The Different Covers of Richard Dawkins’ Book

I posted earlier about the cover of Richard Dawkins‘ forthcoming book: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True.

But it turns out this was only the cover of the British version of the book:

Here’s what the cover of the American version will look like:

I understand why the covers are different. In America, the book will be published by Free Press; in Britain, it’ll be published by Bantam Press. Different publishers = different covers.

But seriously. This isn’t even close.

The British win hands down.

  • cat

    How come the British get sunshine and rainbows and the US people get what looks like a scene from the beginning and/or end of a post apocolyptic movie?

  • Daniel Waterfield

    Note also how the American cover eschews mention of ‘The God Delusion’ and instead decides to go with ‘The Selfish Gene’

  • Joel Wheeler

    lol this kind of thing is so subjective. You had me up until your final sentence!

    British cover looks like children’s coloring book. American cover has better typography and more coherent design.

    Subjective!

  • Mike Holcomb

    Theirs looks like a Harry Potter cover and ours looks like a Left Behind book.

  • John Perkins

    I think they’re both ugly, but the British one is abysmal. The typography couldn’t be any worse, and the graphics just look poorly done.

  • The Other Tom

    If the author particularly cares about the book cover, they should take care of its design themself and have it put in the contract for the book that the publisher will use the author’s cover.

    @Joel: But it *is* a children’s book. If it looks too much like a college textbook or a copy of Dianetics, it will miss a lot of its intended audience.

  • Bryan

    Neither one is great, but IMO the American one is better – more adult, for lack of a better description.

    Bryan

  • eeentropyyy

    The American version looks like a self help book. At least the British one looks fun!

    Both look like half hearted excursions in photoshop… but at least the British one might appeal to kids.

  • http:daughternumberthree.blogspot.com DaughterNumberThree

    It never ceases to amaze me how taste and interpretation can vary so much.

    The British book cover struck me as amateurish and incoherent — what, a rainbow struck the book and science came out of it? And the red title lettering is kitschy to boot.

    The American cover, I inferred, used an image of the Southwest or the Badlands to represent the majesty and awesome natural beauty of our world — literally, the magic of reality.

    But others see that landscape as post-apocalyptic. I would never have taken it that way.

  • Chris S.

    A Dawkins book illustrated by Dave McKean? NERD HEAVEN.

  • Jim H

    Joel Wheeler has it right: the matter is subjective.

    A few years ago, Paul Krugman wrote a book that was published (in America) with a nice, staid, text-on-neutral-background cover. The UK version had various “cartoonish” images, including Dick Cheney with an oil moustache (ala “Got milk?”) that led people to say, “Now that’s shrill!” (I wish I could find a link…)

  • http:sacredriver.com Ash Bowie

    They are both terrible covers. The first is fun but very poorly executed, the second is boring and misses the target audience (parents). Why didn’t they get McKean to also illustrate the cover?

  • Jesse

    Isn’t this a book aimed towards children and/or explaining complex subjects simply? If so, British cover wins.

  • Robert Thille

    I prefer the American cover, but then I’m an adult and it’s intended for children… of course, the adults are the ones who will buy it…

  • Drew M.

    Theirs looks like a Harry Potter cover and ours looks like a Left Behind book.

    I’m in stitches because I thought the exact same thing!

  • http://www.dwnomad.com Dustin Williams

    Based on the table of contents and what I’ve read about the book, it’s something I’d buy for my 12 year old niece, not for myself. The British cover fits very well for that. The American cover looks more like a book that belongs on my bookshelf, not her’s.

  • Bryan

    Didn’t realize it was a kids book. Guess I have to reverse my preferance; to interest kids, the UK cover is the better one. Still not great though,

  • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leilani Pearce

    As a parent of two freethinking children, the British cover appeals more to me.

    Neither is perfect, but who judges a book by its cover? :P

  • http://msmith13.wordpress.com/ Mark

    The US edition is at least easy to parse at a glance. And I think a kid who would appreciate the book would also like not being condescended to by the cover.

    A more juvenile approach would be fine too, but the British cover doesn’t make any visual sense, and the title font is ghastly. What is supposed to be going on in that illustration? It looks like a book is getting blasted into Photoshop salad by a rainbow photon torpedo.

  • Nakor

    It may just be the fantasy lover in me, but I like the US cover much better. There’s something… well, fantastic about it.

  • OregoniAn

    The image on the American edition looks like it was pulled from one of those crappy motivational posters. Or worse – one of those “feel good” Christian books!

    I’ll give the British cover some credit for at least making an attempt at reaching out to the intended audience – but why hire the talents of the great Dave McKean for the interior illustrations and then not give him a shot at the cover?

