Responsive Book Covers – ideas for the future of ebooks

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Books change us. Stories like Catcher in the Rye, On The Road or Neuromancer can send us on journeys both literal and metaphorical. Reading through these stories, we find out more about the characters, and sometimes more about ourselves.

And yet, these stories sit on our virtual bookshelves, unchanged.

Wouldn’t it be fun if they changed along with us?

Responsive Book Covers

Digital publishing has had a huge influence on book cover design – see Craig Mod’s essay Hack the Cover for an in-depth discussion. In this essay Craig talks about how book covers need to become more iconic to stand out at small sizes on the Amazon store and in iBooks. How they need to not only work at different sizes, but at different colours and resolutions depending on device specifications.

The most interesting part, though, is the need for delight.Reluctant bibliophiles lament the lack of beautiful bookshelves and the feel of a book in their hands. So how can we bring something new to the table?

And so with this great digital flood — and the Death! Death! Death! of the cover — comes a chance to reconsider how we think about covers. To break from nostalgia. Or, even better: to lay the foundation for a new nostalgia.

But perhaps most importantly, embedded within all of this is the chance to delight readers undelighted. 

Book covers that change as you read

A book’s cover needs to delight us – to convince us to pick it up and start reading. Of course, there can be no spoilers – but why not change the cover to reveal what we know as we journey through the pages?

Dorian Gray

Here’s one example – from The Picture of Dorian Gray. (I’ve chosen books that have been around long enough that spoilers aren’t an issue)

In this story, our protagonist commits all manner of sins, yet his face does not age or become marked, the effects instead being magically transformed to a portrait in the attic. Imagine a book cover that reflected this – as we start to read, the portrait is untainted, yet by the end it is a ruinous horror.

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(I’ve included progress bars to indicate how far along the book a reader has gone.)

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In this way, we can delight our reader by changing the book cover each time they open it, and help communicate the story by giving a sense of dread and foreboding as the book progresses.

Alice in Wonderland

Here’s a different approach, for a different story. Alice in Wonderland is a fantastic tale filled with incredible characters. Why not remind the reader of this by updating the cover as Alice encounters new creatures.

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Bringing Sir John Tenniel’s beautiful illustrations to the book cover without having to pick just one will help communicate the story and remind the reader where in Alice’s epic journey they left off. This approach would work equally well for The Lord of The Rings or a travelogue.

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Technology

These proposals are just ideas, and not technically feasible at the moment – however it was a fun exercise, and it would be an interesting improvement to an ereader library. Let us know your thoughts @makewoopie

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