View Full Version : Custom e-book covers - would you like them?


Alexander Turcic
09-15-2008, 06:03 PM
We're always being told that you can't - or shouldn't - judge a book by its cover; nevertheless, sometimes cover art may say a great deal about the content of a book (such as, for instance, it's theme, sub-genre, or mood). Many of the e-books you can download freely from the Net don't come with a cover. Which begs the question: Would you be interested in producing your own covers for your favorite books?

MobileReader Paul "pdurrant" takes the idea one step further, contemplating (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=27460) over a new forum section dedicated to the producing and uploading of custom e-book covers.

What do you think? Could we together manage such an effort?

PS: I thank Paul for his infinite patience in dealing with my forgetfulness. :2thumbsup

zelda_pinwheel
09-15-2008, 06:06 PM
yes please. :)

kovidgoyal
09-15-2008, 06:30 PM
You can get covers for (most?) new ebooks from amazon/wikipedia.

pdurrant
09-15-2008, 06:37 PM
My main machine is a Macintosh. As there isn't a Mobipocket Reader program for Mac, I only ever saw the covers of eBooks briefly when first reading the book on my PDA.

When I got a CyBook, covers became a little bit more important, because thumnails of the covers were displayed in the library view.

Then I wrote a QuickLook* plug-in for Mobipocket eBooks, and eBook covers suddenly became very important. Instead of generic document icons, my eBook archive on my Mac now used the eBook covers for icons and in CoverFlow view.

Flipping through the eBooks with CoverFlow became enjoyable. The new views also helped identify me to identify books correctly, as the covers naturally show both title and author, while plain file names can't do both well.

With some image editing software and the MobiPerl tools, I could add new covers to my books that had poor covers, but then I wanted to find a way to solve two problems:

1) How to share the covers I made with others
2) How to get more artistically inclined people to share their pretty covers with me

A new forum at MobileRead seemed the obvious solution. I'll be very interested to see what others think.


We're always being told that you can't - or shouldn't - judge a book by its cover; nevertheless, sometimes cover art may say a great deal about the content of a book (such as, for instance, it's theme, sub-genre, or mood).

*QuickLook is a Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) method for displaying the contents of files, with new file formats being supported by small plug-ins added to the system.

pdurrant
09-15-2008, 06:39 PM
And for the commercial eBooks, this is often what I do. Although finding a high-res version that hasn't been horribly compressed can be hard.

I'm really thinking of a covers forum for the many out-of-copyright eBooks that are uploaded to the eBook forums here. Many have no cover or a very plain solid-colour-background-and-text cover.

You can get covers for (most?) new ebooks from amazon/wikipedia.

TadW
09-15-2008, 06:45 PM
I don't think this applies to out-of-copyright ebooks, but at least for the new books that you can find on Amazon, there are ways to fetch cover images in better quality. Check here for more:

http://aaugh.com/imageabuse.html

and here:

http://www.majordojo.com/projects/amazon-image-hacks.php

nekokami
09-15-2008, 08:54 PM
I might be able to occasionally contribute some covers to such a forum.

JSWolf
09-15-2008, 08:59 PM
If I am looking for a decent cover for an eBook I am converting (commercial) that either has a poor cover, no cover, or a small cover, I go to Fictionwise or BooksOnBoard as most covers are 680 pixels lontg which looks fin when stretched to fit full screen on my 505.

Snowman
09-15-2008, 09:24 PM
What I've been hunting round for is some nicely designed blanks onto which I could superimpose the title and author.

I've actually been using the fictionwise "classic" cover, which I rather like. Although with this image, there is not enough space to add a title and author without spoiling the look of the whole thing.

RWood
09-16-2008, 12:21 AM
Most of the ebooks that I have uploaded to the MR download section have covers. Some are, regretfully, just text of title and writer(s) on a color background. (The Sony PC software does shows color even when the Reader does not.) Most have a graphic related to either the book or the writer(s). Some were far better. All were branded with the then current MobileRead logo. I have higher quality JPEGs of these covers. Most are 2126 x 2830 pixels. If anyone wants them I will gladly post them.

curtw
09-16-2008, 01:16 AM
I like these (http://www.classicscentral.com/1-13p.htm). All my PD faves. They look cool in "coverflow" fashion as well. Look! It's Bobby Sherman as Hamlet!

http://www.classicscentral.com/pc2/pc2-99.jpg

Over
09-16-2008, 06:40 AM
Covers are important. But they can be found in many internet sources. But for those titles you can't really find a cover, it's a good idea to make one.

But be careful about copyrights, when using pictures.

