Movie Tie-In Book Covers

I hate ’em.

I doubt more books are being made into movies now than previously, but over the past couple of years there have been a large number of books I’ve personally read adapted for the big screen. That in itself gets annoying, but what’s starting to really get on my nerves are the book covers that change after the movie is made.

For example, this is what the book looked like when I read The Road:

The Road

This is what it looked like when the movie was made:

The Road - post-movie

This is what Water for Elephants looked like when I read it:

Water for Elephants

This is what it looks like now that there’s a movie:

Water for Elephants - post-movie


Seriously…I. Hate. Them.  I hate them for three reasons.

1)  The artistry of the cover is lost.  There are generally covers designed for various editions and/or countries and each has its own charm.  The movie tie-in covers are often no more creative than taking a frame from the movie and slapping some text on top of it.

2)  The movie tie-in cover shows the emphasis of the movie script, which is often completely independent of the plot of the book.  There are very few film adaptations that are true to their books.  Misleading covers are the result.

3)  Using a frame from the movie forever associates a book with the stars on its cover.  I understand that the new covers are being marketed to people who probably won’t read a book unless it has been a movie first and they’ve already seen it, really I get it.  But the actors are playing a role and they’ll move on; the book’s character lives on without changing.  Half the time the actor cast in an adaptation doesn’t even remotely resemble any description of the character they’re portraying.

I’ll own up to being a bit of a snob:  Those of us who read a book for the sake of reading it and NOT because it became a movie already have an idea of that the characters look and sound like before script and casting ever happen.  It’s entirely possible that my deep dislike for these covers is tied in to a general dislike for film adaptation.  But I don’t think so.

Check Out Book, Read on Phone

I just finished reading The Financial Lives of the Poets, which will go down in my personal history as the first digital book I’ve ever checked out from a library.  All the dozens and dozens of e-books I read previously came from Amazon or from Project Gutenberg or a smattering of other sites that offer free books.  The problem was that I had no way to read ePub books.  Kindle doesn’t support that file type–yet–and I have been unwilling to shell out dollars for another reader, just to be able to access library books.

Luckily, my long-time web surfing habit served me well this month, when I discovered txtr.   From what I can tell, txtr is a German company that is partnering with Adobe Digital Editions, which handles ePub books for both the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library.  Prior to txtr, I would have had to read any library book I checked out on my laptop, which totally doesn’t appeal to me.  But txtr has an Android app that somehow makes Adobe recognize my phone as a supported device.  I can then read the library ePub book on my phone.

It seemed to good to be true when I initially read about it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it.  I installed the app on my phone, perused the BPL website, chose a book, downloaded it, and then walked through the steps to get the book on my phone.  Guess what?  It worked!  Sort of.  I mean, it did work, but it wasn’t the greatest reading experience.  The default font size isn’t huge, but there are weird “margins,” so the default font means seeing only a few words on the screen at a time.  Since I was reading a book with “poets” in the title, I really did think for awhile that I was reading a long poem.  Really.  I did.

When I figured out what was going on, I made the font as small as possible and then I was seeing a decent strip of text down the middle of my screen, but I had to squint sometimes to read it.  The app doesn’t appear to save your place, the way the Kindle and Google readers do.  But it has bookmarks–yay!  But the bookmarks don’t work–boo!  I basically had to always stop reading at the end of a chapter and use the table of contents to locate my spot.

I daresay I won’t be reading library books all the time using txtr, but I’m watching for app updates.  I did send an outline of its problems to the feedback address on the txtr website.  I hope the creators find it helpful and we see a really good reader very soon.


Here is a shot of the Android app with books listed. My version is in English, of course.

Extra stuff:

txtr does a few other things.  It allows file sharing, uploads, and downloads.  It lets you clip parts of webpages to save for later.  (Similar to Instapaper, if you’re familiar with that.)  And it does have a store.  You can buy books there, but all the prices are in euros and the text is in German.  Handy if you’re in Germany, maybe not so much if you’re anywhere else.

My Digital Reading Revolution

I’m on year three and counting with my Kindle–and still using version 1, because the SD card is just too big a draw to me to upgrade. My Kindle was a Christmas gift from my husband back in 2007 and it took no time at all to load it up with books and kiss paper goodbye!

Kindle 1 with skin from Decal Girl

No, that’s not how it happened at all.

I love gadgets and reading, so I adored my Kindle from the beginning for being the best of both worlds. I had no idea when I opened the box that I would eventually get rid of hundreds–hundreds and hundreds–of paper books in favor of digital versions. But that’s exactly what happened. I was kind of a book hoarder, ahem…collector, and my small apartment was crammed with somewhere in the neighborhood of about 2,000 books. This was a huge problem whenever I had to move, because books took up about half the boxes and friends were always reluctant to move them. I generally moved all the books by myself first, then called friends in later to help with the rest.

