Friday, August 19, 2011

Judging Books by Their Covers

There is an old saying, "Don't judge a book by it's cover." Two Hundred years ago that actually meant something, but I would like to argue that doesn't matter anymore.

Before you start crying about prejudice and stereotyping let me clarify. I literally mean we should judge books by their covers. The saying is typically reserved as metaphor about not judging the value of something by its external appearance (which includes books), but books are marketed objects and I think we should judge them my their main form of marketing...the cover. Take a look at this book from before 1800


There is a title and some fancy scroll work, but not a lot do judge the internal value of the information. You might judge this book by its title but that isn't the cover and conventional wisdom doesn't seem to say how to judge a books cover. Look at this book cover from 1895.

Now this cover hasn't changed much in 100 years but the decorative print is more flower-ey and less rigid. That seems like a step in the right direction, but still not a lot to judge a book by except the title or the contents. Lastly we have something much more modern.


These covers including the title tells you a lot about the books. One lets you know the relative age and looks of the two female leads. One cover plays to the cooking aspect and the choice of playful decorative whisk with a mess evokes some feelings for most people. I think you would be right to judge this book by those covers. There are some genres of books that haven't yet utilized contemporary cover art...I am looking at you Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels.

Maybe I am wrong and we shouldn't be judging books by their covers, but I say publishers need to up the ante and give me some eye candy.


  1. I would say that the old saying is still somewhat true. You can judge content to an extent from the cover of most books due to marketing of books; however, the quality of the writing and content is still a mystery until you have picked up the book and read it.

  2. You might be right...Twilight is popular but has terrible writing.