Tintin and The Secret of Literature—The Digital Book Cover from charlie orr on Vimeo.

The Hypothetical Library wonders why we can’t have digital book covers now that we have digital books.

So why can’t these book covers move? Essentially a cover is an image and a title. But it could be a short film, or animation, abstract or narrative. It could have music or creepy noises. It could also be a portal with links to other information, like a publisher’s backlist, or more information about the subject. It could do anything you never would think a cover could do.

Above is a sample of what the poster, Charlie Or, thinks a cover could look like.

I think its neat!


  1. Like most “neat” features, I have no objection, so long as it can be turned off. I’m sure it will be amusing at least once. I suspect the nth time I have to look at it, I will not be amused. Your n may vary.

    Jack Tingle

  2. Jack – you are of course 100% right.

    What Paul is suggesting here is nothing less that what I believe to be the biggest book marketing innovation that will drive sales in the new world of eBooks. It is part of what I often bang on about – the ‘added value’ element. Together with social connecting tools I believe it will expand the sales of eBooks beyond anything previously experienced in pBooks.

    I am not implying that this little moving cover is necessarily added value in and of itself. But it is a start. Consider a small engaging preview consisting of an intro to the book by a respected author or reviewer, a taster of the style/atmosphere/feeling of the book .. and perhaps at the end of the book, an interview with the author, a summary of his other works, his personality.

    We are in the multimedia age. Yes simple book reading doesn’t need multimedia and reading without multimedia content is often better for using our imagination. But that doesn’t mean we don’t respond to multimedia packaging of the product. eBooks are tiny in file size and modern internet speeds, even 3G speeds are easily able for eBooks of larger sizes sufficient to include this kind of enhancement.

  3. While modern internet speeds may be able to handle that “added value” with no difficulty, the same may not be true of the handheld devices on which we read our books. How happy will the processors and storage capacities of our Kindles, Jetbooks, iPods/phones, netbooks, and so on, be when every ebook is at least a meg or two in size to accommodate a moving cover or some film clips, when every ebook is at least the size of a plain text file of War and Peace?

    For myself, I find that the occasional text intro or appended author interview (also text) is all the extra added value I’m interested in. I don’t believe I’m unique. So if this is what publishers and some readers want cluttering up their ebooks, peachy keen for them. But I’m with Jack — we need to be able to turn off that feature, or better still, have the option to not download it in the first place.

    Bests to all,


  4. I use an iPhone 3G and it downloads a meg in only a few seconds so I see that as no barrier to people.
    Of course no feature suits everyone and no one suggested that you have to view it all every time you open the book to read 🙂 but for m, and I suspect a lot of people in the future, if I was asked to pay $10 for a new Frederick Forsyth book or even more so a new book by an author I don’t know about I would be way more likely to buy it if it came with some of those features. Without them I would never pay more than $5 or $6.

  5. Since I currently skip paper intros, author bios, free excerpts from the author’s next book, and so forth, I doubt any multimedia “added value” will be worth a brass farthing to me. So long as I can skip them, no problem, but I won’t pay extra for them.

    Publishing is a hard business. I feel bad for the malnourished children of publishers struggling to get to their second hundred grand in salary. When you have typo-free books with a glossary, index, table-of-contents and accurate metadata, then add some swoosh. Otherwise, starve.

    Jack Tingle

  6. The cover is cute, but I certainly wouldn’t consider paying more for it. I just want to get to the beginning of the story. And if the story has to rely on video and other gimmicks to keep my attention, it’s probably not a very good story. Before adding useless fluff, they should work on formatting, correct ocr scanning errors, and add linkable table of contents. The story and the writing are what’s important.

  7. To give you a sense of how I feel about the cover, consider that I use flashblock so that when I visit a web page, I don’t automatically get hit with noisy animations and other multimedia. I’m hard pressed to come up with ideas of multimedia extras that I’d actually want with a book, much less be willing to pay extra for. Is it that publishers et al think that multimedia will attract non-readers to books?

    Haven’t we already been through this once before with CD-ROM? What has changed that will make multimedia+books succeed this time?

  8. From an author point of view, I think publishers and DIYing writers should start by designing ebook covers that are striking at thumbnail size, it seems like to many ebooks either used minaturized version of the print book cover, or something else designed to be seen at traditional print book size.

