Judge a Book by its Spine

They say to never judge a book by its cover (though we all do), but what about its spine? While in libraries, bookstores, and private homes we all try our best to face our beautiful collections out for all of the world to behold, most collections are smooshed together citing space considerations, presenting only the slender spine of the work.

Why should anyone care about the spine of a book? The spine is, especially in the library, a very valuable piece of real-estate on each book. Apart from the covers of display books, this is the first part of the book that people see. The spine conveys both utilitarian information about a book’s place in a series, its author, and publisher; and also presents a chance for the book to sell itself. This space can provides a reader’s first clue as to what the book is about, its characters, its appeal, and so on… You might not get to the cover, if you don’t get past the spine.

What characteristics, then, make an effective, or an ineffective, book spine?

An effective book spine will clearly list the title of the book, the creator’s name (or names), the name of the publisher, and might also include an image of a character or something representative of the book, as well as a meaningful background color or design. If the book is in a series, it will include the series title with the book’s particular subtitle, and/or a volume number. A book in a series (especially a box set or collection) can also create a connected image out of the spines, or related but unique looks for each book in the series.

An ineffective, or average book spine, might not include all of the above information on its spine, or present it in a way that is unclear, or poorly presented from an aesthetic perspective, and might not well represent the personality of the book. The font choice may be hard to read, the images might be unrelated to the tone of the book, the spines in a series might not line up from spine to spine, or have unrelated designs; instead of assisting a reader in finding or choosing the book, this spine will cause confusion and a disinclination to continue on to the book’s cover, and further on, into the book itself.

Here are some books from The Seattle Public Library’s collection whose spines effectively speak for themselves:

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer


The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro




The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus 1 by Eiji Otsuka






The World Book Encyclopedia 2017 100 years Commemorative edition

~posted by Mychal L.



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