Always judge a book by its cover

I really hate the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover”. I mean, I´m not saying there aren´t GREAT books with LOUSY editorial design. But honestly, the whole reading experience is so much better when you are holding a beautiful book in your hands. And by beautiful I mean great cover art, font, paper and overall design.

Many years ago my aunt gave me a copy of “El Laberinto de la Soledad” by Octavio Paz. “If you are mexican you have GOT to read this book”, so, of course, I started reading the book. HOWEVER I´m not sure if it was the minuscule font, the bible thin pages, the crappy cover art, or the overall lack of editorial design but I just could NOT finish the damn book, it was hell trying to keep this tiny book from closing itself!

But, along came PENGUIN. A few months ago I came across a beautiful copy of the same book and may I just say it´s fucking awesome. I´ve always loved Penguin books, especially their deluxe editions (more on that in later posts I promise), and this time they exceeded  my expectations, specially because I was pleasantly surprised to find a Penguin book in spanish at my local bookstore.

The simple fact is, CONTENT is just as important as EDITORIAL DESIGN. Great design can make me buy the same book over and over again. For example, although I have a beautiful copy of “Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland” I can NOT wait to get my hands on the new book illustrated by Camille Rose García!


6 Responses

  1. “If you are mexican you have GOT to read this book”

    you’re mexican?!

    Sorry, had to. I agree, although only partially. I, too, deeply hate thin pages. Books already look 5 to 10 years older once im through with them (I can’t help it! NEVER borrow me a book) and it doesnt help if the pages are too thin.

    On the other hand: if its good, its good, and not the blandest of all covers change that.

    Having said that, Gris Grimly’s illustrations of Poe are amazing, and one of my favorite children’s books is still Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, partly because of Blake’s illustrations.

    • Another good example of a great book with a horrible presentation is actually my copy of FIESTA by Hemingway haha. I really have to get that book in a better edition, that´s just the bibliophile in me, I can´t help it.
      “If its good, its good” Completely agree, but the minute I find a book that I love with a great new design, I have to buy it, otherwise it´ll just keep bugging me until I succumb. Sort of like David with his movies I guess…
      I just checked out Grimly´s illustrations of Poe and yet ANOTHER book has been added to my wish list. Thank you for that.

  2. Then I probably shouldnt mention that Grimly has done not one but two Poe collections? And has also done illustrations for editions of Pinochio and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow?

    Ive actually lost my copy of Fiesta (which I generally refuse to call Fiesta). It was my favorite book for a long ass time.

    But I didn’t know that about you. I’m generally indifferent to the edition of a book. There’s some things that irk me, like small pages or an annoying font & fontsize. but I dont even really need to own a book as long as i’ve read it.

    • Yea well… when I say I’m sort of a bibliophile, I really mean it!

  3. Let me give you a example, and you’ll understand that you need to get over this “pretty covers and nifty pages” phase. First, what’s wrong with finding a treasure where noone expected to look? I’m currently reading Shogun, from a paperback I found downstairs which was printed in the 70’s, the thinning papers yellow, the cover mauled beyond repair and the spine bent like a wailing whore. But it’s damn good, and I can find even more satisfaction in knowing that someone left it there one day to rot, only to rediscover it and bring it all into my mind.

    Anyways, my second point is that at least in Switzerland and France (don’t know about other parts of Europe), books have very simple designs. Even new authors go with the old-school classic editorials, which would be equivalent to the Mexican FCE or Clío outfits, or the Spanish Sepan Cuantos. I guess it’s a statement which highlights the inner value of the book, and I’ll admit that it doesn’t give you a huge desire to pick it up in the bookstore at first sight. But the newspaper is full of book reviews, and so is the radio. Hence, people have an opportunity to be closer in contact with what’s happening in the literary world, without needing the fancy covers.

    Take care, buddy!

    • Hey, simple designs are great, I’m all for “less is more”. All I’m saying is that book design shouldn’t be an afterthought, like it is most of the time.
      For instance, although I love TusQuets and Anagrama (I love their philosophy and the authors they publish) I REALLY hate their “editorial design” in which the just crop a picture, stick it on the cover and there we go! I mean COME ON! Put a little effort into it, will ya?!
      And how dare you imply that I don’t care for crappy old paperbacks? Does “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” ring a bell? Sure… in my heart I want to buy a “nicer” edition, but thats just cause if I really enjoyed reading it with yellowish pages and a musty smell, just imagine the second time around? Haha

      I don’t need fancy covers, I just think they can help the book reach more people. I’m glad your copy of Shogun has a “spine bent like a wailing whore” haha, otherwise I don’t think someone would’ve just left it there to rot…

      And HEY, please don’t refer to editorial design as “fancy covers”, that hurt!

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