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Computer Book Covers are Nuts

Friday 11 June, 2004 (11:52AM GMT)

"Hmm. I can't decide which book to buy with my pocket money. I know! I'll go with the one with the cover I like!"

People in the publishing industry know it, I know it and you know it - people will invariably, to one degree or another, judge a book by its cover.

There must be something special about web design book covers though (maybe computer books in general - I'm just going on my experience) because, well, they strike me as being kind of nuts. I'm not saying they're necessarily bad, they just, well, strike me as being different on the whole. Maybe there's some kind of special formula. I'm no expert. If anyone could enlighten me I'd be grateful...

Take "More Eric Meyer on CSS" for example. I received it in the post a while back and ripped open the packaging to be faced with the book cover. I stopped panicking when I looked around and realised I hadn't actually lost the ability to see colours with a green or blue wavelength and then I saw three Eric Meyers looking kinda mischievous. Like Michel Keaton in "Multiplicity". What? Why?

The cover to Joe Clark's "Building Accessible Websites" still confuses me. What is going on there? It's like a sadistic episode of Robotic ER or something. "OK. Clear! Stat! Let's rip open this robot's chest! Swab! Scalpel! Oh my GAAAAAD! IT'S A GAPING CHASM WITH A BOOK TITLE IN IT!"

As for that "Whatever for Dummies" ubiquitous patronising cartoon man that adorns every other cover in the computer section of a bookstore, he needs a big cartoon slap.

Young, slim, unblemished, attractive. They're usually the kind of attributes you find in people exploited to encourage people to buy one product or another. I'm guessing that pretty people sell (whether it's right or wrong is another matter - we're talking about business here). But it must be different for computer books. Why else would Wrox insist on plastering a huge photo of a balding chubby man with a big beard, not tucked away in the corner of the fifth page of the book, but POW! Right there in your face on the front cover?

Now I'd understand it more if, like certain hip-hop album covers, said beardy bloke was sitting on a throne, smoking a Cuban cigar, adorned with chunky diamond jewellery and dressed in a baggy Adidas tracksuit with one arm around a golden keyboard and one arm around a scantly-clad buxom "ho" (or three). That'd be funny. I'd buy a book with that cover even if it were about something I had no interest in. Oops. There I go judging a book by its cover...


Comment 1

It sounds like you just dissed nearly every type of cover.
Would your cover be the picture on your website?

So said Bill Creswell on Friday 11 June, 2004 at 12:24PM GMT.

Comment 2

No dissing intended... erm... really.

I quite like the hip-hop approach. Or maybe a Mills & Boon style quick and nasty rip off painting of the Gone With The Wind poster.

So said Patrick on Friday 11 June, 2004 at 12:33PM GMT.

Comment 3

Is that really Eric Meyer on the front cover of his book?!? I thought it was a model...

So said [Anon] on Friday 11 June, 2004 at 12:43PM GMT.

Comment 4

And that's why O'Reilly books have pictures of animals on them.

Incidentally, did anyone else notice the similarity between the cover of "Building Accessible Websites" and a certain image on a, er... highly unpleasant, infamous website?

So said Mark Harmstone on Friday 11 June, 2004 at 12:46PM GMT.

Comment 5

The "Building Accessible Websites" cover by Matt Mahurin, is explained in the Colophon under the "Graphic design" sudheading:

But I can see what you mean about computer book covers. Though I think there are exceptions to the rule such as the Friends of Ed Series or 37 Signals' Defensive Design.

So said dez on Friday 11 June, 2004 at 1:24PM GMT.

Comment 6

So it is. Didn't look very hard did I? :)

"The hands ... symbolically “demystify” accessibility and open a metaphorical portal to an accessible technological future." So says Joe.

Good good.

I still can't get the robots chest out of my mind though....

So said Patrick on Friday 11 June, 2004 at 1:35PM GMT.

Comment 7

It's metaphorical.

So said Joe Clark on Friday 11 June, 2004 at 3:01PM GMT.

Comment 8

Strangely, that cover reminds me of this Add N To X album cover:

But in reverse. That's some deep, poigniant, metaphorical type action, Joe. Im going to have to have a think about that.

So said Dan Webb on Friday 11 June, 2004 at 3:22PM GMT.

Comment 9

You are so right about those Wrox covers, and others like it! I'm sorry, but if I had any of those books, I think I'd keep them hidden all the time, embarrassed to be seen reading them in public. Let's face it, a great deal of people in the computer industry are not attractive (not saying all - I know several good-looking software developers). It's perfectly reasonable for them to forgo regular exercise, nice clothes, good haircuts and such, in favor of more lofty intellectual pursuits, but please don't put them on the cover, in that case! Even if I were model-beautiful, I don't think I'd want my face plastered so prominently on the cover of a book.

O'Reilly books are fine. Nice drawings of animals are good. There are a ton of great web site designs out there, why can't computer book covers look like those? A nice color palette with pleasing fonts? Corny pictures are not necessary.

So said Jennifer Grucza on Friday 11 June, 2004 at 10:07PM GMT.

Comment 10

Exactly, it's a goatse parody.

So said joe on Saturday 12 June, 2004 at 10:33AM GMT.

Comment 11

ptg said "I quite like the hip-hop approach. Or maybe a Mills & Boon style quick and nasty rip off painting of the Gone With The Wind poster. "

I was not dissing you either - I wanted to see you design the cover for your "forthcoming book" (doesn't everyone have a book in mind that they don''t have time to write?)

So said Bill Creswell on Saturday 12 June, 2004 at 1:39PM GMT.

Comment 12

I've just started on my copy of 'Designing With Web Standards', by Badly Drawn Boy.

So said Adam Taylor on Monday 14 June, 2004 at 10:52AM GMT.

Comment 13

Oh man, I thought I was going to be the only person who thought it looked like the goatse guys, uh, stuff. Oh how the internet has ruined me so.

So said Danny on Thursday 8 September, 2005 at 3:50PM GMT.

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