27 March 2008

Cover Up?

This week’s question comes from Julie, who asks:

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

I can truthfully say that if someone handed me a book with the cover obscured by say, pieces of cardboard taped together, I would be suspicious as to why that was the case, but would likely start to read the book anyway. If it's a good read, it's a good read.

Having said that, if I am looking for a book to read, left to my own devices, I will admit to paying attention to the cover and its condition. Because I have all kinds of arbitrary rules that I impose on my own universe, there are specific things that will make me put a book back rather than take it to read:

1. I do not like movie tie-in book covers. Nope, even when it's something or someone that I like in the illustration. If I want to see the movie, I'll go and see the movie, or rent it. I'm taking the book from the shelf to read the book!

2. I do not enjoy reading books where people have written all over the pages, in the margins, etc., particularly if they have written in ink, and even more so if they have poor handwriting.

3. I will not borrow a book from the library if I look through it, and cannot determine the cause/origin of stains, etc. I do not relish the idea of walking around with someone else's, er, "effluvia" dried onto the pages. (Likewise, if I am sick, or suffering from my allergies, I try not to read a borrowed book.)

4. Even if someone is nice enough to loan me their copy of a book, I won't read it if it's really filthy, shows signs of having been wet, or if I know the person to be a disgusting slob.

I could go on, but won't, both because I'm sure you get my drift by now, and why should I continue digging this black hole of crazy for myself?

I do like old books. I love books with inscriptions in them, especially when they are personal inscriptions from strangers. I am drawn to books with clear lettering on the front and the spine, and that grab me because of cover image or color. I like books that are the only one on a shelf (as in a bookstore), and always at least have to pull them out to see what they are.


Carol said...

eeewww~I love crisp new books! I fan the pages in my face so I can smell the paper. There are distinct smells of new books too. I NEVER EVER read anything in a doctor's office, nope, don't even touch them.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I forgot about the movie tie-in thing. I won't touch those either. If a book says "Oprah" or "Good Morning America" or anything similar on the cover, I'll walk right on by!

teabird said...

Even though I'm a librarian, I won't borrow a library book that has gone out more than once - and even then I'm really really careful.
Thank heavens for Amazon marketplace, that's all I can say!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am painfully shallow when it comes to book covers. Even when I can only see the spines, I'm attracted by colors and fonts. And titles. None of which have anything at all to do with the quality of the tome.

("Tome"? Who do I think I am?)

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

Who doesn't love the smell of a new book and the crackle of the hard back loosening for the first time? In practice though I actually don't like hardback books (too bulky) and I also don't like those small paperbacks either. The inbetween size books with nice thick paper covers are just right for me. I also don't like to find writing in the margin because I start to wonder why they did that rather than getting lost in the story. Otherwise, not too fussy about a used book or torn cover :)

Wendy said...

But what about a book with Fabio on the cover?

knitseashore said...

I am always disappointed when I pick up a book that has a beautiful cover (field of flowers, house by the sea, etc), and then read the back and realize that the cover has nothing whatever to do with the story. That's what happens when the covers are sent out to freelance artists who have not read the book or even its outline.

I am also turned off the title of a book is a cliche, or hints at a stereotype of characters we are all sick of reading about.

Literary Feline said...

I am not too keen on movie tie-in covers either. If I really want to read a book and there are no other covers available though, I'll make do with the movie tie-in cover. I really only care about the content when it comes right down to it.