I recently discovered WellDoneBooks‘ YouTube channel and proceeded to watch basically a year’s worth of his videos (what? don’t judge me, you know you do it too). Along the way, I stumbled upon his “Books With Movie Covers” video, and because I have no imagination of my own, I decided to make a post about it for you guys. (Long article ahead)
I don’t have that many of them myself, because as a good (right?) book lover, movie covers are the devil and are to be avoided at all costs. Except sometimes you don’t exactly have much choice in the matter.
I guess movie cover it is then
French publishers love to put a movie picture/cover on their books. Sometimes for the big paperbacks (hardbacks basically don’t exist here, go figure. Although they cost a ton anyway) they just put a dust jacket over the original cover and call it a day, but when it comes to the mass market paperbacks (which I’m guessing we are the Kings of, considering the number of them), the old cover is replaced with the movie version, so when you go in a bookstore and you want to read that book, you don’t exactly have several options as to which edition you’re going to buy. You can see an example of this on the 2nd row of books in my picture:
- Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro): I had heard of the movie coming out, but wanted to read the book first. Since at the time I didn’t really read in English or use Amazon, I went into a bookstore to purchase a copy and this was the one they had. It is okay, I guess, but I don’t think I would have picked this one up if I had had other options. If I ever want to buy an English version of the book though, I will definitely be getting this one, which is absolutely stunning (and, coincidentally, also a movie cover; which proves that it can be done right).
- Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai Sijie): I had to study this for class when I was 12 or 13 I think, and the teacher wanted all the students to have the same edition and decided on this one. I really didn’t care back then, but looking back on it now, I’d say this is a pretty decent movie cover. They have redone it since then though (and I don’t like it).
- Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer): It was 2007, I had read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (which has now a movie cover that I don’t like) earlier that year and I wanted to read more Foer. So just like the Never Let Me Go situation, I went to a bookstore and bought the only edition they had in stock. I don’t really like it. For some reason it makes me uncomfortable, I don’t know why.
- The Prestige (Christopher Priest): Didn’t have a choice either for this one, but for a slightly different reason: the author attended a book festival in my town at which I volunteered. I had actually seen the Christopher Nolan movie, and after spending an afternoon with the author, I wanted to buy the book and have him sign it for me. Unfortunately, he was all out of the English edition, so I had to get the French one. Another problem here: the movie poster wasn’t so great to begin with, so sticking it on a book cover didn’t help anything. Since then I bought a very pretty copy in English (and defiled my original French copy).
The movie cover is the one I want
And sometimes, as crazy as it may seem, you make a conscious decision to buy the movie tie-in edition of a book…
- Angels & Demon (Dan Brown): At some point, this was crazy cheap on The Book Depository, so I figured, why not? It’s not the greatest cover out there, but I’m always down to have Tom Hanks on the cover of my books (I even considered to get the movie cover for Cloud Atlas at one point). (Should I remind you that I’m obsessed with Tom Hanks?)
- The Spectacular Now (Tim Tharp): I had just seen the movie trailer and was in love with it. So when one day in my Amazon recommendations the book appeared (I had no idea it was a book), I was very quick to click that “add to basket” button. I looked for other covers first of course, but I really didn’t like them and I actually enjoyed the movie cover. So I bought it.
- Being Flynn (Nick Flynn): I had seen the movie poster going around on IMDb if I remember correctly, and I thought it was really pretty. So when one day, in the Paris WHSmith, I stumbled onto this copy of the book, I just bought it. Simple as that.
- The World According to Garp (John Irving): I don’t exactly remember why I bought this book, but I remember that it was not long after Robin Williams’ passing (and I am very fond of Robin Williams), and I thought that this cover was very stylish and adorable. I love the sepia tones, the red lettered title, and Robin Williams smiling. And I really didn’t like the other non-movie covers. So thank you Amazon Marketplace.
Why do we hate movie covers so much?
As Max mentions in his video, one of the main reasons is that when you read a book, you like to imagine the characters on your own and not have an actor’s face pushed on you, and therefore you may feel like your reading experience has been tainted by the faces on the book cover.
I think there’s also a more obscure reason: we love books and the work that has been put into them, so maybe unconsciously, as book lovers, we are wired to reject something that does not come from the “book world”. We are inclined to like the movie adaptations (once we have read the books), but don’t you dare put that poster on my book! Especially if the movie turns out to be rubbish, or if they dramatically miscast one of the main characters.
I understand the marketing strategy behind it: if the movie was successful, someone who didn’t know it was a book is now more likely to spot said-book if it has the movie poster on the cover. Like Blade Runner. The book by Philip K. Dick is actually called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Nothing to do with Blade Runner, so they turned this into this. Much more recognisable.
Thanks to online retailers we can now browse for hours in order to find the perfect edition of a book, so we don’t have to buy an ugly movie cover if we don’t want to. But then again, maybe we do want to. Look at all those people who repurchased The Fault in Our Stars movie cover edition because they loved it so much.
Please let me know in the comments where you stand on this: Movie covers. Yeay or Nay?