You know what circulates really well at just about every library? Shiny new books with beautiful, modern-looking book jacket covers. Just as women’s fashion, handbags, and interior design have styles and trends that go in and out of fashion, book jacket covers also have these trends. The eye-catching illustrations, rich with earth tones that publishing houses used in the 70′s appear instantly outdated to a modern book-browsing consumer. This isn’t such a big deal if you work and Barnes and Noble because your suppliers will rarely send you copies of books with outdated book jacket covers. Librarians on the other hand have to constantly be aware of their collection and weed anything that does not have appeal or has been outdated.
You’ve Got a Good Title With a Bad Cover
Sometimes it happens. There’s a great book in your library but the cover is either outdated, badly chosen, or makes the book appear more juvenile than it really is. One serious offender is…
The Old Cover
Ender’s Game: it’s a fabulous classic sci-fi that continues to captivate the minds and hearts of young adults in my library and those of the world over. The plot is captivating, the character is likable and interesting, but the cover of the Ender’s Game books that I have in my middle school library has a picture of Ender wearing a blue space suit that’s the cross between the original Tron and the kevlar Batman suit from the recent Christian Bale movie. The child in the illustration could be the right age of Ender in the book (he starts off at 10), but he doesn’t believably look like he could be the leader of an army. With the doughy, sweet face of Ender and the silly, cartoonish movements going on in the background, it doesn’t feel very realistic.
The New Covers
Now, they’ve come up with some great new book jacket covers for this book. Click the images to get a closer look. I love the idea of having the character on the cover, so I haven’t included the cover with only space ships and stars. Also, even children (or especially children) can tell if something is outdated. The old version has an outdated font and uses a very bright blue to color the entire scene. The only place you might see this color blue in real life is athletic equipment or baby toys. Something about the illustration isn’t taking the content very seriously, making it a book “just for kids.”
The picture on the right immediately looks more modern. Many publishers have been marketing their books with pictures of people without showing the character’s face. Presumably it allows the reader to more easily become the character. Instantly we get a more modern feel from this book jacket cover because the character has modern young men’s fashion on his body in his baggy pants and a suggestion of military fatigues with the buckles at the back of the knee. This illustrator has taken the story much more seriously by comparing Ender’s army to today’s military. This child looks like a soldier from the United States in not only his clothing, but his stance and posture. The scene Ender is looking at outside the window is vast, realistic, and exciting with lots of movement as well as color. There’s a clear connection between this scene and the video game Halo which has been popular with young adults for many years now. The illustrator is clearly comparing Ender’s Game to modern video games: this is the kind of appeal that librarians need to use to our advantage!
Lastly, here’s my personal favorite Ender’s Game cover. The character looks ten years old, but the illustrator has managed to make him look capable and serious. The font is very modern and employs a layering and texturing by putting the image of Ender over the title and the author’s name over that. The movement of the hair and dimension of the face are realistic and once again is reminiscent of modern video game graphics. Ender wears a space suit in this cover, but it’s full of gadgets, buttons, and Ender’s left arm appears alive with the power from it. Many readers will want to pick up the book just to find out about this suit! The slices of light around his feet are often used in video games when a character is “in play.” The vast yet complex network of stars behind Ender are incredibly realistic looking. The floating movement of Ender is believably subtle, allowing him to look effortlessly powerful. If I had the supplies to update a copy of Ender’s Game, I would use this illustration.
Hunting for Titles to Update? Here’s a Great List:
8. Various Shakespeare titles. Be sure to check out the beautiful covers here.
So, now you have a stack of books that could use pretty new book jacket covers. Add anything with rips, tears, water damage or unsightly stains on the cover to your stack and make sure they’ve all been marked as “In Repair” so no one is looking for them on the shelf. Need a how-to for updating the book jacket covers? My next post will go over the specifics on replacing the cover art in hardcover and in softcover books in your library while making sure to include barcodes and other important information! This is generally a great idea for school libraries and sometimes public libraries, but always check with the collection’s manager first!