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Booky Thoughts - Katie Mead-Green: Judging a Book by its Cover

Liz Robinson

By Liz Robinson on 23rd June 2020

We really are enjoying hearing from our members and reader reviewer ambassadors in our Booky Thoughts blog features. Covering all ages, from lovers of kids books, to young adult, and adult, thoughts are spilling out about all things books. We last heard from Linda Hill with her fun and interesting piece titled Linda’s Literary Loves, where she pondered the possibility of a virtual dating agency for characters from different books. This time Katie Mead-Green takes the stage. Katie talks about judging a book by its cover, and particularly focuses on social media and how people can be influenced. Thanks Katie, what a fascinating piece, you have certainly made me think!

Name: Katie Mead-Green 

Bio: Katie Mead-Green has always loved reading, with her nose stuck in a book for much of her childhood. She loves reading all sorts, but is particularly drawn to young adult fiction. 

Throughout school, Katie has participated in creative writing clubs, book clubs and poetry readings in order to exercise her interest in literature, with English being her favourite subject. She has even had the opportunity to read her work at Words In The City, performing in front of poets and authors.  

Later on, she set up an Instagram in 2016, displaying her love of photography and reading. During this current time, Katie has had a chance to invest more time in this hobby, using it now to review the books she reads for her followers. Alongside this, Katie is a LoveReading Ambassador, as well as helping out with LoveReading’s social media content. 

Instagram: @flutterby2016 

Judging a Book by its Cover

In this current climate, many of us have been hopelessly scrolling through Instagram, Pinterest and online bookstores, or even utilising the LoveReading digital bookshelf, to dreamily look at the virtual world of books, adding those we fancy to our shopping carts for a rainy day. These types of images (see below) are commonplace in book photography, influencers posting them on their accounts and encouraging this ‘reading aesthetic’, leaving us wishing that’s what our lives could look like. This got me thinking about whether we, as readers, do actually judge a book by its cover, and whether the ‘aesthetic of reading’ influences how many of us are reading and the ways in which we read.

As a millennial, I have never known a world without the internet. I first became aware of social media after a friend who I was moving away from introduced it to me so that we could keep in touch. Since then, like many, I have been sucked down a virtual rabbit hole, my mobile phone meaning I’m never not connected to the internet, making it a consistent part of my daily routine. As soon as I finish a book, I log my progress on social media - and then I immediately search for another book to fall in love with. I believe many people of my age and older do the same, making the online book community so welcoming and exciting! 

A few years back, one of my favourite past times was walking around a bookshop on a Saturday afternoon and writing down a ‘book bucket list’ based on the covers that caught my eye. This is actually how I’ve discovered some of my most favourite books, including Am I Normal Yet? By Holly Bourne. As I browse the spines lined up on a shelf in a bookshop, a title will capture my attention, or the colours used, or even a particular style of typography will all catch my eye, leading me to pick up the book and reading the blurb to find out more. For the case of Am I Normal Yet?, the inverted colours, the cover being black and the text being white, as well as the multiple-choice boxes, similar to those we can find in teenage magazines all caught my attention. This cover definitely affected the way I read the book, due to the issues of mental health covered, and the taboo attached to it. However, sometimes I do wish I could redesign the cover to match the way I felt about a book when reading it. 

So, do we all secretly judge books by their covers? Often, if I'm on the fence about reading a book, the cover will definitely sway me one way or the other. Particular elements really draw me in within the graphic design of a book, such as when it has a matte finish cover, or when the text is embossed or reflective, with these features being especially critical when I’m buying the physical book, as opposed to the ebook or audio version. Does anyone else feel this way? 

Seemingly so, with the rise of ‘bookstagrams’ (social media influencers who blog and post about books on their profiles), which depict this overall aesthetic of reading. A search for the 'bookstagram' hashtag presents over 42 million posts dedicated to books - reading them, drinking coffee with them, decorating shelves with them. Evidently, reading has never been cooler. And perhaps this ‘reading aesthetic’ encourages more people to read, also allowing us to feel a sense of community with those who loved the same books. It’s the best feeling to finish a book and find a community online who love it just as much as you do. 

It seems that the rise of ‘bookstagrams’ has also encouraged more young people to read, with the number of Young Adult titles published having more than doubled in the decade between 2002 and 2012, the numbers going from 4,700 to 10,000, suggesting a huge demand for the genre. With the likes of Zoe Sugg, among other social media influencers, encouraging the act of reading on their own platforms, it seems that more than ever people are enjoying literature. In 2016, one of the biggest influencers in the UK, Zoe Sugg, better known as Zoella, set up her own book club, which is still active today. Originally the club featured 8 books, all sold through WHSmith with specially designed covers for the release. According to The BBC reports, one of the featured books, Beautiful Broken Things, had increased its sales on Amazon by 95% and entered the top 100 Bestsellers list. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon entered the retailers’ top 20 Bestsellers list, jumping from 1,101 to 14th place. Other books including All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell also all reportedly jumped positions by over 1,000%. These huge rises in sales as a result of a recommendation by a social media influencer perhaps indicates how more young people are reading, and reading because someone they look up to does, and perhaps also because of the beautiful limited edition covers released.

So, do you judge a book by its cover? Are you more likely to read something that is aesthetically appealing? Do you think the rise of book centred social media has meant reading has a wider audience? Let me know in the comments below! 

Resources: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/zoella-youtube-book-club-sales-rocket-a7074886.html

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