Never judge a book by its cover…


I remember my ears pricking up when I overheard a colleague recalling how they had witnessed a toddler trying to swipe the pages of a book as if it were an iPad, much to the toddler’s frustration, of course – I can only imagine a tantrum of sorts promptly ensued!

There is no doubt about it, we are living in a technology-driven world, and clearly millennials have a much better grasp of what is going on around them than us generation X types. Then again, maybe we are just in complete denial because we can’t imagine a world without a good old Beano annual, abacus or Gameboy? Or is it just that there are some good things in life that we simply don’t want to see drift off into Neverland?

I can’t claim to ever having had a Beano annual (although I did have Victoria Plum) but I have to admit my heart does fill with dread when I think of a world without books. Whilst some may argue that reading an Ebook on a Kindle or iPad is as equally satisfying as reading a paperback or hardback, in my experience it just isn’t the same.


Kindle leaning against a pile of books in a library.

Nothing can beat the physical beauty of a book. The whole experience of reading a book is a sensory one from the outset. The smell, newly-printed or fusty and old, the sight of a beautifully designed cover that engages before you have even turned to the first page and maybe (or not) gives you a glimmer of what you may expect from the literary and/or pictorial journey you are about to embark upon.

Whilst we are told to, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, frankly, I do, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I’m a sucker for a great book cover, much in the same way that I am drawn in by a stylish wine label in the aisles of the supermarket – I do work in marketing after all, so I should appreciate a good bit of marketing, right?

When you think of it, a book cover is the packaging of the content – the words and images that lie within. The front cover displays, title, author and usually a visual tease, the back cover reveals testimonials, more often than not from prestigious-industry-types, whose commentary will either entice or repel.

We also recognise publisher brands, the more book-fanatical amongst us favouring some publishers over others, either for their distinguishing publishing qualities and values or for the subject matter and/or writers they publish. Some publishers have so much brand equity, that they can spin off a whole range of supporting stylish merchandise as successfully achieved by Penguin Random House.

Penguin Random House UK logo








The merger of Random House and Penguin took place in 2013, but Penguin Books is well known for having successfully taken ‘serious’ books to the masses in the 1930s – interesting that that little penguin should enjoy a revival in the 21st Century.

Similarly there is a nostalgic bend towards the Ladybird Classics, I can’t imagine that Peter and Jane thought that they would have a cult following in the millennium and neither, I suppose, did Ladybird (also now owned by Penguin Random House). What is fascinating about this phenomenon is that despite the witticism (many would say sarcasm) that belies many of these Ladybird books adorning high street bookshops is that there must be some perceived merit in these publications. Is it the simple format that appeals, the illustrations or the nostalgia that they invoke? There must be something that captures us. Perhaps it’s simply that we are, in essence, all readers and book lovers at heart – sod the technological revolution!

Over the past decade or so there certainly has been a growing trend towards the publishing of books with extremely high-quality production values. This in turn would indicate that there is, in fact, a market for exquisitely crafted books which does fill me with some hope. So whilst I’m saddened by the prospect that I may, one day, not be able to walk into a shop and buy a beautiful object, ‘the book’, I’m hopeful that our human sensibilities, will, in the end get the better of us and that there will always be the opportunity to ‘judge a book by its cover’.



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