people turning to Kindles and other electronic readers, and with the Apple iPad arriving on Saturday, it is not always possible to see what others are reading or to project your own literary tastes.

You can’t tell a book by its cover if it doesn’t have one.

“There’s something about having a beautiful book that looks intellectually weighty and yummy,” said Ms. Wiles, who recalled that when she was rereading “Anna Karenina” recently, she liked that people could see the cover on the subway. “You feel kind of proud to be reading it.” With a Kindle or Nook, she said, “people would never know.”

Ugh, the notion of projecting “your own literary tastes” just smacks of pretension. There’s no way I’m lugging around 5 lbs of Tolstoy just to project an intellectual image to total strangers. That’s why I love my Kindle, it’s lightweight and the privacy it provides is invaluable. I could be reading literary fiction or a trashy paranormal romance novel with a bare-chested man on the cover, and nobody is the wiser. Literature snobs who want to judge me based on my choice of reading material will just have to move on to the next person.

That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally miss the cover art when I’m reading ebooks. Book cover art can be truly beautiful to look at and I love when a cover is unique and memorable. And I do think it’s the cover that gets you to pick up a book and read the summary when you are at the bookstore or the library. I can think of two recent books with eye-catching covers—The Postmistress and Beautiful Creatures. Both have gorgeous covers that make you want to find out more about the book.

So while I think the article makes a valid point about book covers being a useful marketing tool, you won’t find me lamenting the inability to show off my reading material. I think not having everyone at the airport, coffee shop, laundromat, etc. know what book you’re reading is a huge selling point for the Kindle. Do you agree? Or do you like showing off your latest read? Fess up in the comments!