Count the number of times you’ve heard the old English idiom, “Never judge a book by its cover.”   Although this proverb warns that appearances can be deceiving, the literal meaning advises to refrain from selecting a book because of the book’s cover.

Any true judgment of a book’s worth should be made by the content between the front cover and the back cover.  Yet, modern marketing use the book’s covers to influence our reason for purchasing a book.

Traditional or legacy publishers spend countless hours in researching and brainstorming what clothes a new book should wear, both in front and in back.  They know that the right window dressing will influence a buyer’s choice.  These publishers retain absolute control in their contract with a book’s author over the make-up of the book’s cover.  Usually, the author’s opinion counts as squat.

Psychologists tell us that certain colors will hook our interest while other colors will force our noses away.   Color values or color tone can be lightened by adding white or be darkened by adding black and these changes along with shading can manipulate luminance, which will affect our appreciation of book covers.  No kidding!

Inserting on book covers images of people, places, animals, or whatever can have either a positive or negative impact.  Naturally, if we are familiar with the author, just reading the author’s name alone may be influence enough to seal our purchase, especially when the known author’s name is imprinted larger than is the book’s title and the name is trumpeted as a New York Times best-selling author.  Maybe then just the title and the author’s name on the cover will make the sale even if the book’s covers are a true turn-off.

“In the Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare warned us:  “All that glitters is not gold,” and that warning certainly can apply to book covers.  Later, in “Oliver Twist,” Charles Dickens penned some good advice, “There are books of which the back and the cover are the best part.”  Yet, like it or not, in spite of the warning, “Never judge a book by its cover,”  we recognize that many times we ignore the advice.  We do judge a book by its cover.

FRANK R. SOUTHERS,  Austin, Texas,

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