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Choosing a book by its cover: analysis of a reader’s choice

Arūnas Gudinavičius (Digital Media Lab, Faculty of Communication, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)
Andrius Šuminas (Digital Media Lab, Faculty of Communication, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 20 November 2017

Issue publication date: 7 February 2018




The massive growth in the number of book titles has made publishers think about how to attract a customer’s attention to particular books. This is the reason why the book cover plays an important role as a tool of communication with the reader. The research question of this exploratory study is whether the preference given by readers to book cover colors is different across genders and age groups when they choose the book in an online bookstore by its cover. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


The experiment in a bookstore and a library was done. Each respondent was asked to choose one book from our sample of 18 books and a mobile eye tracking laboratory was set up in order to find out the respondents’ basic gazing data. After conducting an experiment with bookstore and library visitors, the results showed that younger women tend to select a book by its cover (when the time for selection is not limited) statistically significantly faster than men of the same age group. The difference disappears with age.


The data of the experiment suggested that women from the age group 18-35 prefer books with cool color covers and the preference disappears with age; accordingly, men in the age group 56+ prefer books with warm color covers. The preference was not seen in younger age groups. The analysis of data on the number of choices for each cover and the time spent looking at each of them revealed a significant positive correlation between the women’s preferences in selecting covers and the time women spend looking at them; however, there was no such correlation in the case of men’s data.


The study has shown that the reader’s book choice is at least partly influenced by the cover color. The preference given to cool and warm colors and the speed of decision making show certain differences across genders and age groups. The result contributes to knowing how to create book covers more adopted to reader’s needs.



Gudinavičius, A. and Šuminas, A. (2018), "Choosing a book by its cover: analysis of a reader’s choice", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 74 No. 2, pp. 430-446.



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