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We've all grown up being told not to judge a book by its cover. This, of course, is meant to be taken both literally and metaphorically. Don't judge a book by its cover, because even if it has an ugly cover, it might be the best book you've ever read. Don't judge a person by how they look, but rather by their personality.
I am here to say that, yes, judging a person based solely on how they look is probably not the best way to go through life. But I'll be damned if I'm not going to judge every book I read based on its cover before I judge it on anything else. The idea of not passing judgement on a book until you've read it is archaic. I'm here to tell you why it's okay to judge books by their covers.
1. First Impressions
When learning to write in grade school, it was always emphasized to me that you need to be able to hook your reader within the first few pages, if not the first few paragraphs. But how are you supposed to hook someone if they won't even pick up your book to give it a shot? You can't, plain and simple. The cover is what first hooks the potential reader. It's about marketing. The presentation of a book and the way its marketed tells me, as a reader, whether or not I should read it. If the author and publisher care enough to make the book beautiful and desirable, I'm sold. If the author didn't care enough to design a pretty package to put their work in, how much did they actually care about writing their book? The author should have something to showcase when they publish their book, not some stock image with a basic font slapped over it. In a world where there are literally millions of books to choose from, marketing means everything. People are always going to choose the book with the nicer cover over the book with a sub-par cover. If the author and publisher can't recognize the fact that they need to market their book in a way that makes readers want to pick it up, then they're never going to get the chance to hook the reader within the first few paragraphs.
2. Collecting Pretty Things
I spend a lot of money on books, and because they are something I love and am passionate about, I want to display them on my bookshelves. Now, I am human, and we humans like things that are beautiful. We like to collect things that appeal to us aesthetically. If a book does not have a pretty cover, I do not want to display it. Thus, I am not going to spend my hard-earned dollars on it. Collecting books is a multi-faceted experience for many readers, myself included. It's not just about reading them. It's about building a beautiful library, the feel of the books, etc. I will buy the books that look professional, the ones with gorgeous covers that win the marketing game. Authors cannot expect readers to buy books with covers that don't appeal to them. To older generations, the ones who taught that you should not judge a book on its cover, this may sound shallow. And maybe it is. But it's your money, and you should be able to choose to be shallow with it if you please. And hey, if the book I bought sucks, at least it still looks nice sitting on my bookshelf.
3. Information Overload
Our access to 24 hours television, mobile phones, and the internet has led to a constant stream of information in the 21st century. An adult brain today processes five times the information each day that an adult brain did in 1986. With this amount of information passing us by, something truly has to catch our eyes for us to pick it up and further pursue it. When there are so many alternatives for how to spend your time, something really has to catch your eye for you to take an interest in it. There are the alternatives to reading — television, movies, video games, etc. — and then within the reading world, there are millions of alternatives to the book you choose to read. Because no one could possibly read every book that has ever been published, judging a book based on its cover is a way of filtering out the books that are probably not worth the time it takes to read them. A book needs to be marketed well in order for readers to 1) choose to read it instead of doing something else and 2) choose to read it instead of another book. That's why the market for books has been saturated with beautiful covers — and thank God it has! Millennials read more books than any of the older generations. Now, I'm not an expert, but I'd venture to say that this is because books now are more eye-catching now than they ever have been in the past.
In summary, books need to have nice covers nowadays in order to be picked up by readers. People are judging books by their covers now more than ever, and in an age of overwhelming information, this is a good thing. Marketing is a huge part of publishing a book, and if a book isn't properly marketed... I don't want to read it, and I'm certainly not going to spend my money on it.