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Do Book Covers Count?

March 15, 2019

You know how the old saying – never judge a book by its cover – is meant to remind us that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and that looks can be deceiving?When it comes to books however, it turns out that looks do, indeed, matter a great deal.

It’s happened to the best of us: we’ve seen a cover displayed in a book store window so stunning that it could very well be featured in an art gallery. Our immediate impulse is to buy it, even before we’ve turned it over to read the blurb. Why is it that we are so drawn to certain book covers?

The truth is, a cover can make or break a book.  After all, there are hundreds of thousands of books on the market, and the cover is a book’s chance to stand out, to make a first impression. According to research, most people decide whether or not to buy a book within the first 90 seconds of seeing it – well before they have even turned the cover to read the first page.

Humans are, by nature, visual creatures. Often, we read visual cues more clearly than we interpret words, which is why sometimes we can tell we will enjoy a book simply by looking at its cover. For example, certain colours are associated with particular genres – romance novels are typically pink or red, whilst thriller and horror novels are often darker hues of blue and green. Colours are associated with emotions – if we see a colour that makes us feel safe and warm, for example, a yellow-coloured cover – then we can assume that the book is a light-hearted, feel good book.

Book covers are important because they offer a glimpse of what’s inside. Flowers on the cover insinuate that the book features a lush natural landscape; large slashes or tears across the page suggest violence or destruction; a male or female figure implies a story that is character-focused and driven. There are many cues that covers offer about the book that impact our decision to either pick it up or leave it behind on the shelf.

So, the next time you go book shopping, take note of how certain covers, colours, and images make you feel – you may start to notice a pattern, and will soon realise that the age-old adage of ‘never judge a book by its cover’ isn’t the best advice when searching for your next read.


  1. maree hones

    I read somewhere that people are drawn to blue covers, same morning U went to bookstore and coincidently bought a blue book.

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