Debate: Are book cover designs important?

Helen Jones, Fran Fabriczki and Ru Merritt 17 October 2014

In light of recent controversy over new cover designs for their Roald Dahl collection, people have begun to question the importance of books designs and the way they affect both publishers and readers. The provocative designs have been accused of being too “adult” for stories originally written for children. What are the priorities of readers, especially in comparison to publishers? And how does that affect whether or not we choose to pick up that book?

Here’s what a few of our book contributors had to say about the importance of book cover designs:

Helen Jones (Pro)
We’ve all heard the timeless phrase ‘you should never judge a book by its cover’. And, whilst I wholeheartedly support its application in reference to people, in the case of books themselves design is important. Too colourful or gaudy a design can deter aesthetic- conscious people from purchasing, whilst too plain a motif risks fading into the background.. For publishers, careful thought needs to be given to this crucial aspect of their bookmaking process.

Fran Fabriczki (Con)
E-books have finally made it possible for commuters everywhere to comfortably read whatever they like, without needing to fear people making judgements. This freedom is not applicable to print as book covers have long been a detriment to the free consumption of literature. Publishers make the arbitrary decision to place books in one of a few predetermined categories and the book is subsequently marketed and designed to fit that genre only. Readers may be missing out due to social pressure and oversimplified categorization. While an aesthetically pleasing cover can add to the appeal of a book, it should not govern our choice.

Ru Merritt (Pro)
The role of the publisher is to produce a book which will sell. The fact that most of us will choose a book, at least partly, due to its cover design, is an inevitable. It provides the prospective reader with an immediate impression of the book and, used wisely, cover designs have the potential to be an incredibly powerful selling tool. Choosing a book by its cover is an effective way of narrowing your choice, it may not always be fair, but it is effective.