We are Iran

Here is the UK cover for a book on Iranian bloggers:
Your screen is OK, the image has lots of white space.  Here is the US cover of the same book:


Are U.S. covers in general more literal?  Here is the the source; the fascinating blog is devoted to discussing book covers.  Here is the UK-US comparison for David Mitchell’s excellent Cloud Atlas.  Here is the Turkish cover of Freakonomics.  Here is an iPod ad from the Czech Republic.


Does anyone know WHY there are different book covers? I would imagine there
would be increased costs to printing multiple versions. Would a publisher
want to differentiate between a book sold in the US and in the UK for some reason?
I was in Ireland recently, and noticed the difference in covers. While I know the
answer, why isn't Freakonomics available in the US as paperback? Other than
he can still sell the hardback and make more money. I was told by a published
teacher that the hardback and paperback's costs were not too far off, and in no
way far enough apart to justify the price premium.

It seems like the British covers for books are often lighter and more fun. Perhaps we see reading as a more serious affair in North America and expect our dust jackets to represent that. Most people do judge books by their covers.

BTW, has anyone ever tried simultaneously releasing a book in BOTH the "hardcover" and "paperback" format?

I'm under the impression that the hardcover has a bigger markup and is a way for publishers to make more profit. Once sales decline, the paperback version is released to attract more price-sensitive consumers.

What if publishers were to use the "hardcover vs. paperback" along with bookcover designs to price-discriminate? I would imagine that if they can release both the expensive version and the cheaper version at the same time, they can save a lot of money on advertising and capitalize on the initial buzz much better.

I just know that I'm one of those price-sensitive people and often wait for the paperback to come out to purchase a book.

Here's one of my favorite covers.


"But if they released them both at the same time, they'd lose all the customers who can't wait to read the book but are otherwise price sensitive to the cheaper, lower-margin edition."

I think I understand what you mean but if I'm misconstruing your depiction, then somebody please correct me: you're basically saying that if they release both versions at the same time, readers who are generally willing to pay more for the hardcover might end up buying the cheaper version instead?

I honestly think there's a creative way to design the bookcovers so that the books look completely different, so as to be discernable only to those willing to spend extra time to do intelligent shopping. The cheaper book could be "hidden" in less conspicuous corners of the bookstore so as not to lure the richer consumers away, but still be "available" for the poorer consumers. Maybe it could be kept behind the counter and be sold only if you "ask for it," much like the secret Starbucks cappuccino that Tim Harford talked about. Perhaps the nicer, hardcover versions can be sold at large chain bookstores and the cheaper ones at independent bookstores. Moreover, I'm sure there's a way for Amazon to price-discriminate based on past-shopping patterns and zip codes.

The point I want to make is that price-sensitive shoppers like me often hear about the buzz of new books but don't want to buy the hardcover right away; because we want to buy the paperback. However, I know from personal experience that by the time the paperback has rolled out, I've probably forgotten all about the book or have moved on to something else that interests me.

I guess it basically boils down to just exactly how much revenue is "lost" to people like me who would've bought the book in the beginning if it were cheaper, but then later lost interest. If this is a substantial group, then I think it behooves the publishers to come up with clever bookcover schemes to capitalize on different consumer groups. If this number is miniscule, then I just wasted 5 minutes typing this.

IIRC, check out the UK/US covers of Paul Krugman's book.

Comments for this post are closed