January 25, 2013: Judging A Book By Its Cover

A few months ago, I wrote about Random House of Canada’s planned Books Are Beautiful collection featuring 30 titles from the publisher’s backlist reissued with a single-colour Books 165text-only cover treatment and billed as a “celebration of the physical book as objet d’art“. The collection is now available for sale (only at Chapters Indigo stores… not exactly a celebration of Canada’s independent literary spirit) and I think we can all agree that the collection’s effect is quite pleasing, both as individual objects and as a Pantone-inspired set. And while I haven’t found a complete list of titles and authors, it looks like a pretty great collection of serious fiction.

yellow spinesBut what was stressing me out, if you recall, was how they were going to decide what colour they would assign to each title. As you can see from the picture, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures is a mustardy yellow, which makes no sense to me whatsoever. (Shouldn’t it be dark red?)

A little digging revealed that the colours were assigned in an almost indiscriminate manner by Random House of Canada’s Creative Director. He apparently chose 30 colours arbitrarily and then made a second pass to ensure that the colours fit the tone and content of each book. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time went from bright yellow to deep plummy blue. At least that colour choice makes sense.purple spines But The Satanic Verses in a grassy green? Not so much. Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland, which I haven’t read but understand to be a story about loneliness, is a shocking hot pink. Doesn’t really work for me. Black Swan Green is neither black nor green… I could go on. It’s really all about not judging a book by its cover.

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