More than just pretty packaging

by whitewirestudio

“A cover, like it or not, sets the mood for a book,” says John Lundberg in a recent article on Huffington Post entitled, Sometimes It’s Okay To Judge A Book By Its Cover.

True story. While I’ve never not bought a book I already wanted because of the cover, I have certainly felt less pleasure from handling a book that I find to be dreadfully designed. And on the flip side, I have bought a book because of its cover. Lundberg speaks specifically about poetry books:

That’s because reading poetry is something of a ceremony for me. I want it to be quiet. I want to feel stress free. And, at the risk of seeming high-maintenance, I want to do it with a hot cup of coffee. All of this helps me to meditate on poems, and great poems should be meditated on. Here’s how Wallace Stevens put it in his poem “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm”:

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

At the end of the day, it comes down to content, sure. But sometimes things just make you happier the way they’re presented… and the way they’re presented can affect content. Most people work better (and are in better spirits) when they are free of the cold cubicle—even if they have the same materials available to them. I get more satisfaction from sitting in a big comfy chair listening to music with headphones and flipping through the cd packaging than I do downloading anything from iTunes. And I would rather not sip coffee in a shop that’s blowing serious air conditioning with hotel paintings on the wall. It’s all the same content, but the presentation can sometimes weigh the most on your experience.

I’ve had a couple conversations recently regarding the whole ebook convert thing. And we’ll see what happens… but I just simply don’t see it as an equally pleasurable experience to holding the paper in your hand, with the carefully typeset words on the paper, with the (hopefully lovely) cover that encases the words on the paper. It’s a whole package and I like it that way.