Saturday, June 19, 2010

Versions of Covers

Ever notice how an album cover stays the same no matter how many times it's re-printed or re-released but book covers seem to change every couple of years? Even classic books with iconic covers don't stand the test of time (Penguin books, in particular, seems to change many of theirs on a yearly basis. They even introduced a series with blank covers so you could design your own, above. They also sell their famous iconic book cover design – not actually used on books any more – on random objects including tea towels, deckchairs and tea cups). Book covers also change according to format (hardback to paperback) and country (American and British covers tend to be quite different).

But there seems to be something sacred (and international) about an album cover. Even when covers have changed format – from LP to cassette to CD, say – its design has stayed the same (with a very few exceptions). The song remains the same.

Perhaps music is more fundamentally tied to its cover than a book is. After all, writers have no opinion at all in what their book cover will look like, but generally musicians have a say in how their cover will appear. I guess I like to think an album cover reflects the music within somehow, but wouldn't necessarily say the same thing about a book (eg, don't judge a book by its cover).

(And, as noted in a Guardian blog I stumbled across after writing this (I promise!), album covers are referred to as artwork, whereas book covers are 'mere' designs. Maybe it's just a question of semantics.)

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