Despite being taught not to judge a book by its cover; when the metaphors are out the window, we all judge books by their covers. Book shops are full of novels and biographies with thousands of typography variants, surface textures and colours just asking us to pull them from the shelf and look inside.

Covers don’t hold as much power over readers in the digital world (yet), they are barely seen at all and when they are they’re not big enough to grab your attention and pull you in, we often turn to peer reviews and rating systems to act as our new cover. The failure to transition well to digital is not a flaw in covers as a concept, instead it’s our own reluctance to re-write the rule book when new technologies arise that can be blamed for the down-grading of the cover.

As a society we like the comfort of the known, for this reason covers have merely been replicated into digital format rather than analysed, broken down and reconstructed to be the best they can be for digital reading experience.

Pelican books are challenging this natural inclination to follow what we know, they’re re-writing the cover rule book and showing exactly how to shake things up in digital publishing.

As part of their new fully-responsive website which allows you to demo and purchase Pelican non-fiction publications the covers are subtly woven throughout each reading experience.

Pelican digital book cover

As well as having a cover at the beginning, each chapter has it’s own cover which follows a similar design. This is all part of Pelicans attempt to make the cover a continuous concept rather than a static page-replica. Pelican book designer Matt Young put it this way in an interview with Creative Review

With Pelican, the cover is echoed throughout the entire book: each chapter begins with a full-page/full-screen chapter opener, acting as an important visual signpost and echoing the cover, reinforcing the brand and the series style.

Pelican digital book cover

The colours and style of the cover are continued through the body text, with a fixed bar along the top and highlighting tools which use the cover colours to continue the “look” of the book.

Pelican digital book cover

One thing I would say about Pelican’s re-imagination of the cover is that it works well for the companies simple but beautiful styling, however I wonder if it would translate well to publishing houses who use more complex covers concepts? and if there’s a need for this design creativity in text-heavy books or whether their idea is better suited for the magazine industry?

Despite these lingering thoughts Pelican have really got the concept of digital publishing becoming much more than words on a page, the flow and style of the new covers has brought the question of how covers can better-translate into digital formats to the table in a new way. We’re always one for mixing up the rule book and questioning how publishing can be re-imagined for the digital world. So for this reason alone we think Pelican are making a step in the right direction.

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