Dr. Drib
09-16-2008, 09:07 AM
Covers are important. But they can be found in many internet sources. But for those titles you can't really find a cover, it's a good idea to make one.

But be careful about copyrights, when using pictures.


I agree entirely with your summary statement.

When I assemble books for the upload section, I take the time to locate covers that I feel are suitable.

The internet has so many choices. Many of my favorite places are bookmarked for the specific purpose of using an old out-of-copyright cover.

Don

Dr. Drib
09-16-2008, 09:09 AM
You can get covers for (most?) new ebooks from amazon/wikipedia.

Yes, we can get them, but are they appropriate and are they the best choice?

I think what I'm reading in this thread is about covers that can be produced; it would be a kind of catalogue that we could draw from.

Now, having said that, I wonder at the viability of such an endeavor. How would this work, for example?

How would this Forum be indexed for quick access?

Personally, what I would like to see is a VERY simple program to position text onto a cover of my choosing.....a very simple program. After that, I would use "Insert" from BookDesigner.



Don

gnawingonfoot
09-19-2008, 12:54 PM
I appreciate a good cover. I look over the covers of books to help me transition into more of a reading-oriented mood and to reflect on and recall what I read last time I picked up the book. It'd be nice to see some device-specific covers too, as I can seldom even make out the titles on the covers of books in my tiny 160x160 pixel 256-color z22 screen. I'd love to take a shot at pixeling some smaller stuff out.

DMcCunney
09-21-2008, 04:25 PM
Now, having said that, I wonder at the viability of such an endeavor. How would this work, for example?

How would this Forum be indexed for quick access?
You can't make a cover without a book. Various folks have volunteered to take a shot at making covers. What we need are requests from folks producing books who need them. I don't see a point to making a cover "on spec" for a particular title, hoping someone might wish to use it.

If folks in the process of creating books for upload here would care to place requests in this forum, those who were inspired could produce covers.

Personally, what I would like to see is a VERY simple program to position text onto a cover of my choosing.....a very simple program. After that, I would use "Insert" from BookDesigner.
Define "very simple".

I'm not aware of a graphics editor specialized in putting type overlays on images. Those that do such things do it as one of a larger range of editing functions.

The free, open source Paint.NET program for Windows will let you overlay type on an image. Whether it's suitable depends on how much control you need. You can select from available fonts on your system, and choose size, weight, and attributes (like bold, italics, and underline. Type may be left or right justified or centered. You don't get control over things like leading and kerning. For that sort of control, I pull a selected image into a full DTP program, but that's likely more than you want.

Paint.NET is here: http://www.getpaint.net
It requires the Microsoft .NET 2.0 framework, which is free from MS.
______
Dennis

Elsi
09-21-2008, 07:22 PM
What I've done with the Bobbsey Twin books is to use the same basic graphic -- taken from one of the earliest books and then update the book title using a font very similar to the original. The first image is the scan of the original book cover. The second image is one that I twiddled in PaintShop Pro and added a different title.

On a similar topic, I'd love to have a couple of sample title pages shared. I've seen a couple of very well made ones in books downloaded from here, but of course when I'm thinking of them, I can't put my hands on them! In particular, I am impressed with the title pages that contain the MobileRead logo, since I'd like to make sure that anyone who winds up with a book that I've contributed is led back to the site.

pdurrant
09-22-2008, 05:23 AM
That's a good technique that I've used as well. It often pays to search hard for a good image - one out of copyright if we're going to be uploading here - and for a good quality version of the image too.

Here's my version of the cover you did, done by finding a higher-quality version of the cover image*, with a little adjustment of levels in photoshop and adding new text to replace the rather battered text in the original image.

Adding a MobileRead logo seems like a good idea. If there a high-quality version around that we can use?

Paul

* www.abebooks.com is a good place to look, by restricting the search to books with bookseller supplied photos.

What I've done with the Bobbsey Twin books is to use the same basic graphic -- taken from one of the earliest books and then update the book title using a font very similar to the original. The first image is the scan of the original book cover. The second image is one that I twiddled in PaintShop Pro and added a different title.

On a similar topic, I'd love to have a couple of sample title pages shared. I've seen a couple of very well made ones in books downloaded from here, but of course when I'm thinking of them, I can't put my hands on them! In particular, I am impressed with the title pages that contain the MobileRead logo, since I'd like to make sure that anyone who winds up with a book that I've contributed is led back to the site.

zelda_pinwheel
09-22-2008, 07:24 PM
That's a good technique that I've used as well. It often pays to search hard for a good image - one out of copyright if we're going to be uploading here - and for a good quality version of the image too.

