Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Undercover with book covers

One of the greatest losses in the publishing shift from print to digital is cover art. An image on your screen, if a given eBook even has one, is not any more special than the myriad images on any device: app icons, desktop backgrounds, photos on Flickr, Facebook pictures. It's just a 2D, mechanized visual.

But book jacket design is an art unto itself. There are countless blogs and roundups devoted to cover art, and when the designs are good- they're good. They're clever, heartfelt and, above all, truly artistic. Book covers make the book. Even if a volume is clothed in unadorned cardboard-brown, like some old hardcovers I have, that starkness and adherence to historical publishing holds significance for my reading.

Imagine ideas like these below in palpable form, an integrated part of your reading experience as you crack open and close the book at each reading. Also... they're just cool:

Given the paradigm shift in publishing, the company Out of Print Clothing is preserving cover art in the form of wearable books. From their mission statement:

"Out of Print celebrates the world’s great stories through fashion. Our shirts feature iconic and often out of print book covers. Each shirt is treated to feel soft and worn like a well-read book. How we read is changing as we move further into the digital age. It's unclear what the role of the book cover will be in this new era, but we feel it's more important than ever to reflect on our own individual experiences with great literary art before it's forever changed."
Some examples of their products:

Preservation of original edition covers in a format that physically connects the art to the reader promises to salvage for posterity at least this one aspect of traditional publishing.

Magazine covers, I think, weigh less on my reading experience since on average they're driven as much by marketing as art. Celebrity photograph + catchy headlines + vivid color scheme, in some combination, = sales. Nevertheless, the Swedish company T-Post is getting on board with the wearable text concept, with "the world's first wearable magazine".

According to Folio, each "issue", delivered every six weeks, is a graphic T-shirt with a news story printed on the inside and a graphic artist’s interpretation on the front.

It's weird. But it's artistic, and it's inventive, and along with book cover T-shirts, it may be one of publishing's guardian angels. We'll take what we can get.

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