PARIS, Nov 28 — With the holidays just around the corner, many people are on the hunt for books to offer as gifts. While some are familiar with the literary tastes of their loved ones, others seek inspiration on the shelves of bookstores. The latter, for the most part, base their purchasing decisions on book covers.

Some 57 per cent of Americans choose to buy or read a book based on its cover, according to a ThriftBooks/One Poll survey*. While this choice may seem risky, it seems to satisfy readers. Indeed, 96 per cent of those surveyed said that the books they had selected on the basis of their cover had more than met their expectations.

These figures show just how much the success of a book depends, in part, on the attractiveness of its cover. The cover must be sufficiently striking to catch the eye, without giving away too much about the contents of the book. Three in ten respondents say that the cover is the most important factor in their decision to buy a book for someone else. In comparison, only 9 per cent and 10 per cent of respondents rely on the author or literary genre to determine whether a book would make a good gift.

Publishers are aware of this phenomenon, and are increasingly looking for bold designs for their covers. However, they have to contend with consumers’ very distinct preferences in this field. For example, the vast majority don’t like book covers that are too plain (61 per cent), or that use a typeface they don’t like (56 per cent).


The illustration chosen by the publisher also plays an important role: 52 per cent of Americans would not buy a book whose cover did not match its literary genre. Many also dislike covers that feature the poster from the movie it inspired (49 per cent). This is all the more surprising given that 67 per cent of readers surveyed said they only read novels or works of non-fiction that have been adapted for the big or small screen.

More generally, 80 per cent of respondents admitted that they had avoided buying a book because of its outward appearance. As such, it turns out people really do tend to judge a book by its cover. — ETX Studio

*This survey was carried out by OnePoll on behalf of the ThriftBooks website, among 2,000 US adults aged 18 and over. Data was collected between October 10 and 17, 2023.