Book Lab: Judging a Book By Its Cover Is (Mostly) Legit

E. D. Watson

That old axiom about judging books by their covers? It’s bullcrap. You can totally do it—and with a reasonable degree of success. That’s what our most recent Book Lab experiment proved: most of the books we chose lived up to our cover-based expectations. (Click here for the setup.)

This is not to say that the cover is always going to be a good measure of a book’s contents—both Jennifer and I were disappointed in our books, despite their appealing covers. But book designers are trying to depict something about the essence of each book with the covers they create.

November’s mental_floss magazine included an interview with book designer Keith Hayes about this very subject (one of Hayes’ more well-known covers is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch). Contrary to what I’d expected, Hayes says “You can’t start a design from what you think a buyer is going to like….We think about…

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