The idiom that says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover is apt for a lot of things – there are many things you most definitely shouldn’t judge on appearances – but I’m not so sure about books. It is possible that I am completely wrong and I have missed out on many good stories purely because I judged the cover and returned the book to the shelf. However I would argue that books have covers for a reason. You can tell a lot about a book from its cover, and I’m not talking about whether its dog-eared or pristine, but about how it has been designed to show you what kind of novel is contained within it.
You can almost always identify what genre the book is by its cover: illustration or image, colour scheme and font are all chosen to indicate what you can expect when you start reading. And I think this works pretty well. I’m willing to admit that I’m probably a bit of a book snob, but I know what I like and book covers, even the spines of books, help me to choose when I’m scouring the shelves of a book shop.
Don’t get me wrong, there are several other factors involved in picking a novel: the name of the author and whether I recognise it or whether I’ve read something by them before, reviews on the cover and who has given the review, the all-important blurb (I personally hate it when publishers decide that it is sufficient just to litter the back cover with review quotes rather than include a short paragraph with what the book is about), and of course, the title of the book. However the cover and the spine are quite often what draws you to select the book in the first place – without that particular splash of colour would you even read the blurb?
This has all sounded rather selective and close-minded. But judging a book by its cover can also work in the opposite way and help you to pick out something you wouldn’t normally go for. I personally rarely read fantasy or sci-fi but if I wanted to try something a little different for a change then I would know how to find it. Similarly when I’m searching for some light summer reading I’ll be looking out for curly fonts and pastel covers, rather than the stark white spine of an Oxford World Classic.
Book covers are important and I think it entirely changes the way you choose your fiction if you only have the title to go on.
I always judge a book by its cover and I’m not about to stop.