I have always judged books by their covers. Always. People are usually surprised to hear this, especially since anyone who knows me knows that most of my time is spent reading everything and anything I can get my hands on. The notion that I would have what seems to be such an arbitrary system of literary judgement is, apparently, very distressing. Bookworms aren’t supposed to be so superficial.
What most people don’t think about is the daily life of a bookworm: We see a book, we read it; we think about the material for a bit. Sometimes, a book engages the reader immediately, and creates a world that is both fascinating and wondrous, and leaves the reader with a small sense of sadness when they reach that final page (let’s hope there’s a sequel). Others are so uninteresting they barely tempt one to turn the page; dreadfully dull and utterly uninspired, the reader realizes the reason it seems so long is that he’s been reading the same passage over and over forth past 10 minutes. Most prose, however, falls somewhere in between.
Keep in mind that this has little to nothing to do with the material itself. It’s all about preference. This is why when someone tells me they hate to read I tell them they just haven’t found the right book, but I digress.
Books today are almost as commercialized as anything else. I say “almost” because it’s still pretty rare to see a book commercial (and always bizarre, at least to me). Writers, like everyone else, are trying to sell something. They tailor their products to fit the intended audience, and this is done by choosing certain genres and writing styles as well as covers and font and such.
Book publishers, those lovely, shrewd marketing types, choose the font, cover are, synopsis, and snippets of praise that wrap a book like a lovely little present and put it on the shelf of your neighborhood bookstore, where it waits for a person who says “Well, that looks like something I would like to read” or, perhaps more jadedly, “This looks like something I’d like to be seen reading.” Either way, it has managed to pique your interest; you pick the book up to skim it briefly and and look at the blurb, and the publisher’s job is done. You’re touching the book, and that’s half the battle.
I am not ashamed to admit that I am very much affected by advertising. After all, everyone is (even if they are loath to admit it). I remember when the Wrigley corporation redesigned Orbit gum - I don’t recall the old design, but I do remember my excitement. I wanted to try every flavor they had to find my favorite so I could carry it with me everywhere, and I used all my friends as Guinea Pigs in my quest. A large number of those flavors are terrible. Still, I don’t regret buying them all; the packages were so cute! The presentation and packaging of a thing is half the fun. Slick and pretty cases, foods, books, and electronics are the best (even though they’re almost always overpriced).
I always want to be reeled in this way. I am very happy when I realize a book is meant to be read by “someone like me.” If all covers were a plain, sad grey, with naught gracing the cover save title and author, I’d have to read every single book I got my hands on, all the way through, every single time. And really, who has the time for all that?
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