eReading has freed our choices!

On occasion, I have chosen to avoid reading a particular book because I was hesitant about what people might think of me for reading it. When I first read Stephen King’s “It”, the cover at the time was a fairly nondescript cover which didn’t give much away: it was simply an image of a storm drain with a distinctly reptilian hand reaching out towards a paper boat bobbing in the gutter. Ominous, yes; but not as scary as some of the newer covers I’ve seen – especially the one with Tim Curry’s sinister clown-face and shocking red hair. I think my mother would have had all kinds of objections to her 15 year old daughter reading a book with a cover like that.

One of the challenges to reading widely with physical books, is the fact that they lend themselves to pre-judgement based on their covers. This is not true with eBooks – when you’re reading an eBook, no one can see the cover of what you’re reading., just the device you are reading on. Think of how many people bought and read the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. Most of that reading was done on eReaders. I’ve known a few people who admit to having read the trilogy after the fact, but I am almost positive most (if not all) of them would have resisted buying those books in paperback and reading in public.

Being able to read whatever you want on an eReader kind of releases you from that hesitancy, doesn’t it? Now we can read all sorts of books without wondering if anyone is looking at the book cover and thinking, “What on earth is she reading?” Erotica is just one genre that traditionally wasn’t read very widely due to the stigma attached to consuming questionable (?) literature. There are a wide number of other books and genres that people shy away from reading – for instance, reading the “Koran” in paperback or hardcover is likely to raise many eyebrows in this day and age. Yet many theists insist that knowing what is in the “Koran” as intimately as knowing what is in the Christian bible is almost a requirement for intelligent discourse. Electronic readers have solved that problem too.

Image upload on 2013-06-20 at 15_36_47Nevertheless, a cover is still a very important aspect to marketing your book. As a reader, I know I have seen plain eBook covers and bypassed them because the cover doesn’t adequately tell me anything about the story. A catchy title isn’t enough. The big name authors can get away with plain-jane book covers because their history and name is enough to draw their regular readership in. Furthermore, their faithful readers are likely to spread the word about their eBook with a nondescript cover. Most of Lee Child’s eBook covers are completely nondescript. Take for example one of his latest: “The Affair”. Yet most of us faithful Child readers will tell you that “The Affair” is just as good as any other of Child’s Reacher novels. The author’s name and the name of his main character sells the book.

For us up and coming writers, we don’t have that luxury. Our eBook covers need to be enticing, intriguing, captivating. They need to tell a tale of their own, drawing the potential reader in. As editor at, I see so many eBooks coming in without covers, or with covers that are just artistically wanting. And while “free” has it’s own pitch, I really wish our authors would spend as much time on their book covers as they do their words. It’s a whole package. So, remember that neglecting to give your eBook an attractive cover can be the difference between 100 downloads and a 1000.

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  • I agree about the covers. I’ve read many more books just because I’ve liked the cover. Sometimes I don’t even read the synopsis on the back cover if I like the front cover enough. I’ve also not read certain books in public because of the cover and what others would think.

  • I do agree that the covers are at times very misleading or not informative enough I share the hesitancy to read because of the cover on certain books,take fifty shades for instance, I did not want to read the books. I eventually did! on my iPad

  • Marlene House Bearden, June 26, 2013 at 1:06 amReply

    Personally, I have never worried about what ANYONE else thinks about what I read.

  • Buying used books it’s all about the title, you usually can’t see the cover without pulling it off the shelf. Scanning a list of ebooks is not much better. The cover is shown as a thumbnail so you really can’t see it either.

  • I have to agree with this.
    Although I am a bit of a traditionalist, preferring hard copy books to eBooks in general, my opinion is changing gradually. The example you gave of the 50 Shades books is a prime example of your message. I have been told by all of the women in my life that guys would love the books too – but there is no way I would be caught dead reading one of them in public!

    Give me an eReader for this purpose any day of the week.

    • Thank you for weighing in.

      To be honest, I’ve been told that the books are enjoyable as well. But aside from the stigma attached to reading them, I really am not encouraged by how the first story starts out. Sometimes, it’s not always about the cover either.

  • The downside is not being able to see what someone is reading by the cover and being able to strike up a conversation. “Oh, I’ve been thinking of reading that. Are you enjoying it?”

    • Most definitely. Although, there is still the option of opening up the conversation with “What are you reading?”, it doesn’t quite have the same effect. And certainly still leaves one open to the stigma attached to having to say “Fifty Shades of Grey” and being judged for it.

  • Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. LOL

  • Wow, you are a very superficial person to worry so much about what people will think of the book you are reading. If you want to make the apology of ebooks, you should find another approach like the practicality or convenience, the access to so many free books from the public domain, etc.

    • Not sure how you choose “superficial” as the one way to describe a person who is reluctant to share with another the choice of book being read. You must know that there are a whole host of additional possible reasons to conceal from another, the identity and subject of a book one is reading. Perhaps it stems from not wanting to be judged as “superficial” by an observer who is often all too eager to condemn and label a fellow human being, while an unhealthily inflated ego enables the onlooker to be calloused and insensitive to the feelings and needs of another. In fact, I’m wondering if such provocative and antagonistic statements directed at the reader, by the eager judge, is not itself an obvious display of a personality very much more superficial than his intended target. Hm. Food for thought?.

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