    I’ll buy it to help ensure I won’t look like an idiot in front of my ever inquisitive five year old daughter, but that dust jacket is heading straight to the recycle bin.

  • Stephanie

    It certainly doesn’t look like a kid’s book, but I like the American cover because it kind of echoes the mental topography I have of Harris’ “moral landscape.”

  • Amy

    So how do I go about getting a British version in the US? I much prefer that one, and I think my son is more apt to pick that one up off the bookshelf than the US version.

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com Arkonbey

    As had been said, all is subjective.

    As a graphic designer, I find both to be awful.

    The British version is jumbly and over-busy. The title’s silly, poorly done typeface that neither fits nor resonates with the serif type . It also features some low-quality Photoshopping. Overall it suffers from a poorly thought-out concept and execution.

    The American version is superbly trite. It looks like the designer used Self Help Book Template #2. Slap a clip art silhouette over a stock photo and bingo: Boring. This might be worse than poor concept, it’s no concept.

    Chip Kidd should have done the British version and a Junior in a GD BFA program could have done better than the American.

  • Benoit

    I was hoping they’d Think of the Children and put Best-selling author of THE GOD DELUSION on the cover…

  • Thegoodman

    I am confused why “Richard Dawkins” is enormous on both covers. It is a children’s book. Why would a child care who Dawkins is?

    Richard Dawkins and David McKean need to get over themselves and put their names in a much much smaller font closer to the edge. For christ’s sake, even Dr. Seuss’s name is smaller on his covers.

    This book looks like shameless self promotion rather than an honest attempt to educate children.

  • JenV

    Why didn’t they get McKean to also illustrate the cover?

    Exactly what I was thinking when I saw the original, horrific British cover, and even more so when I saw the *meh* American version. It’s quite a disconnect with the illustrations on the inside.

  • Matt H

    How come the British get sunshine and rainbows and the US people get what looks like a scene from the beginning and/or end of a post apocolyptic movie?

    That was my first thought too.

  • Siamang

    I like the American one better. The British one looks like it’s written in blood.

    The atoms and rainbows are cheeeezy. Especially the stretched atoms. Crappy photoshopping.

    But moreover, the message is wrong.

    Look at what the two images are saying.

    “How we know what’s really true…”

    British: What’s really true comes out of a book!

    American: We find out what’s really true by examining the natural world. We go to the Olduvai Gorge and look.

    The British one is exactly the wrong message. It’s the old argument from authority. Hell, it’s the argument that God’s word… the WORD. The BOOK tells us what’s true.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    The British cover is trying too hard, the American cover is not trying hard enough. A lot of kids in England are going to be disappointed when rainbows don’t leap out of the book. Of course with Dawkins writing they’re probably going to be disappointed anyway.

  • http://www.conticreative.com Marco Conti

    I couldn’t add much to what has been already noted. I don’t really have a preference as I dislike both.

    My point is that since buying a kindle a couple of years ago and currently reading my books on my phone, kindle and ipad depending on where I am and what device fits my reading situation better (phone if I am stuck at the doc waiting room, ipad at night in bed, kindle for daylight, quite reading on the couch or in the bathroom) book covers have ceased for me to be as meaningful as they used to be. I actually have to go out of my way to see the cover of any book and when I choose what books to read I am more likely to pick a book from a review than in an actual bookstore.

  • Tony

    The both look like something I would find in the spiritual book section of Wal-mart. One targeted to kids and the other to adults.

  • http://lyvvielimelight.blogspot.com/ Lyvvie

    I disagree; I think the UK cover looks childish and the USA one more mature. The UK one would be more tolerable if the title font wasn’t so sloppy blood slashy. I agree with the person who said it was like a Harry Potter cover. Who is the target audience for this book? Perhaps youth appeal is what he was aiming for? In which case, they should swap.

  • littlejohn

    I also disagree. The British cover looks like a children’s book.

  • Stephanie

    Amy,

    You can get just about any British book through Amazon.co.uk. I Use it all the time to get the nifty Brit TV that won’t come over here for ages or won’t come over without particularly annoying edits. (The Second Coming comes to mind.)

  • Gabe

    I’m with the people immediately above me. The British one is just poorly done, and the stretched atoms look like a complete amateur spent a few minutes in a photo-editing program and stretched out a 2D illustration. The title is also in a very odd font… The American version is really very boring, but at least it looks acceptable.

  • Sinfanti

    I know the British cover isn’t perfect, but that American one is terrible. This is supposed to be a book geared towards children. The magic of reality is a topic that is really a bright and happy one. So why a cover that seems so bleak?

