Double up: BTT + FFI


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This week’s question comes from Julie, who asks:

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

The design of a book, particularly its exterior, has little to do with how much I enjoy reading it. It does, however, influence my decision to pick it up and consider reading it. If I were a book collector rather than a book reader, I think it might matter more. In fact, if the book is going to be displayed on a coffee table rather than stored on a bookshelf, than the design matters a lot – possibly more than the content, because reading such books is often secondary. I don’t have many books that fit that description.
As a couple of other BTT participants noted in their responses to this question, we actually talked about format pretty recently; my own considerations of the relative merits of hardcover vs. softcover, and my general preference for the trade paperback, were discussed here.
I’m not a big fan of graphic novels, and I don’t really care that much about having illustrations in the fiction that I read. If I’m reading history or biography, though, or a travel memoir, I do like it when there’s a photo section in the book, since it helps me get a better sense of the physical context of events.Since I have reached a point in my life where I wear reading glasses over my contact lenses, the size of a font does actually make some difference to me. If it’s too small to read comfortably, I’ll probably pass it up. I don’t particularly like to see a page look cluttered, but at the same time, if there’s a lot of white space, I may get the impression – fair or not – that the book’s a bit short on real content.

As far as my first impression of a book – its cover art and layout – I agree with a few of this week’s other participants, who said that if the book’s author is one they already know and like, they’re probably going to read the book regardless of what its cover looks like. It’s actually easier for me to specify what doesn’t appeal to me about a book cover than what does – obvious genre clichés, particularly those applicable to romance or chick-lit, and movie tie-in editions with scenes from the film all over them. But even in those cases, particularly if I’ve heard some good things about the book elsewhere, I’ve been known to look past the cover and give it a try. Books are lucky; they get a second chance to make a first impression.

Does book design affect your reading at all?

Friday Fill-In #65

1. Some relationships are meant to have a set shelf life – they belong to a particular place and time, and without that context, they fade away. (I hate when it happens, though.)
2. The Brian Setzer Orchestra is the last concert I saw; it was over two years ago, and the second time I’d seen them, but it was still fun. (I think that was the last concert I saw. We really don’t go to them all that much, and I’m not counting the Remainders at the 2006 Festival of Books.)
3. Spring should be cooler than it will be in summer.
4. Oh no! I forgot …something! What was it I came in here for?
5. I’ve recently started combining my Thursday and Friday meme responses into one post (you can see for yourself how that’s turning out).
6. My dog’s wagging tail never fails to make me smile.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to my husband’s return from New York City (he’s been on a spring-break trip chaperoning his daughter’s drama class), tomorrow my plans include celebrating my birthday (!) and Sunday, I want to relax and enjoy knowing that I have the day off on Monday, too!

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  1. Hello!
    Just stopped by to thank you for your own visit.

    I agree with you that the main influence a book cover has upon me is on whether or not I’ll pick it up and consider reading (or buying) it, so I’m thinking it’s a pretty important part of the package for those tryying to sell books! I love the smell of book too. Always have. I like new ones and old ones and ones that smell, just a little, like my grandma’s perfume…

    Have a Happy Birthday!

  2. Wonderful Friday Fill In.
    I like the Brian Seltzer Orchestra also but never been to one of their concerts.

    Happiness is a dog wagging their tail! Hope you can stop by mine if you have a chance.

  3. Ahh, thanks for the link love! That made my afternoon better.

    Good point about pictures with the biographies or other non-fiction. Duh. I’m reading one right now; you’d think I’d have thought of that.

    Well, can’t think of everything, right?

  4. Almostgotit – Thanks for stopping by – hope to see you here again! (I actually visit your blog pretty often, but I don’t leave comments much.)

    Jean – Thanks for stopping by; I liked your list too. I have to say that I have a soft spot for anyone’s blog that shares its name with a Beatles song.

    Sister AE – Happens. All. The. Time. Thanks for stopping by!

    Susan – I was almost going to say I wasn’t much for illustrations at all till I thought of that exception. And you’re welcome! 🙂

  5. Book covers are kind of a science. Did you know, for instance, that publishers believe that green covers don’t sell? You’ll very rarely see a green book cover.

    People in publishing claim they can identify a self-published book simply by the cover. It’s certainly true they allow authors very little control over the covers of their books. (I’m experiencing this firsthand now!)

    I will confess I am influenced by the covers of books. If it’s an awful cover I am put off to the point where I will hesitate to pick it up. A friend of mine recently published a book and had terrible luck–the look of her book is pretty awful. It’s a pity because the content is really very good.

    Anyway, when you see an awful cover, don’t blame the poor author! That’s my main message here!

  6. For the type of fiction I read, the cover art can get me to give the book a good look if I am not familiar with the author. But, as you said, if I’m familiar with the author it doesn’t matter much.
    Enjoy your birthday tomorrow! Eat a lot of food that is bad for you. That’s what birthdays are for. And weekends. And holidays…

  7. On the topic of fonts – the first half of this post looks pretty cluttered, doesn’t it? Sorry about that! I compose in Google Docs and then paste into Blogger, and sometimes it does odd things to the formatting.

    Gautami – Speaking of fonts…I do like them to be easy on my eyes, but I really only notice if they’re particularly ugly. My husband is a graphic designer and works with literally hundreds of fonts, so he pays much more attention to them than I do.

    Working Girl – I think I remember reading something about the green-cover “curse” when the sixth Harry Potter book came out with one. I think it did OK sales-wise, though. 🙂

    Like you, I’m more likely to be put off by a bad cover than pulled in by a good one.

    Mike – It’s kind of the same way for me with books.

    Hey, since my birthday’s on a weekend, does that mean I get to double up on the bad-for-me food? 😀 I still have to figure out where my husband is taking me for my birthday dinner; he was so busy getting ready for the New York trip that he didn’t get a chance to think about it.

  8. I think it would be easier for me to describe what I don’t live about a book cover too. Movie tie-ins, definitely.

    I received the Poisoned Pen Press catalog in the mail today, and it’s sitting right here in front of me. I just gazed down and became enamored by one of the covers. I’ll wait until I’m done commenting here to actually open the catalog and see what the book is about though. 😉

    I like your response for #1 of the fill-ins. Sad but very true.

    I hope your husband returned safely and have a great birthday tomorrow! The luxury of a long weekend . . . Enjoy!

  9. Literary Feline – I may buy a movie tie-in edition of a book if I really want to read it regardless, but those covers are never my preference.

    Now you’ve got me wondering about the book whose cover caught your attention in that catalog…

    By now (9:30 PM Friday), the plane should be on the ground at LAX. I’m not expecting Tall Paul back home before midnight, but I’m glad he’ll be here for my birthday! And my long weekend started when I left work last night :-).