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Covers and digital publishing

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Svrtnsse, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I thought a bit about covers lately - specifically covers for eBooks.
    With a printed book you see the cover every time you pick up the book. You see the title of the book and the name of the author and you associate it with the book.
    With an ebook you see the cover when you buy the book online and then never again. On my kindle the only time I see the title of the book is when I first start reading it and if I swap to another book and then back again.

    I've found that since I started reading ebooks I have a much harder time remembering the titles of the books I read.

    Today I had a look at amazon.com and browsed the titles available for sale there. Books are listed along with pictures of their covers. These pictures are about the size of my thumb - not very big. Depending on your screen size you probably get slightly different layouts. The page looked different on my computer at work than it did on my laptop. The little thumbnails were about the same though.

    When scrolling through the page, just looking, not knowing what I want it strikes me that they all look sort of the same. A picture of some kind, the name of the author and the title of the book, just like if they were physical books the size of a stamp. They're all trying to stand out, but in doing so they just become more similar to each other. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are just that - exceptions.

    Another thing all of these thumbnails have in common is that they're trying to look like book covers. Do they really need to do that? If the reader/buyer is only going to see the cover when they buy the book and then never again, why not take some more liberties with the design?
    You have a square space roughly the size of a thumb. Do you really need to fit in the title of the book and the name of the author there? It says under the thumbnail anyway. Are there other ways in which to take advantage of this very limited space to try and get people casually browsing to click your book?

    Is that even a consideration? Do people actually browse casually just by looking at covers?
     
  2. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Actually covers are probably the most important thing of all since they are what will attract a reader to your book in the first place and with ebooks you only have a few short seconds to catch a reader's eye and sell the book. So it's even more vital for an ebook to have a good cover than a paperback etc.

    A good cover should entail a few things. First in thumbnail size it should raw the eye. It should also tell you something about the book - its genre at least and maybe a tiny fraction of the story. And it should give you the book's title and author name so that browsers know to return to it. It should also look professional.

    And in general you use the same cover for your paper version as well as your ebook, so leaving the title etc off it isn't a good idea.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I'm looking at Amazon.co.uk: Fantasy - Science Fiction & Fantasy: Kindle Store: Contemporary, Fairy Tales, Epic, Urban & More at the moment.

    In many of the thumbnails there the text is too small (for me) to be able to read it comfortably. In others the text is large enough, but not leaving enough space left for the image. In many of them the text obscures the image and the image obscures the text. Keep in mind that most viewers probably won't spend the time to look at the covers in detail. They'll glance over them and only take a second look if something catches their eye.
    This isn't because they are bad covers. If you look at the full size versions of them they're great looking, well designed, covers. It's just that when you shrink them down to a fraction of the size they're meant to be you're messing up the image. I'm thinking that not considering the implications of this might be something of a missed opportunity.

    If digital is become more common and popular and if a thumbnail picture of your cover is the first thing a potential reader sees of your book, wouldn't it make sense to take into account how the cover looks in that format too? Especially if you're only going digital and aren't aiming to go to print?


    If you're a well known and respected author, then it would make sense to broadcast your name in big letters on the cover to attract more buyers, but does the same apply when you're on your first book and no one's ever heard of you?
    Can you skip your name on the cover as no one will know it anyway, or is it even more important to include the name so people will get to know you? I don't have the answer to that, but I think it may be worth pondering.
     
  4. GroundedTraveler

    GroundedTraveler Scribe

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    Interesting idea. I am working on the cover for my first ebook and I have had some similar thoughts. The paper world and the electronic world are indeed different and very much CAN be dealt with differently. I work in web development and there has long been this idea that web pages should act like newspapers with "above the fold" being a very common word early on. Why? The web acts differently. In that vein, why not ebook covers too.

    That all said, I have not published anything yet so have 0 data to back up anything, but it would be intriguing to see if it really does make much of a difference. I wonder if we make ebook covers like printbook covers in attempt to remind people that these are books and evoke that idea in their mind.

