NABOKV-L post 0018906, Fri, 4 Dec 2009 09:52:54 -0500

By All Means, Judge These Books by Their (New) Covers ...

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By All Means, Judge These Books by Their (New) Covers

by Claire Howorth
December 3, 2009, 12:01 AM

This fall, bookshelves are as colorful as the changing foliage, thanks to the decision by several publishers to roll out redesigns of beloved titles. “Publishers realize that we are catering to readers, including students, who are more design-savvy and more visual. In a competitive marketplace, the challenge is to get the consumer to spot your book and pick it up,” says Elda Rotor, the editorial director of Penguin Classics.

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Vintage designer John Gall says, “Vintage Contemporaries had a very New Wave style that eventually grew to be not very contemporary. As more and more books were published in these imprints, a sense of sameness took over. We began to give new books an individual look to separate them from the backlist. We also started to break out the individual authors to give them each a look of their own. The recent Richard Fords are part of that, as are the new Nabokovs and many others.”

Indeed, the body of work of Vladimir Nabokov, one of Vintage’s royals, has been redesigned under a new theme, each title in the same warm gray. “The concept is based on Nabokov’s love of butterfly collecting,” says Gall. “Each cover is a specimen-like box filled using only paper and insect pins. I asked 20 designers to interpret each title. What beautiful butterflies they produced!”

Vintage publicist Sloane Crosley adds, “Looking at the Nabokovs in particular, it’s hard to push aside the ‘collect ’em all’ mentality. Luckily, they’re paperback, so it’s not a bank-breaking proposition to own them all.”

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Surely the authors—at least, those who are still alive—couldn’t be anything but flattered by the fawning attention their publishers have spent on these titles. Some are more than pleased. Says Gall of the most entertaining Vintage jacket response, “Chuck Palahniuk once responded that he liked a cover designed by Rodrigo Corral so much that it made him pee. I think it was Chuck. Well, it should have been Chuck.”

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