From the Atlantic:
Daylight Saving came out in the U.K. in February, and in the months leading up to its release, the publisher used a novel strategy to generate interest in the teen novel: It placed a ticker at the bottom of the digital cover, counting down to the launch date. (It’s still counting, now into a negative number.) In addition to the digital jacket’s embedded clock, an underwater design ripples with the drag of a cursor, as if your finger could make waves through the screen. The interactive blue splashes (gimmicky, maybe) are nonetheless entrancing for the few minutes spent toying with the cover. And with that, the book has caught the eye of a potential buyer. Once purchased, of course, the water transforms into a static image, its graceful motion unsupported by the media formats in which it is ultimately consumed (print or the standard digital forms). The cover is seductive, but its spell is broken. Which brings to mind the tagline of Daylight Saving: “Can you save someone from something that’s already happened?”
That question comes to bear on the book publishing industry. Digital reading is already happening, but electronic books have only barely begun to adapt to current habits and devices—not to mention forge new standards for either. The various constraints—technological, financial, and cultural—allow hardly any clarity in seeing what books will be, or how they will be. Especially if we are to judge them by their covers.
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The digital book can be a complete piece of art, Goldberg explained, though “we’re doing it by the seat of our pants. There is no technology that is uniform yet.” And publishers haven’t embraced it, she says, because “they don’t have resources.”
“I don’t think anybody’s figured out how to create a whole creative environment that’s able to fit well into every publishing house right now,” Goldberg told me, adding, “I’m sure there are companies that are talking about it all the time. But I haven’t seen anybody go about it.”
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With or without digital frills, the cover sensibility is fetching simplicity. A winning formula tends to involve bold text and pared down illustrations. Says Buckley, “We need to broadcast ourselves clearly.”
Legible means, literally, capable of being read. For Buckley and other like-minded designers, there is elegance in legibility: The cover can be deciphered by the human eye, from a distance or on a small screen. But it’s not only our eyes that must do the reading. So too, computers read our books, with varying degrees of success. So says Holladay Penick—Creative Director at OnixSuite, and formerly of the Institute for the Future of the Book—in noting that “legibility is a big concern.”
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The early ebooks tossed readers right into the text, without ceremony. This is still true in many cases. On a standard Kindle, for example, you can buy a book and pop right over to the first page of the introduction. There is no procession through the cover, title page, and so on. To see the cover at all, you have to manually click backwards, perhaps more than two dozen times.
“I’m not sure they should be called ‘covers,'” says Bill McCoy, the director of International Digital Publishing Forum, which oversees the EPUB system. Rather, “It’s really more an introduction to the experience you’re going to have in consuming this content.” For McCoy, this is comparable to an entrée into a video game or DVD main menu page. If a movie were to just start playing, the viewer’s impulse would be, “What’s wrong, what’s going on here?” he explains, “You expect to get some choices and a menu of options.” Whereas the movie business has been sorting this out for the past 15 years, “We’re just in year one of that for digital books.”
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Cover testing—commonly used for magazines—could just as easily be applied to books, and “data analytics-driven optimization is going to have to be something designers are going to have to deal with.” Create 20 covers and watch which one sells the best. Or create a monitored ad campaign to determine which branding strategy works for a given title.
“Books ought to have multiple covers and multiple flaps,” says Seth Godin, a marketing expert and founder of the direct publishing website, The Domino Project. Readers should be able to set preferences on their ebooks to show different covers depending on what they’re looking for, he explained. This might include, among other things, how many people tweet about the book.
Link to the rest at the Atlantic
Passive Guy admits he prefers ebooks that open to Chapter 1, page 1, rather than someplace earlier in a stylistic reference to a physical book.
He hasn’t tried it with Amazon or Pubit yet, but PG thinks of book covers as billboards there, something different than a traditional book cover. From a practical standpoint, however, you need a cover for a POD paperback and PG has also not tried different covers for the ebook and POD versions of the same book to see how Amazon reacts yet.