Here's my version of the cover you did, done by finding a higher-quality version of the cover image*, with a little adjustment of levels in photoshop and adding new text to replace the rather battered text in the original image.

Adding a MobileRead logo seems like a good idea. Is there a high-quality version around that we can use?

Paul

* www.abebooks.com is a good place to look, by restricting the search to books with bookseller supplied photos.
there is a pdf (*gasp* !!) attached to the first post in the "meetups how-to" thread, specifically for making signs so members can find each other. it's of course ginormous for this use, but it is a vector format and could really easily be scaled down.

lovely covers, Paul.

Elsi
09-22-2008, 09:01 PM
Here's my version of the cover you did, done by finding a higher-quality version of the cover image*, with a little adjustment of levels in photoshop and adding new text to replace the rather battered text in the original image
Hey thanks. I'll download yours and poke at them a bit. I went ahead and changed the image that I had to 4-level greyscale instead of relying on the device to do it for me. Wonder what that would do to the images you posted?

pdurrant
09-23-2008, 03:42 AM
That's a good question - sometimes the auto conversion can be poor because the cover is mostly color contrasts rather than intensity contrast. But in general I've found that the CyBook's conversion is as good as manual conversion.

Also, JPEGs don't encode 2-bit greyscale, they reconvert to 8-bit greyscale, so to keep the exact conversion to 2-bit you need to save as GIF. And a 600x800 2-bit GIF is 120K before GIF compression comes into play, which means that not all such pictures will make it under the 61KB limit.

In short, I've found that keeping it at full colour and using JPEG compression is more reliable and gives as good results as a manual conversion to 2-bit greyscale. And it means that the covers will also look good on colour eBook readers.

Paul

Hey thanks. I'll download yours and poke at them a bit. I went ahead and changed the image that I had to 4-level greyscale instead of relying on the device to do it for me. Wonder what that would do to the images you posted?

pdurrant
09-23-2008, 03:56 AM
Splendid - a proper vector graphics is ideal and it's in this thread:

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=27142

I've tried it out, and found that there wasn't a white background inside the outline, so I've added one to make it stand out a bit better on images. Perhaps I ought to also cut-out the interior of the letters, as that much white looks a bit odd, but it's good enough for now.

Here it is added to the Bobbsey Twins so people can see how it looks.

there is a pdf (*gasp* !!) attached to the first post in the "meetups how-to" thread, specifically for making signs so members can find each other. it's of course ginormous for this use, but it is a vector format and could really easily be scaled down.

lovely covers, Paul.

DMcCunney
09-23-2008, 10:26 AM
Here it is added to the Bobbsey Twins so people can see how it looks.
It looks good, but the normal placement is on the title page, not the book cover.
______
Dennis

pdurrant
09-23-2008, 02:11 PM
I meant to mention my method for getting text for covers. While I have a range of installed fonts, I don't always have one that matches the style of an old cover. (Or is distinct ebough for a new cover.)

Most on-line font sellers offer previews of fonts with arbitrary text in a range of sizes. Since we're not going for high resolution images of fonts, just screen resolution, these previews are exactly what's needed for the covers, and can be copied with screen capture software.

Good sites use are http://www.myfonts.com/ and http://www.identifont.com/

Paul

new text to replace the rather battered text in the original image.

HarryT
09-27-2008, 08:21 AM
It looks good, but the normal placement is on the title page, not the book cover.
______
Dennis

One needs readable text on the book cover for those devices (such as the CyBook Gen3) for which the book cover is the primary means of navigating the library.

DMcCunney
09-27-2008, 10:02 AM
One needs readable text on the book cover for those devices (such as the CyBook Gen3) for which the book cover is the primary means of navigating the library.
I concur, but what has that to do with the MobileRead logo graphic? Do you suggest it be placed on the cover? I don't, and would be unhappy to get a volume where that was the case.
______
Dennis

HarryT
09-27-2008, 11:20 AM
Sorry - I thought you were referring to the book's title :).

Yes, I concur - the MR "logo" really should go on the title page, not on the cover.

DMcCunney
09-27-2008, 11:47 AM
Sorry - I thought you were referring to the book's title :).
Nope. My comment referred to pdurrant's example, where he overlaid the logo on a cover image.

It would be more or less acceptable on a pure type cover, but should not be overlaid on a cover image.

Yes, I concur - the MR "logo" really should go on the title page, not on the cover.
That's what I assumed, so I raised eyebrows at your comment.
______
Dennis

pdurrant
09-27-2008, 03:41 PM
Looking at the example again, I think you're right. It is, of course, done on printed books, but then the publisher's logo can be a lot smaller.

