The Decline and Fall of the Book Cover


Two irreversible trends are at fault here, neither of which can be altered by even a really persuasive essay. One is that the illustrated book cover, like painted movie posters or newspaper comics, is pretty much dead. Fonts, stock photos, and Photoshop are cheaper than commissioning illustrations. With the imminence of Kindles and e-readers, this is all moot anyway; soon enough, book covers, like album covers before them—like albums themselves, or sheet music for popular songs, or dance cards—will be a quaint, old-timey thing you have to explain to the uninterested young, and there’ll be one fewer excuse to strike up conversations with pretty strangers on the subway.


What we're seeing in book cover trends relates directly to what book covers have always related to: marketing. As consumers change shopping behavior and shopping venues, the way publishers market books has to change too. With millions (literally) of books for sale on Amazon and the book market absolutely flooded with supply, publishers can no longer afford commissioned illustrations, but more importantly, they no longer need them. Technology has changed the way we buy books AND the way we create art.

Stacie Vander Pol

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