Binding judgement.

Writing-101.

Daily prompt: Does it ever make sense to judge a book by its cover- literally or metaphorically?

images1LYLM155Hey! In one of my lives, I’m a librarian, often working in school libraries. Ask me about judging a book by its cover!  So many times in schools, I’ve tried to sell one of my favourite books to an avid reader, quite unsuccessfully. Why? Because they don’t like the cover. No matter how much I’ve protested, no matter how much they respect my opinion  I have never been able to get that book borrowed, or even glanced at.

One day, after discussing it with some of my favourite readers, I thought about it myself. I had to confess- the cover affects my decision whether or not I will read the book. In fact, it may be the decider. It would take a very convincing blurb or it would need to be a favourite author to win me over a negative cover.

The school libraries where I’ve worked have limited budgets, so classics were in outdated versions. Covers from the fifties and sixties look old-fashioned and hence impossible to sell. I have never worked in a school with a highly literate population so I don’t know what the response would be with children who were exposed to books and stories from birth. W

Sometimes covers serve other purposes. I remember an old man coming into the public library where I worked and asking for the book with the red cover. It had been on display a few weeks earlier A red cover??  Back then my memory was sharp,  I remembered the book with the red cover and…one satisfied customer. (I hope he was impressed.)

It isn’t only fiction where covers matter. A boring garden photo on the cover? No matter how useful the information might be, I’m not going to buy a garden book that’s not beautiful.

I like these covers- they look and feel good.

I like these covers- they look and feel good.

Have I ever bought a book for it’s cover? If its non-fiction then I’m always going to flip through it. But fiction? I’m attracted to the current trend in publishing fiction with a hardback cloth cover, usually with an old-fashioned illustration. If it has rough-cut pages as well, then I’m well on the way to being sold on it. But it’s not enough, I need more.

A few books.

A few books.

I like books to be tactile and if it smells bookish then so much the better. Nowadays, because I can buy e-books and save space in my crowded, crowded bookshelves, (Do you know how many boxes of books I packed, last time I moved?) I need a reason to choose the hardcopy form.

When I buy for a school library, I want children to use books written specifically for information- they’re often more appropriate than the ‘Net, but a book has to be gorgeous or quaint or have something extra as well.

One of our wise elders- Doris Lessing, I salute you!

One of our wise elders- Doris Lessing, I salute you!

What does this say about us humans? Appearance does matter? I don’t like to come to that conclusion, it seems both superficial and judgemental. But when I think about it, appearance reveals character. Kindness, compassion, wisdom, endurance, humour, a life lived well…what do you want written on your face?  I treasure a photo of the older Doris Lessing. Her face may have wrinkles, but she glows.

No, I’ve never chosen a book for its cover. It’s what’s inside that counts in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Binding judgement.

  1. Love this post. Great in-depth analysis of why we do often look no further than the cover and why this matters so much to us…even when we know it shouldn’t! I’m a middle school teacher and love hooking students up with books so I know just how much that cover matters!! It seems many publishers are on to this as well as they often re-release their books with new, updated covers. The kids also like it when books have trailers that they can watch to get them hooked. Loved your post!! Also, I love the graphic you included with this. 🙂

    • I remember the difficulty in choosing a cover when one of my friends was publishing his first book; the visual sends such a strong message. Thank you for your encouraging comments. Keep hooking students up with books- the world needs more teachers like you.

  2. Love this post!! Its so true!! We have TONS of books in our house too and the kids tend to pick books with interesting covers too. I will pick up and read anything because I have learned to look inside.
    Very well written! Thanks!!

  3. Your post is beautifully written! And with in depth reflection.

    I think I probably do consider the cover when I make a decision. I would be more likely to reject a book for the cover than buy it for the cover though.That doesn’t mean it has to be particularly beautiful. I am most likely to reject the book if they are using sexual themes to sell it.

    But I use almost exclusively e books now so cover is even less of a factor.

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