Why Cover Art Still Matters – Even in the Digital Age

“In the olden days, a reader might pick up a book because the cover was exciting, intriguing, maybe even beautiful. But in the brave new world of e-books and e-readers, the days when (artists) could make us reach for a book may be gone.”

That’s what NPR thinks, but I disagree.

Chip Kidd, an associate art director at publisher Alfred A. Knopf, says, “People don’t buy a book on the Web because of the cover. They’ll buy a book on the Web because they’ve read a review or it’s word of mouth or some combination of the two.”

I’ve had an e-reader since mid-March. Since then, I’ve read about 50 books. So while I may be new to the e-reader scene, I’ve had a bit of practice.

When you surf sites like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or even Good Reads, what makes you click through and read the review? For me, that’s the cover art. It’s just a digital version of the bricks-and-mortar store. In the book store, you wander around; and when a book’s cover or title catches your eye, you flip it over and read the description and reviews. Then you make your decision.

For me, the digital process is exactly the same. I read the descriptions of books that catch my eye on Barnes & Noble or iTunes, and then I might head over to Good Reads and check out the reviews.

I can’t help but assume this process is similar for other e-reader owners. I’m not sure I would’ve picked up Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 if the cover wasn’t so intriguing, or Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies if the artwork didn’t conjure up images of my beloved Downton Abbey. Sure, the descriptions and reviews ultimately lead to the decision, but if you expect readers to get to that point, you have to catch their eye.

So please, Chip Kidd et. al, don’t believe you’re obsolete. Our books may lack pages, but we still care what’s up front.


While we’re on the subject, here’s a few books I probably wouldn’t have picked up with an “ugly” cover – and I’m happy I did.



4 Comments on “Why Cover Art Still Matters – Even in the Digital Age”

  1. A.M.B. says:

    Having an “ugly” cover will never help you, but it might not hurt you if you have loads of positive reviews and buzz about your book. For less established authors, however, the cover art is much more important. In the case of self-published authors, great cover art might be unaffordable. I try really hard not to judge a book by its cover, particularly when it’s an indie book, but it often requires positive reviews and a good price to outweigh the ugly cover.

    • kagalgano says:

      Hi! Thanks so much for your contributions. I visited your blog and am such a fan, I’m new to the whole blogging thing and I’m so happy people like yourself have taken notice.

      I definitely agree that its much more important for less established authors. The books I mentioned at the bottom of the post are from authors I hadn’t read before – and I think that comes into play a lot. Especially with “one-off” books that aren’t parts of series. Obviously, people aren’t going to care what J.K. Rowling’s “Casual Vacancy” cover looks like, as she’s a household name with a built-in fan base. But overall, I think interesting cover art is a plus for any author.

      I haven’t read many indie or self-published books, I’d like to start..I’ve noticed a few on Goodreads that I’ve added to my “to-read” list, but if you have any recommendations I’d be grateful!

      I try not to judge a book by its cover, too.. but it’s hard sometimes! 🙂


      • A.M.B. says:

        Your blog looks very interesting! I’m pretty new to blogging, too, having only started two months ago (or is that “old” in the blogging world? Who knows?!). I agree with you that J.K. Rowling’s newest cover matters little for her book sales, which is a good thing for her because I think the cover is quite dull. As for indie books, I’ve read several really good ones, but whether you’d like them depends on the genres you read. I read mostly women’s fiction, but I venture out on occasion, and I’ve read and reviewed some young adult and romance. If you click on the “indie books” category on my blog, you’ll see my reviews. If you like Harry Potter, which I’m assuming from your J.K. Rowling reference above, then you might like Debra Geary’s Modern Witch Series (which I suggest you read BEFORE her witchlight trilology–she’s come out with so many books that it’s sometimes hard to keep it straight). I liked Books 2 and 3 the best of the Modern Witch Series.

      • kagalgano says:

        Thanks for the tip- I just downloaded the modern witch series. Have you read A Discovery of Witches or Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness? If not I highly recommend!

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