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24.2.09

Judging a book...

30 Books Worth Buying for the Cover Alone
'Years ago, some research was done into book buyers' purchasing habits. Especially in the paperback market, the study showed that most people in bookshops will decide to buy a book they don't know (but may have heard of) in something between 10 and 20 seconds.'

Robert McCrum, The Guardian
The Guardian website has picked up on an interesting promotional strategy from internet supplier AbeBooks. The article discusses Beth Carswell's 30 Novels Worth Buying For the Cover Alone, and pays homage to the 'great, but often forgotten contribution made by designers' to classic and contemporary paperbacks.

The Guardian article isn't terribly detailed ('years ago', 'some research', 'most people', 'the study'), but offers some interesting points. There's a nod to some of the great unheralded book designers of the twentieth century, and a brief discussion of the art and its significance. This is all neatly tied into current conceptions of consumer purchasing, and the importance of icon and image to the aspirational consumer.

McCrum is cautious to add that 'Of course, a dud book with a fabulous cover is still a dud book. AbeBooks should not forget that content is king; readers will buy a book wrapped in newspaper if they want its contents badly enough. Still, it's good to be reminded that, as an artefact of civilised life, the printed book is still – and always will be – an object of desire.' A good point, if a little trite.

I must confess that I've often fallen prey to dud novels with a delicious cover or a sleek dust jacket. For me, the artwork of a desired book can often seem as important as the content within, and it feels like an integral and essential part of the whole reading experience.

You can read Robert McCrum's short article by clicking here. Alternatively, you can head straight on over to AbeBooks and cast your eye on their top thirty.