For my own use, I made a set of covers for the Harvard Classics collection (example attached). I think on those, which were just text and the harvard shield/motto, the Mobileread logo would work. If we get a forum for cover uploads I'd consider doing a new set with the logo included.

But otherwise -- no MobileRead logo on the covers seems good.

Thanks for your comment.

Nope. My comment referred to pdurrant's example, where he overlaid the logo on a cover image.

It would be more or less acceptable on a pure type cover, but should not be overlaid on a cover image.


That's what I assumed, so I raised eyebrows at your comment.
______
Dennis

nrapallo
09-27-2008, 03:53 PM
Very nice indeed!

I would add them to the ebook versions I've prepared. But maybe when RWood "hears" about this, he may put it on his "to do" list as well. ;)

I agree with you that the MR logo on a cover page is a bit too much; but not for a second or last page, IMHO.

DMcCunney
09-27-2008, 04:13 PM
Looking at the example again, I think you're right. It is, of course, done on printed books, but then the publisher's logo can be a lot smaller.
And on printed books, it's normally on the spine on hardcovers, and very small and unobtrusive on the front of paperbacks.

The publisher simply wants you to buy the book, and will have a cover design they hope will sell. I don't think many folks note the publisher when purchasing: they care about the author and the story. Ask them who published a particular title they read and liked, and they may have to grab the book and look to tell you.

(And I know a few artists who aren't at all happy with what the publisher does with their cover art. Steve Hickman waxes eloquent about what Jim Baen did to his covers. :p

The worst case I recall was the original Avon PB cover for Roger Zelazny's _Lord of Light_, where the Art Director wanted a type heavy cover, and shrunk Ron Walotsky's painting down to about one inch square to get it to fit the design. Geez. If you're going to do that, why bother to commission a cover painting at all?)

The best cover art series I recall were the ones Leo and Diane Dillon did for the the old Ace SF Special series Terry Carr edited. They threw out everything they knew about cover design, and came up with a simple format where the art was front and center and the title and author were on a white strip at the top. Terry inquired about how well the line was selling, and was told by the sales director that "If I tell you, you'll ask the publisher for a raise!" Leo and Diane were obviously on to something.

It helps that Leo and Diane do stunning work, and I'd consider mortgaging a body part to own one of their originals. (I've met them They're splendid people, too, and their son Lee inherited talent from both.)

For my own use, I made a set of covers for the Harvard Classics collection (example attached). I think on those, which were just text and the harvard shield/motto, the Mobileread logo would work. If we get a forum for cover uploads I'd consider doing a new set with the logo included.
For something like that, it can work. MobileRead can be thought of as the publisher, and there is no spine on an ebook to put the logo on.

I'm just sensitive to stuff overlaid on cover illustrations. Artists carefully lay out covers to leave space in the illo for title, author, and the like, and stuff still stomps all over the art. Don't get me started about bar code blocks...

But otherwise -- no MobileRead logo on the covers seems good.

Thanks for your comment.
You're welcome.
______
Dennis

nekokami
09-27-2008, 04:18 PM
I remember David Cherry telling me how one of his first covers was modified by the art director without notifying him (on the original, no less!). The character on the front is illustrated holding a sword over her head, which the art director decided needed to be shorter so they could fit the title and author. (Admittedly, this was before Photoshop or its ilk existed.)

Then again, the author was his sister (C.J. Cherryh), so he wasn't going to complain too much. :D

DMcCunney
09-27-2008, 04:40 PM
I remember David Cherry telling me how one of his first covers was modified by the art director without notifying him (on the original, no less!). The character on the front is illustrated holding a sword over her head, which the art director decided needed to be shorter so they could fit the title and author. (Admittedly, this was before Photoshop or its ilk existed.)

Then again, the author was his sister (C.J. Cherryh), so he wasn't going to complain too much. :D
I know David, and have met C. J. No, he wouldn't. :p

And things have very much changed for the better for cover artists in recent years. It used to be that the publisher bought all rights to a cover painting. If the book got reprinted, the author saw additional royalties, but the artist saw no additional fee. The publisher kept the original painting, too, and sometimes gave them away or threw them out. Now, artists sell specific reproduction rights, and what the Art Director gets is a transparency of the painting. The artist can resell the original.

It took some doing to get there. The late Mike Hinge was a fervent supporter of artist's rights, and largely shot his career in the foot. He was so paranoid about rights that he made himself more trouble to deal with than he was worth. Even AD's who liked his stuff passed on it in favor of other artists who weren't as good, but were easier to deal with. At the end of his life, Mike was basically living on a stipend provided by his brother in New Zealand, who had won a big state lottery and could subsidize him.