    I definitely do look at the lists of covers, but the titles and author names I read from the text. In my browser, I can increase the font size so it is readable. The question would be not at the list level, but on the individual book page, whether the book cover makes much of a difference.

    pyscotick - For the paper version, why do people use the same cover usually? Is it a cost thing? Some way of mentally linking it to the ebook version? As mentioned above, the ebook covers are often shown very small on the web, so it would seem to me that the font sizes and use of space would be different online and that by useing the same cover you are missing some opportunity.
     
  5. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    In my case its simply a time and effort thing. I don't want to create whole new covers for different formats, so I try to doone cover that fits them all. For others there may be a cost factor involved. I do my own covers but many people pay for theirs and so to have to pay for two different versions might be an added expense.

    I have idly speculated from time to time however about doing something similar to the Beatles famous white album and creating a cover without any text on it. It'd be a problem for the print versions, but for the ebook versions it would be interesting to see if it works.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  6. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    Here comes the TL;DR!

    There is another reason besides cost. You use similar—if not the same—covers on e-books and printed books because you're establishing a brand. You use covers with the same key points for different books in a series for the same reason: If the covers aren't consistent your readers will feel lost. You want to create associations, not obstacles.

    You also write your name on your cover to establish it. The point of a cover is not merely inform, it's lure the reader, inform and be memorable, etching these informations on their minds.


    Regarding the thumbnail size I have quite a different view on it. If we were to follow this logic online art galleries are doomed to fail. They too have 100-200px thumbnails, yet visitors have no trouble to pick this or that image to look at. You don't see them complaining that they can't see all the details. Why is that? Why don't they fail?

    The image reads.

    Being able to comprehend the image in it's full potential was never the point here because it's impossible. It's a compromise your must do in order to show the products and still have a navegable catalog. However, even when tiny some images still stand out more than others. In a smaller image the details vanish and the shapes, composition and colors relationships shine.

    [​IMG]


    You see, resizing the artwork is an old trick to check these points when painting digitally. We've been doing it for as long art has been painted on pcs, and before that you created thumbnail versions or simply walked away from your work and checked it from a distance.

    Walk away and check from a distance... bookstores, anyone?

    I would argue that having a properly placed title on the cover shouldn't be read on thumbnails either. It should be readable, information that you can make out if you put a little effort, that is recognizable when you zoom in. As the image, what it can't become when smaller is a fuzzy haze. You must make out the majority of the shapes of the letters, it must be attractive and inform something to some potential reader that is willing to squint at it.


    On the digital-is-not-print aspect of covers I believe that you're overlooking something: The covers and packages of today suffered strong influence of the digital world already. It's a two way road, you see packages leaning towards cleaner designs, tactile details and splashes that remind buttons, simplified logos; at the same time you see web content using more negative space, different layouts, blocks of colors and content much like magazines.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014
    J. S. Elliot likes this.
  7. C Hollis

    C Hollis Troubadour

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    Some e-tailers require the author name and book title on the cover.

    As far as a different cover for print, and another for e-book, I wouldn't do it myself (that's not to say it's wrong). When my books show up on Amazon, I want the reader to recognize right off that the print version is identical to the electronic version. If one or the other has a different cover, the assumption could be there is a difference between the two internally.
     
  8. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    @Nihal, if I'm reading you right you're saying that if the cover is done "right" it will work the same regardless of size (okay, I'm simplifying a bit).

    Would you say the restrictions of the smaller format is something that needs to be considered or can you ignore it as long as you're putting enough effort/attention to detail into the full scale cover?
     
  9. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    I reckon you should always keep the thumbnail in mind when designing a cover, not only because it's how people will see it, but a fuzzy smaller cover is a good indicator of composition and contrast problems.

    Not every cover must be pristine clear in smaller sizes, but a lower contrast cover requires some knowledge to be correctly executed, and a self-published author should be completely aware of the negative impact a bad thumbnail would have in his/her sales. You can't even discard a bad thumbnail problem for printed versions because if the cover is seen in a random display, from a distance, it'll face from exactly the same problems an ebook faces.


    Remember: The point of a thumbnail is to catch attention. It doesn't need fully understandable, but it must hint at the subject, at the title and it must be attractive. Strive to find the fine point between a muddy image and a magical CSI zoom.
     
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