Thursday, October 1, 2009

Judging books by their covers

I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but, come on, who can honestly say they've never done that before? Have you ever read a book just because you liked the cover? Have you even bought a book just because you liked the cover?

I've often checked books out of the library just because, while browsing the shelves, the cover caught my eye. That's how I got started with Mercedes Lackey, a former favorite author of mine who I've since sort of abandoned (although I still reread her older books). I was on a gryphon kick and spotted Black Gryphon while browsing the fiction section at my public library.

It's very rare, however, that I will buy something just because I like the cover. After all, what if I end up not liking the actual book? So I was a little shocked with myself when I bought not one book, but an entire 4-volume series, just because I thought the cover of one of the volumes was amusing and "pretty." I didn't even read reviews of any of the volumes - the closest I came to doing actual research on them was reading the short synopsis on the online product page. Luckily, I ended up enjoying all four volumes, but I could've just as easily found myself cursing the loss of $25.

So, has anyone else been so foolish? (Or do you not actually view this as foolishness?) How did things turn out?

I'm reminded of a paper I read while taking my MLS program's readers' advisory class. It was about a library with either a display or special section for its classics (sorry, I can't remember what the title of the article was, who wrote it, or even where the library was located). The librarians chose to invest a little money in the project and buy newer, prettier copies of the books. Not surprisingly, circulation of their classics went up.


  1. I've seen Awful Library Books (I made the mistake of reading some of it while at the reference desk - I had to stop before it got too hard to keep myself from laughing uncontrollably). I haven't seen Judge a Book by its Cover, though. Yes, another fun one!

    I might post both of them on our staff blog - in a slow, roundabout way, I'm trying to convince people that it's time for us to weed. I have two supporters so far, although unfortunately none of them are directly involved with the actual process of weeding. Apparently, people have tried to weed in the past, only to discover that the people in technical services who were supposed to handle the record and holding removal steps just gave the books back to Circulation to reshelve. But I'll keep at it. We don't need THAT many medical and computer books from the 60's and 70's.

  2. Guilty! The one screw-up that really stands out in my mind is a time I went out looking to buy . . . I was just in the mood to bring home something new . . . and I was about to buy a book that was on my wishlist (Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje) but I couldn't stand the cover. It was ugly. So, I picked up a book with a gorgeous cover (The Blood of Flowers) and bought it, instead. Stupid, stupid, stupid!!! I still haven't been able to get into The Blood of Flowers.

    Fortunately, I don't make that mistake often. I've found that I'm definitely more hesitant to buy a book with an ugly cover, though, even if it's on my wish list. Instead, I'll wait to acquire the uglies from a swap site.