Critical Response- “Hack the Cover”

Craig Mod’s article, “Hack the Cover,” demonstrates the theory of obsolescence in the sense that technology is often replaced by alternate forms of technology. In the case of the book cover, technology is currently replacing the once tangibility and marketability of the cover. While readers were once drawn in by the designs and unique typography of a book cover, Mod illustrates the conversion from buying books in a bookstore to buying them online; therefore, readers are no longer determining their book selection by the cover, but by the reviews offered online by other readers. The cover has, somewhat, lost significance in the audience’s decision to purchase a book and has, therefore, lost some of its rhetoric in marketing.

The cover is beginning to be perceived as unnecessary since many are reading books on digital platforms such as the Kindle. Although the cover was once a form of rhetorical marketing and protection for the text within the book, it has now become somewhat futile to design a book cover that will be read on the context of a digital platform. Covers have developed a new style of rhetoric; while they were once a form of advertisement, covers now speak a different rhetorical language—efficiency. They are not meant to attract or entice, but to “get us into the text as quickly as possible…[at] the expense of intimacy.” In essence, covers have lost their rhetorical ability to provide reader intimacy since the audience once connected with the design as a form of contextual revelation yet this option is slowly dying.

Mod poses several questions regarding the purpose and function of the cover. One question addressed is “how should the context be delivered?” The context should be, and once was, delivered through the cover as it subtly reveals and speaks to the content of the book. As “publishers [now] relinquish control when books go digital,” agency is also relinquished from the rhetorical strategy of the cover as it no longer converses with the context of the book. While society must embrace the ever-changing nature of technology, it cannot lose the once foundational elements in the process. Book covers are essential to the message of the text beyond the cover; they are “meant to ease the reader into the story…[and] help establish tone.” Covers help give a “book an identity” and by removing the cover from a book—whether in print or digital—we are removing a piece of the book’s identity and wholeness.