I am guilty of judging books by their covers. I would be shocked to find someone who isn’t. We all do it. I mean, you see a cover like this:
and you know very well what type of book it is. I don’t read books that look like this, so it’s easy to know simply based on the covers not to pick them up. I am not judging its quality, nor am I judging the people who read books that look like this, I’m just making the judgement that I won’t like this book. I could be totally wrong! My Fair Viking might be my favorite book ever, but I’d never consider picking it up because of its cover.
Sometimes I’ve had great success in judging books by their covers. My go-to example of this is Artemis Fowl, which looks like this:
You can’t really tell from this picture, but in real life, the cover is super shiny. I was at a Scholastic book fair in elementary school (which were THE BEST, btw, am I right!?!?) when I saw this book for the first time. Why did I buy it? Because I was in elementary school and it was shiny. The Artemis Fowl books became one of my favorite series.
The business of book covers is very serious; a cover could make or break book sales, as well as determine what type of audience is going to buy the book. Reprints of classic books can stir controversy if the cover doesn’t represent the book’s essence – in recent years, this happened to both Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Bell Jar. While I’ve read and very much love both of these books, I don’t have any particularly strong feelings toward the controversial redesigns. However, I’ve already read the books, so I understand the artistic choices: the creepy child represents unflinching materialism and the young woman feels she must hide behind a mask of modern vanity…these make sense to me. But to people who haven’t read the books, these covers could make a huge difference in whether or not they decide to pick them up. I can see why folks were upset.
As time has gone by, I have become more and more aware of how often I take books off bookstore shelves because of their covers. I’ll pick up books that are aesthetically pleasing to me. Furthermore, I know which books to avoid due to trends in genre and cover designs (see Exhibit A, My Fair Viking). Let me know in the comments if you ever made a good or poor judgement of a book based off its cover!