Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Judging an E-book by its Cover

Hello from the tropics! Due to some weather issues, I'm away a couple days longer than expected, which on balance isn't a bad thing...just an inconvenience. So what have I been doing here, you ask? A lot of things, most of them non-nerdy, or at least not the right kind of nerdy. That said, I have been doing quite a bit of reading, and primarily in e-book form. Though I have read e-books before, this was the firt time I read several in a row (3, to be precise). The experience has been an interesting one.

Let me begin by saying I'm both a dyed-in-the-wool bibliophile (the kind that loathes spine-bending and doesn't even really like mass market paperbacks) and a technophile. So e-books had left me conflicted. Was I more excited about a new technology that would put more books at my fingertips faster, or scared about the way these newfangled things might reduce the market for my beloved print books and the stores that sell them?

Turns out I mostly liked my e-book-only experience. I read a lot, and read fast. My eyes weren't negatively impacted by the additional screen time, and I generally found it more convenient to travel with a single, light tablet than multiple books plus a laptop.

That said, something began to concern me. I had a conversation with my wife after finishing Sapkowski's THE LAST WISH that went like this:

"Well, that book was awesome."
"What book?"
"The one I just read."
"I have no idea what you read anymore."

The culprit, it turns out, was the lack of cover--or, to be more precise, the fact that the cover was not visible to someone else while I was reading. This led to some soul-searching on my part, and upon a visit to a local bookstore, the realization that, when buying print books, I am highly influenced by cover art and book design.

My question, then, is this: what happens when we no longer judge a book by its cover, or when the art and design of a book ceases to be as central to the book choosing process as it has been over the past many decades? Are we set free, or does some of the fun bleed out of book buying? Should we be happy or sad that we won't judge books by their covers anymore?