eBooks in the last two years have started to adopt strong multimedia elements. Many of the eTextbooks and comic books have animation, video, audio, and tutorials. Barnes and Noble is seeing great success with their line of animated children’s books that have “read aloud” features. The next generation of ebooks will expand on this technology and give authors many tools to customize their layouts with CSS3, HTML5, and ePub 3. The one element that has severely lagged behind is the ebook cover art.
We have extensively documented the importance of ebook cover art and spoke to many of the top publishing companies and self-published authors about it. Not a single person talked about how stagnant cover art really is. As ebooks are quickly evolving to incorporate more media, ebook cover art displayed on major bookstores are small singular images. There are a few advancements that need to be made in order to have a broader appeal and increase an author’s profile.
The main element is for online retailers that sell ebooks to get behind this idea as a unique selling point that will give the users a greater experience beyond just a static image. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Sony need to revise their ebook display system and bring it up to modern standards. This will give users a strong sense of what the book is all about.
The other primary barrier is advanced author tools that will allow people to create complex images and programing code in a neat little package. Many online companies offer ebook cover art generators and easy point and click interfaces.
So why should ebook cover art change at all? I think its important to think of the small media elements that can be displayed. Imagine a paranormal romance novel with a heroine on the cover, standing on a tall building, while the city is in flames. Sounds like a standard image used in a number of books. If one of these books had the flames flickering and maybe the clouds moving above her, this would grab people’s attention. Alternatively, you could have a book trailer ready to be played if a user clicks on the cover art image. This would give the customer a strong visual cue on what the book is about, without having to read the reviews.
Cover art should incorporate media elements that would allow authors to be distinctive and give them an advantage over the competition. Companies like Amazon and Kobo already have HTML5 based Cloud Reader apps that let you read books on any browser on a PC, MAC, iPad, or most tablets. It would be fairly easy from a programming point of view to make a system to display media based cover art. Companies like Book Tango offer easy online tools for authors to construct their book and have a DIY Cover Art Maker. It would ideally be 3rd party companies like this to offer the ability for authors to easily make interactive or animated cover art.
Cover art, in essence, is just a still image and different companies provide you with a maximum width and height. This has honestly not changed in the last six years with a strong resurgence in digital publishing. Comic books have Adopted Augmented Reality and eBooks play full on video, audio, and have interactive maps. Books can read to you and you can sync them with your audiobooks. The best we have right now is a few ebooks with animated GIF images playing on a loop, but many bookstores can’t even handle these. Something needs to change.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.