And in an ironic ending, given Mike's feelings about artist's rights, he died intestate in Pennsylvania, and a state appointed executor handled disposing of his inventory. (The job should have gone to a mutual friend of Mike and I, but the state doesn't work that way.) I picked up a gorgeous piece for a pittance because the executor simply turned the lot over to Jane Franke and said "Dispose of it fast!" Jane knew the potential value of the work, but wasn't given the time to realize it. She wasn't happy, but didn't have much choice.
______
Dennis

montsnmags
10-17-2008, 01:26 AM
Just to bump this back up...

If a person was interested in creating book covers, what would be the proposed "standards" for doing so. What I mean is:


should they be a predetermined ratio?
should they be a predetermined pixel size?
should both colour and greyscale be provided?
should the title and author have any specific placement requirement?
is it not just a "one graphic" thing (i.e. do separate thumbnails need creating)?


I guess what I am looking at is some kind of guide to creating them that would generally be satisfactory for most, if not all, users. My questions above might reflect my lack of knowledge, but perhaps establishing guidelines that can be "Sticky"ed in the forum might create momentum for creation (which is, I guess, the point of this thread...I'm just sayin', is all :) ).

My interest, apart from creating custom covers for my own books, is that I may be able to contribute photographs as requests for covers come in.

Cheers,
Marc

nrapallo
10-17-2008, 08:01 AM
Just to bump this back up...

If a person was interested in creating book covers, what would be the proposed "standards" for doing so. What I mean is:


should they be a predetermined ratio?
should they be a predetermined pixel size?
should both colour and greyscale be provided?
should the title and author have any specific placement requirement?
is it not just a "one graphic" thing (i.e. do separate thumbnails need creating)?


My thoughts (since I lack the artist skills required to put all this together :smack:):

should they be a predetermined ratio?
I think 600x800 is a "good" aspect ratio (0.75)


should they be a predetermined pixel size?
Again 600x800 is a nice size to start with and the ebook creating software can scale it down, if required (hopefully maintaining the aspect ratio)


should both colour and greyscale be provided?
Colour for sure! Then let the ebook creation software handle the grayscale down-convert. Devices improve over time and when colour screens are the "norm", the ebooks will "come alive"! ;)


should the title and author have any specific placement requirement?
IMHO, I like to see title (first and above) in a larger point-size font than Author. Placement can be anywhere it works with the background image, if any.


is it not just a "one graphic" thing (i.e. do separate thumbnails need creating)?
Again, if you provide just the main graphic cover image, then hopefully the ebook creation software (like Mobipocket Creator) will provide the thumbnail.


I guess what I am looking at is some kind of guide to creating them that would generally be satisfactory for most, if not all, users. My questions above might reflect my lack of knowledge, but perhaps establishing guidelines that can be "Sticky"ed in the forum might create momentum for creation (which is, I guess, the point of this thread...I'm just sayin', is all :) ).

Yes, let's table all the different variations and see if there is some "preferred" format. Personal tastes will get in the way, but at least "talking" about it will allow others to use this "talk" as a guide.

My interest, apart from creating custom covers for my own books, is that I may be able to contribute photographs as requests for covers come in.

Cheers,
Marc

Let the custom covers roll-in....

DMcCunney
10-17-2008, 11:20 AM
Just to bump this back up...

If a person was interested in creating book covers, what would be the proposed "standards" for doing so. What I mean is:


should they be a predetermined ratio?
should they be a predetermined pixel size?
should both colour and greyscale be provided?
should the title and author have any specific placement requirement?
is it not just a "one graphic" thing (i.e. do separate thumbnails need creating)?

I've done a bit of this for MobiPocket. I assume a 600x800 target image size, in color, and don't worry about pixel size. I assume the ebook software will handle gray scale conversion and thumbnails if needed.

Placement of title and author is one of those artistic judgments, as is font selection, size, and weight. Since the person getting the book already knows the title and author before they download, you don't have the concern a paper book designer would have in making it "front and center", clearly readable on a rack, but you do want it clearly visible.

Paper book cover images are generally created specifically leaving room for title and author, and the convention is title up top large, and author below, smaller, though you'll see variations on the form. With ebooks you have more latitude, because the cover isn't intended to get the reader's attention in the first place to get them to pick it out of the rack for a closer look. They've already done that. You're just trying to provide an attractive and relevant image to complement the book and enhance the experience of reading it.
______
Dennis