    Sadly, many people do judge a book by its cover and that US version is a poor one.

  • http://fryonic.tumblr.com/ Fryonic

    If there’s a Canadian one in the future, it will probably have a cartoon moose and beaver on it.

  • http://cannonballjones.wordpress.com Paul Adams

    The UK cover is definitely better for a kid’s book but the typography is still grim. The two typefaces clash horribly and they should have gone with one or the other. Still makes me wish I was a kid and able to read this as part of its target audience :-)

  • Peter Mahoney

    Well, at least now we know that readers of this blog do not limit it to Billboards when it comes to having strong opinions about fonts.

  • Michael

    The British cover looks like the poster of Tromeo & Juliette:
    http://classic-horror.com/files/images/tromeo_and_juliet.review.jpg

  • Liz

    I want the British version! I was excited about that cover art =[

    The American version looks like a Christian help book.

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    I’d buy it even if they put an angel on the cover.

  • keddaw

    They both hit their target audience: the British one is aimed at children; the American one is aimed at adults.

  • cass_m

    @keddaw That’s what I was thinking. Different targets, different covers.

    I like the Brit cover. To me it conveys that science is active; understanding is increasing. It makes every day things more interesting by building on knowledge (yes found in books). I wouldn’t mind having it on my bookshelf with the other kid lit but will likely get an e-version.

  • Amy Jones

    The person who says their son will more likely to pick the UK version up than American… it’s the same book. lol
    Teach the kid to not judge a bok by its cover. ;)
    And what refined grown up actually says “kicks ass?” Oh wait… refined is the key word here. Such trach coming from a woman. Sad.

  • Amy Jones

    The person who says their son will more likely to pick the UK version up than American… it’s the same book. lol
    Teach the kid to not judge a book by its cover.
    And what refined grown up actually says “kicks ass?” Oh wait… refined is the key word here. Such trash coming from a woman. Sad. Hopefully your son picks up the book and not the language. ;)

  • ash

    @Amy Jones, I’m not sure which piece of hypocrisy made me laugh at your post more. Was it the ‘do not judge a book by it’s cover’ followed straight away by ‘you cannot possibly be refined if you use the words kick ass in a quick offhand blog comment’ or the the raging misogyny coming from a woman?

    Hmmm…

  • Amy Jones

    I haven’t seen Amy’s “cover” so I’m not judging her by that. It was stated that her kid wouldn’t pick up the book with the AMerican cover but would pick up the book with the British cover. That’s lame. He probably wouldn’t pick it up at all if that is the case.

    And the whole potty mouth issue, well, I’m not a fan. I truly hope her kid picks up the book and not her potty mouth. Seriously, if those are the only words one can choose to express themselves well, it’s sad. Especially sad when her kid starts talking like that at school. We should teach our children better vocabs, of course, that would be difficult if the parent doesn’t have one to begin with. ;)

    And refined people don’t use the phrase “kicks ass.” That’s a simple fact. Perhaps you should look up what refined means.

    Again, I hope her kid will pick up the book because it’s probably going to be a great read.

  • abrxas

    Um….all due respect, but: WRONG! No great shakes itself, the American version is faaaar better than the Brit one. The Brit cover is garish.

  • ash

    @Amy Jones

    I haven’t seen Amy’s “cover” so I’m not judging her by that.

    On a blog, as a commentator, your words are your ‘cover’, which you judged her on. Glad to help educate you :)

    It was stated that her kid wouldn’t pick up the book with the AMerican cover but would pick up the book with the British cover. That’s lame.

    On the subject of education, perhaps you are unaware that sighted people, especially children, can be initially attracted or repelled by aesthetics?

    Especially sad when her kid starts talking like that at school. We should teach our children better vocabs, of course, that would be difficult if the parent doesn’t have one to begin with.

    Given your poor usage of grammar and punctuation, compounded by the best phrase you could find to express your displeasure being ‘It’s lame.’, perhaps that is something you should work on yourself first?

    Perhaps you should look up what refined means.

    I am well aware of what refined means, but I have as yet failed to find a definition that reads thus;

    Refined – a delicate flower who does not realise that language usage may also be differentiated by situational context (p.s. welcome to the internet) and who is content to rely on hypocrisy, judgementalism and misogyny to attempt to make a vague point. May also suffer from a proliferation of smiley faces to excuse the fact that they’re being incredibly disingenuous and don’t want to be pulled up on it.
    :)

  • Amy Jones

    Hahaha! Ash you are quite entertaining. Thanks! I love condescending athiests. They are quite fun. It’s a blast to sit at athiest gatherings and listen to you pat each other on the backs for being so much smarter than everyone else. Haha! Fun!

