Sep 27 2009
These images are the covers to ebooks from Random House, Pocket, and Berkley.
I’m a big champion of ebooks, obviously, but there are all kinds of problems with ebooks from the expensive hardware to the ridiculous number of formats and DRM encryption schemes. Those are issues that publishers may not be willing to address right now because of certain business decisions but there are quality issues with the books themselves that publishers should start addressing.
For some reason, many print publishers have this belief that readers of ebooks don’t want the color cover that print readers get. Not only do readers of ebooks get shafted on the color cover, they don’t get back cover copy or a stepback picture. Digital consumers like pictures too.
I’ve heard that the reason that publishers aren’t including the color cover copy is because the digital readers are black and white. Given that 50% of consumers of digital books are reading from a laptop and a significant portion are using the iPhone or iTouch, that excuse simply doesn’t fly. When I first started buying ebooks, there were no commercial readers on the market. It was either buying an eBookwise on the secondary market (production had been halted on those devices) or reading on my laptop. I read on my laptop.
The odd thing is that sometimes you get color covers from some publishers and other times you do not. It’s like there is no quality control in the generation of an ebook. Take, for example, the Jill Sorenson book. Random House won’t provide the color cover, but it does provide two other images that are in the paper book:
iTunes recognized that digital images of the albums were visual signifiers of music and bought Cover Flow technology back in 2006. iTunes allows you to manually add album covers for each individual song or for the entire album.
Epublishers know that a good cover for an ebook is just as important as a good cover for a print book yet publishers seem to think that if you’ve bought a digital book, you aren’t entitled to a cover copy. Some programs will allow you to add a cover (like Stanza) but often you are simply stuck with whatever format and design the pubs give to you. You’ll notice that when you browse an etailer such as Sony, Books on Board, and Sony, that they all use the original cover art instead of the bland cover art included with the ebook file.
The important thing for pubs to remember is digital consumers are not undiscerning. We just prefer a different format. Being on the internet doesn’t change our affinity for visual stimulation. If anything, we’ve become more accustomed to interesting graphics and interactive multi media now that we use the internet as our primary source of information.
It seems even more unreasonable to not include these images when the images are available in digital format already and because we digital readers have to endure the awful DRM, the ridiculous pricing (looking at you, St. Martin’s Press), and the lack of standards in the industry.
Step 1 for publishers in creating quality ebooks is to include the front cover copy, the back cover copy and, if there is a stepback, then a stepback. Publishers like Harlequin, Hachette, and Avon are doing a fairly good job of providing the color cover but I want to see the back cover copy and stepbacks in the digital file as well. Can it really be that much more effort to include these files in the digital book?