Do you judge a book by its cover? (Don’t we all?)

I’d like to say that book covers aren’t something I get worked up about, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. I avoid movie tie-in covers as much as possible, like all normal people, and I am picky about the author’s name appearing five times larger than the book title.

Generally speaking, though, I do not begrudge publishers who slap a new cover on an old classic to draw in more, or different, readers. I just picked up this edition of Brave New World as a cool, conceptual alternative to the weird, naked baby cover. I can sympathize—even empathize—with the Roald Dahl fans who were upset by Penguin’s new cover of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, favoring social criticism over whimsy… but I loved the cover of their Deluxe Edition, which offers just as much contrast with the original, much beloved Quentin Blake illustrations.

On the other hand, I was totally freaked out by the Penguin Deluxe Edition of The Scarlet Letter. I have to imagine the marketing meeting went something like this:

Marketing Executive: Let’s do something cool and sexy—give a false sense of entertainment potential to the high school seniors forced to read this book.

Marketing Underling: OK, well, I thought that weird, naked baby cover of Brave New World was pretty cool. How about I cartoon-ize Hester and her illegitimate child?

Marketing Executive: Only if you use lots of red scarlet as symbolism.

Marketing Underling [sketching]: How’s this?

Marketing Executive: More eyeliner.

Marketing Underling: [sketching]: OK…

Marketing Executive: No, not on Hester, on the baby!

Book covers are probably the thing I miss most when I’m reading an e-book. (Well, that, and pretty much everything else about the look and feel of a paper book.) In any case, for my own bookshelf, I am admittedly choosy—in my own way—about book covers, and I’m guessing most readers would say the same. What’s on the inside counts, yes—but so does the packaging.