    You may pull me up on anything. Your friend has a potty mouth. I find it distasteful when moms use such language. It shows a lack of education and refinement. If you don’t understand that it matters not a wit to me. You have a problem with that, oh well.

    As a teacher I understand very well what may or may not appeal to children. However, a child that is intelligent enough to understand this book is intelligent enough to not be put off by a cover. If a parent is able to adequately explain the book and the reasons the child should read it then the cover shouldn’t matter. Put two and two together. Mom has potty mouth. Mom is concerned that her child will not read book due to cover. That says something about that family. Well, at least mom and child.

    Most eight yr old children are curious and approached correctly the cover of this book isn’t a problem. The problem is with those who are judging the book by its cover.

    Sad.

  • ash

    @Amy Jones

    I love attempting to be condescending athiests.

    There, fixed that for you.

    If you don’t understand that it matters not a wit to me.

    In fact, it matters so little that you devoted an entire paragraph whining about it!

    As a teacher (Oh please, not English?) I understand very well what may or may not appeal to children.

    Why hello appeal to authority; may I counter with the fact that my mother has been teaching for 40 years and disagrees with you?

    Put two and two together. Mom has potty mouth. Mom is concerned that her child will not read book due to cover. That says something about that family. Well, at least mom and child.

    Eek, you can’t handle math either? I’m shocked :)

    Mum is concerned that that particular book cover will be less aesthetically attractive to child and child will thus eschew it in favour of something that appears more interesting. Mum wants to encourage said child into reading book so opts for the cover more likely to titillate
    child’s interest. Sounds like a responsible mother who wants to encourage child’s interest in education, and knows their child’s preferences. You, a supposed teacher, have a problem with that?

    That says something about that family. Well, at least mom and child.

    The problem is with those who are judging the book by its cover.

    Well gosh, I guess irony can be added to the already growing list of things you appear to have little clue about.

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com chanson

    The British cover reminds me of the video of TMBG’s “Science is Real” — a fantastic video for kids!

  • Amy Jones

    @ ash

    Is Amy unable to speak for herself or do you think are a supposed expert who should whine on behalf of others?

    Oh, and your mother should get out of her 40 year lesson plans and learn some things about kids.

    A responsible mother isn’t a potty mouth.

    Ash, darling, get a life and stop speaking for others. Arrogant much?

  • Amy Jones

    @chanson

    That’s an excellent video!

  • ash

    @Amy Jones, bless you sweetie, I’m glad you took the opportunity of a couple of days to calm down. Perhaps next time you could take the opportunity to form a coherent argument.

    I’m also loving the fact that you appear to see yourself as ‘refined’, yet have still to bother addressing the fact that you stoop to personal insult and fallacious reasoning at any given opportunity. You’re so precious :)

    Is Amy unable to speak for herself or do you think are a supposed expert who should whine on behalf of others?

    I have no idea; perhaps she’s too refined to relegate herself down into the gutter with you. I am happy to flay you by your own (admittedly poor) standards though, as you insist. It’s lovely that you think I’m an expert, but it really only takes a moderate education to portray your many flaws. I’m guessing you resent the fact that you are unable to provide even this to your charges :(

    Oh, and your mother should get out of her 40 year lesson plans and learn some things about kids.

    Mummy insults? Oh cupcake, please. Here’s a clue; it doesn’t matter how big and shiny the whistle they give you, what you take as ‘playground duty’ is them shushing you out to play with the other children. You’ll probably get over it in a decade or so :)

    A responsible mother isn’t a potty mouth.

    A grown up is able to say those nasty words without such quaint euphemisms, I’m sure you’ll try being an adult someday. Or, if you insist, how about trying to be creative? My personal favourite so far is ‘oral defecation’.

    Ash, darling, get a life and stop speaking for others. Arrogant much?

    I’m honestly starting to like you, but arrogance towards you is kind of akin to feeling superior to my pet rabbit. I’m fairly sure you won’t understand that, but please feel free to get one of your students to explain it to you.

    P.s. as well as starting to like you, I kind of wish that I knew you in person. It would be interesting to see your reaction to my comment. Will it be the exorcist style 360° head turn, or just the embittered self implosion? Please get back to me if you’re able.

  • Bubba

    The English version is a bit gaudy and the typography overall is pretty bad. The American version seems a bit too generic graphically, but the text is handled a little better (well, not the offset centered subtitle)

    Richard Dawkins is practically a household name these days…why can’t the publishers hook the guy up with more competent creatives?

  • The Other Weirdo

    I prefer the American version. The British one is just tacky, with books being phasered by random rainbows. It looks like something you use for a children’s book.


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