  9. Sherri your points are well taken and likely to be absolutely right when it comes to hard core readers especially of the older generation. There is no doubt that the group you reflect will always prefer to download nothing but the text of the book.
    However I believe that there is a very significant chunk of new generation readers and proto-readers, who will be brought into reading by the convenience and coolness of these new devices, who will respond very positively to this kind of added-value.
    We will be operating in a world of enormous catalogues of eBooks, in a world where the corner book shop will be rare, in a world where publishers will be desperate to find ways of differentiating their titles and readers will be looking for both good reading and value.

  10. Howard,

    I’m willing to claim membership in an older generation, and get that I’m probably not the target market of such innovations. But I’m still not sure why this sort of thing will succeed this time where CDROMs didn’t last time. CDROMs offered all sorts of value-added to books, and especially for kid’s books, lots of interactivity (anybody remember Living Books?) Yet they all disappeared in a few years.

  11. Indeed so but let’s look at the context in which they were operating. A world based around fixed desktop PCs for a start. They also leaned mostly on children’s books which succeeded for the most part but required the child, and mostly, the parent to sit together to view it. There were no mobile phones, no smart ones anyway, no tablets, few laptops if any, no eReaders….. a very different world.
    Today we are in a totally multi media world with most people under 30 expecting almost every communication to be multi media in some respect. We have the ubiquitous smart phones and laptops and now iPads and Kindles et al.
    Owners of iPads especially are getting accustomed to reading eBooks on their iPad where they are also reading online magazines which are now incredibly multi media.
    Whether on iPad or Kindle, download speeds are very fast especially via wifi and downloading a 3mb file is really no issue.

    In THIS context then – I personally believe there is a need for added value when it comes to eBooks. It is not that I don’t love books the way they are. I do. But times change and tastes change and as I say above it will become more and more difficult to differentiate between the plethora of titles available, both from the seller’s and reader’s point of view. These added value elements would only come ‘with’ the eBook text. They would not play or view every time the book is views. They would also present another nice way to show to friends who show and interest in your book – you can say it’s a cool book and btw look at the (for example) preview/interview/scene setting addons that came with it.

    I just believe that if I had the choice of buying an eBook that came with added features such as those I mention (though not exclusively, I am simply brainstorming here) I would definitely be a) drawn to them out of a massive catalogue and b) be prepared to pay a couple of extra quid for them.

  12. The “added value” features will flourish this time around because our equipment is so much better and because we know so much more now about how to use its capabilities properly. For the same reasons, basically, that you watch the extras every time you pop a movie into the player now.

    You don’t watch the extras every time?

    And sometimes you’ll buy the movie without the extra features if you’ve got a choice?

    Imagine that.

    For most of us the “added value” features are just clutter. If the publishers want to enhance their books, Jack and Diane have pointed out the best possible enhancement — make sure the text is prepared correctly.

    Bests to all,


  13. Oops. That last paragraph in my post should begin:

    I’d bet that for most of us the “added value” features are just clutter.

    Don’t have statistics on it, but that’s my impression.



  14. Hello all,
    I’m the designer of the above digital book cover (and others), and would like to clarify a few things. While I understand the concern of “added value” functions becoming clutter that gets in the way of a good read, that is not my intention with this proposal. I want these to be an evolution of the function of the current print, dust jacket art form.

    Consider a book jacket now—why bother with oblique, photography, illustration, or typography? You could just put the title of the book and be done with it. Our books have an identity that you encounter before you ever crack the book open, and that is the cover. With eBooks that is disappearing, and what I propose is a way retain that experience.

    In a sense these digital book covers wouldn’t be a new thing at all, just an upgrade of their current function.

    As a point of clarification, my vision for these would be that they run in full only once, when you open the book. As you return to read the book later, you won’t have to sit through it over, and over (I’m a reader too). Of course you can go back and watch it, or show it to a friend—maybe even post/link it on Facebook, or send it in an email.

    Like all covers, it should be a servant of the book it represents, and not try to overshadow it. My hope is that as these covers start entering the world, their form, style, and content will be guided by readers, and designers, and evolve into something completely new, and vital, and grow the symbiotic relationship between book and cover.

    Charlie Orr

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