Every few months we get together a whole bunch of us from editorial, marketing, sales, production and design–anyone substantively involved in making or selling a book–to evaluate the releases from a season in the previous year. Once we had a cover designer attending for the first time. In trying to explain to the designer what the meeting was all about, someone said with a wry smile and in a voice everyone could hear, “This is the meeting in which we do judge a book by its cover.”
Covers are mightily important to a book’s success. But is that changing? Motoko Rich points out in The New York Times that more and more you actually can’t judge a book by its cover. Why? Because e-books don’t have covers–at least not ones you can see while someone is reading the book.
Sitting in a coffee shop or walking down the aisle of an airplane we can see the covers of books or magazines that people are reading. But, as Rich says, “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.”
That may be just one of many unintended consequences of e-books, and also one more challenge/opportunity for publishers facing the electronic age.