The future of Cover Art

I want to start simply by saying I’m not sure where I stand on this or if there really is something to stand on. But for the past few years my friends and I have been wondering about the future of cover art in the music industry. Ever since the first album was “officially” released through programs like iTunes the question of the necessity of such a design came about. However if time is any indicator, it hasn’t phased it one bit.

But now comes the more interesting question. With the recent announcement from Amazon that the Kindle is outselling its hardcover equivalents, are the days of cover designs numbered? Not so unrelated is the example set by Project Gutenberg. The digitization of countless classic novels now considered to be in the public domain has rendered them coverless. Should you choose to download (for free… legally) a classic such as say… Washington Square by Henry James, you will find (at least in the case of the iBooks App for iProducts) there is no cover design. This is simply because it has been digitized as part of this project and is not being published by a publishing house, thus has no commissioned cover art.

Perhaps discussing classics is almost meaningless because despite how they are digitized, the hardcover equivalents continue to display cover art. But what happens when there are no more hardcovers? Will that happen?

Or put it more simply, why aren’t we digitizing the original cover art for these texts in the public domain? Perhaps that art is lost, or perhaps it predates cover art (my own understanding of the medium is limited, especially its historical evolution).

Ultimately it comes down to this: Will the art of cover design have a home in the digital evolution of music and literature? We already know that it can exist, but just because something can be there doesn’t necessarily mean it will be there. In the tangible form it was convenient because the cover was necessary. But in the digital world there is no cover.

So I leave the blogosphere with this question: What do you think is the fate of cover art?

-huysmans

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