Alright, I’m going to go on a bit of an old man shaking his fist at the world rant, but I can’t help it. So please bare with me for a minute here.
In the last few years since graduating college, I’ve been able to get back into really reading. It’s been great. One of the things that I’ve also got into, is picking books to read, and I have to say, I don’t like the process of that anymore. Now, if I have an Amazon gift card or something, I’ll go buy some books that I already know I want, but ultimately, I enjoy picking up a book and looking at it before I decide to buy or not.
When I was younger, you’d take a book off of the shelf, and flip it so you were looking at the back cover, and there was the description. That’s not the case anymore. Now the back cover is reserved for quotes telling me why Stephen King or J.K. Rowling liked the book. These quotes used to be reserved for the first couple pages, the idea was that if you liked the description and decided to flip it open, you’d see what authors of similar works thought about it and that might be the final push to buy. Now, someone else’s opinion is supposed to be the most important factor (unless you judge a book by its cover).
If I like an author, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to enjoy their taste in books. Honestly, these quotes don’t mean anything to me, and they amount to visual noise.
Now, if a book is a hardcover book, the dust jacket will have a description on the inside sleeve, but on paperbacks there is often nothing. What have we become as a reading society when the story is secondary? It’s so frustrating. I genuinely lament every time I flip the book out of reflex and realize there is no description to be read.
Then, I think “what if I’m wrong?” I’ve often found books to read by word of mouth, it’s just that those I listen to aren’t prominent authors but most often my aunt. My aunt, Amy, is a middle-school English teacher, and she has always had good recommendations. She was the reason I started reading Harry Potter, before the movies came out, when I was 16 and assumed they were too childish for me. She’s the reason why I picked up Percy Jackson (I’m like 16 or 17 books deep on Rick Riordan, so thanks for that unending addiction Aunt Amy!) But the quotes on the back aren’t “Aunt Amy says ‘this is the magical romp we’ve been waiting for!'” Instead we get “‘An adventure quest with a hip edge.’ -School Library Journal.” (This is an actual quote from the back of Percy Jackson, although this particular book does have a description on the back, but it’s 13 years old.)
So, I guess this is the question I have for all of you: Am I wrong? Do you prefer to know who liked the book, instead of the description? Is this marketing technique more effective? Because I’m aware that my opinion is often very far from that of regular people, and so I’m asking for your help navigating this brave new literary world. Please let me know in the comments below!