Filed Under:

In The E-Book World, Are Book Covers A Dying Art?

Play associated audio

In the olden days, a reader might pick up a book because the cover was exciting, intriguing, maybe even beautiful. But in the brave new world of e-books and e-readers, the days when an artist named Chip Kidd could make us reach for a book may be gone.

Kidd, an associate art director at publisher Alfred A. Knopf, has designed book covers for the past 25 years for authors like Cormac McCarthy, John Updike, David Sedaris and Michael Crichton. Remember the menacing Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on movie posters for Jurassic Park? The original version was Chip Kidd's cover design for the novel.

Earlier this year, Kidd gave a TED talk on the art of designing books. He told the audience that while e-books offer convenience, the growing digital publishing world risks losing "tradition, a sensual experience, the comfort of thingy-ness, [and] a little bit of humanity."

Still, as Kidd tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer, all books — electronic, hardcover or paperback — need covers. "They need some kind of visual representation, whether you're going to be seeing them the size of a postage stamp on a computer screen or a smartphone, or sitting on a table, or on a shelf, or in a bookstore," he explains.

A veteran of the book publishing industry, Kidd understands that his book designs ultimately must help serve the bottom line. His designs can be effective in helping new titles stand out in a bookstore display, but on the online marketplace, a beautifully designed cover can only get you so far.

"People don't buy a book on the Web because of the cover," Kidd says. "They'll buy a book on the Web because they've read a review or it's word of mouth or some combination of the two."

But he's not worried about sticking to old-fashioned ways.

"Hardcover books are, frankly, luxury items, and they sort of always have been. And I think there will be a market for them," he says.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Compelling Plot Gives Way To Farce In Franzen's Purity

The new novel reveals sharp observations and a great, sprawling story. But critic Roxane Gay says the book gets bogged down with absurdly-drawn characters and misfired critiques of modern life.
NPR

Huge Fish Farm Planned Near San Diego Aims To Fix Seafood Imbalance

The aquaculture project would be the same size as New York's Central Park and produce 11 million pounds of yellowtail and sea bass each year. But some people see it as an aquatic "factory farm."
NPR

CNN Just Found A Way To Get Carly Fiorina Onto The Debate Stage

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO had been fighting CNN's criteria for the September presidential candidates debate. Now, she might get her way and make it into the network's main event.
NPR

How Startups Are Using Tech To Mitigate Workplace Bias

The idea that everyone makes automatic, subconscious associations about people is not new. But now some companies are trying to reduce the impact of such biases in the workplace.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.