Book spines

Who thinks of book spines? They’re usually the first thing we see when we notice a book on a shelf. They’re what tell us whether or not to make the effort to investigate what the full cover is all about.

I think they give out awards for some of the best book covers. But I don’t think anyone really looks at the spines.

The spines are just kind of there.

But I bet they make a difference. I’d guess a big difference. I know when I’m rummaging through the┬ábargain section at Half Priced Books, I’m already uncomfortable. I’m already squatting on the floor (the real deals are always on the bottom shelf). And if one of those book spines is too thin or the type is too light, and I can’t read it, I’m gone.

Spine, you better get it right.


  • If it’s possible, make the text horizontal, so I don’t have to twist my neck when the book is sandwiched between others on a shelf.
  • Add a small image or other element (also horizontal) to draw me in.
  • Get the publisher to give you an awesome book title to work with.
  • If no one knows of the author, make the book title stand out.
  • If the book title is boring but the author is well known, make the author’s name stand out.
  • Be as simple as possible while still commanding attention. In other words, don’t try to do everything. Shoot for one thing, and capture that well.

Book spines have a simple job, but who thinks of them? Maybe we should give them a little more consideration, a little more respect.

Until then, the old saying will stay true: “You can’t judge a book cover by its spine.”