The eBook Cover Scandal

August 19, 2009

Who can deny that a good cover plays a part in the overall book buying and even reading experience?

I’ve done several posts about the necessity for direct publishers to pay attention to good cover design. After all, just because a book is electronic doesn’t mean people won’t be attracted to — or repelled by — its cover.

One of the few things I haven’t complained about with print publishing is the design of book covers. This is because it’s an art that stretches back for decades and there have been some seriously great covers (see The Book Design blog for some samples).

There is even a science to book covers!

But with print publishing turning to eBooks, all of that learning is being flushed down the eToilet.

I submit these exhibits as proof. They were ePub eBook loans from the New York Public Library. If these reflect what eBook purchasers get, there’s trouble ahead!

American Rust, A Novel by Philipp Meyer; Publisher: Random House Publishing Group; Imprint: Spiegel & Grau

The print cover:


The eBook cover:


Black Boy by Richard Wright; Publisher: HarperCollins; Imprint: HarperCollins e-books

The print cover:


The eBook cover:


Burn by Sean Doolittle; Publisher: Dell Publishing; Imprint:Dell

The print cover:


The eBook cover:


Business Stripped Bare, Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur by Richard Branson; Publisher: Random House Publishing Group; Imprint: Virgin Digital

The print cover:


The eBook cover:


Fault Line, A Novel by Barry Eisler; Publisher: Random House Publishing Group; Imprint: Ballantine Books

The print cover:


The eBook cover:


Gang Leader for a Day, A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh; Publisher: Penguin Group USA, Inc.; Imprint: The Penguin Press

The print cover:


The eBook title page (yes, this one does not have a cover!):


Lincoln Unmasked, What You’re Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe by Thomas DiLorenzo; Publisher: Crown Publishing Group; Imprint: Three Rivers Press

The print cover:


The eBook cover:


The Civil War, The complete text of the bestselling narrative history of the Civil War–based on the celebrated PBS television series by Geoffrey C. Ward, Kenneth Burns; Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group; Imprint: Vintage

The print cover:


The eBook cover:


The Real Deadwood, True Life Histories of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Outlaw Towns, and Other Characters of the Lawless West by John Ames; Publisher: Penguin USA, Inc.; Imprint: Chamberlain Bros.

The print cover:


The eBook title page (another one that doesn’t have a cover!):


I picked these eBooks because they were of interest to me.

Some of you at this point might be saying, “Well, these are generic covers because these are library copies.” Then explain these:

Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys by Neil Oliver; Publisher: HarperCollins; Imprint: HarperCollins e-books

The print cover:


The eBook cover:


Lowboy by John Wray; Publisher: Canongate Books

The print cover:


The eBook cover:


If they can do that, why not everyone else?

And understand this too: An argument cannot be made that the electronic rights for the covers haven’t been secured. Because the print versions I’m showing are displayed electronically in the NYPL catalog (OverDrive system)!

I consider this to be a scandal. It’s tantamount to bait-and-switch and I foresee the day of many eBook buyer complaints and perhaps even inquiries by State Attorneys General.

And it’s another reason why I think the entire Axis of E will fail.

Prior posts elsewhere about covers:

The Topic Of Covers … Again!
eBooks: The Issue Of Covers, Again
Free eBook: Password Incorrect
Book Covers: Murder
Book Cover: What?!
eBooks: More About Covers
eBooks: A Cover Test
They Don’t Write These Anymore