The Kindle was such a book-like piece of plastic that it didn’t take long for me to begin considering a purge. This prospect was helped along by our looming halfway-across-the-country move. I started taking a good look at my shelves and mentally dividing books into categories:

  1. Sentimentally Attached
  2. Manuals
  3. Good but Unneeded
  4. Why Did I Keep It?

That fourth category was a no-brainer. Any book that I couldn’t see a reason to have went to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I said goodbye to a couple hundred books that way straight off the bat.  The Manuals category was also fairly straightforward; anything that was still relevant stayed.  Then I went to work on category one: Sentimentally Attached. It took several months to choose books for this category, but when I was satisfied, that left me with the largest category: Good but Unneeded. These were given away to friends, mostly (thank you Myspace and Facebook). Those that couldn’t find homes were released into the wild.  When it finally came time to move, I managed to cull the sentimentally attached group even further, down to fewer than a hundred books.  Among them are a book that includes a note from my great-grandmother and several favorites from my childhood.  We ended up packing just a few boxes of books to bring with us.

I didn’t intend to stop buying paper books all together, but that’s what happened.  I replaced some of my paper books by buying digital versions from Amazon or downloading them for free from Project Gutenberg.  Mostly I just moved forward–all of my new books were Kindle books.  What’s weird is I still love visiting bookstores and perusing the books.  I just don’t buy anything.  I make mental notes of what looks good and then check Amazon to see if they’re available for Kindle.  My recent acquisition of an Android phone now lets me read my Kindle books on the phone and it allows me to share books with my husband on his Droid.  I don’t think I could ever go back to plain paper now.

One wish:  Kindle support of EPUB files…

A Trip to the Library

Today I saw a REAL librarian. Seriously. I’ve been to that particularly library hundreds of times and never laid eyes on this woman. Imagine if you will, a woman in her late fifties, tall with dark, but graying hair, pulled into a bun with a fluff of curly bangs. Thin, with dark eyes and wire-rimmed glasses, wearing a black skirt, red shirt and a black sweater draped around her shoulders. You know, all retro style. She gave me a friendly, but stern look as I passed and I’m pretty sure if she hadn’t been sitting in a glassed-in room, she would have put her finger to her lips and said, “Shhh,” just because she felt obligated. I was so enthralled by her that I almost ran into the police officer that was patrolling the religion shelves. Now why an officer was patrolling in the library at all is beyond me, but whatever.

To be honest, it has been probably a year since I darkened the doorstep of my library branch–long enough that my card had expired. (And I found out that I had a $4.00 fine, which they didn’t want me to pay because it hadn’t reached the $5.00 mark yet. Again, whatever.) It used to be that you had the option of using either the traditional card catalog or the computerized version. Now it’s the computer or nothing. I would consider myself a fairly advanced computer user, so it’s not that I’m intimidated by that or anything, but I think I really prefer the old card catalog. It’s sort of like hunting down a book. When you find the card, write down the number of the book, then finally find it…it’s like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You’ve accomplished something. And thumbing through all the cards makes you wonder who else had pulled that particular drawer. Were they looking for the same book you’re looking for? The same author? Were they old? Young? A college professor or some homeless guy? There was some mystery to it and some semblance of being part of a larger group of bibliophiles. Now it’s a computer search, just like if you Googled something. Big whoop.

I’ve always wanted to work in a library, so why I didn’t go get a degree in library science is beyond me. I really didn’t think of it and now I’m too lazy. Plus there are so few schools that offer it, I’d have to move somewhere. Again, too lazy. Plus plus, I have a feeling that I’d be stuck in classes learning things I already know with a bunch of frumpy women. It would be worse than nursing or elementary education. (As far as classroom diversity, I mean.) I’ve probably just insulted a lot of people with that idea, so I’ll move on. Anywho, I did try a couple of times to get library jobs here in my city. The first time I applied, no one even called me. The second time, I was asked to come in and take some skills tests, one of which was typing. I scored 72 wpm and was feeling pretty proud of myself, until I was told that was too fast. TOO FAST?! Yeah, they said they felt I was over-qualified and would likely become bored. I begged and pleaded, trying to convince them that it truly was a dream to work in a library, but no go. I would have been the best worker they’d ever had. Now they’ll never know.

My love for books started when I was an infant; my love for libraries followed shortly thereafter. I learned to read when I was three and was reading whole novels by the time I was six. I’ve read a lot of books. I own a lot of books. I would like to work with a lot of books. I thought about Barnes & Noble, but that’s not fun. Those are all new books. Libraries have old books and when you walk in you get that old book smell. It’s one of my favorite smells in the whole world. I have some really old books in my house and sometimes I open them up and put my nose right inside. They’ve been my constant companions for my whole life, so it’s comforting to me to do that.

One reason I like the library so much is because I remember going to check out books when I was little. I had a pack of three younger brothers and a mom I didn’t really get much time with. But every Thursday, she would drop them off at Mother’s Day Out and take me to the library. Just the two of us. And I could look as long as I wanted and check out any book I wanted. Of course I left with a huge stack every week to get me through to the next Thursday. At the time, we were living in a very small town with a very small library and I’m pretty sure I read every book in the children’s section. Probably about half of the adult section, too. I can picture every inch of that building in my mind…the riding toys under the card catalog, the shelf where the Bobbsey Twins books were, the corner where I found out how the Eqyptians mummified people, how much colder the water was in the fountain there than any of the ones at school. And the librarian always remembered my name and always seemed glad to see me. It’s good being a kid with a library card.

My parents never censored anything I read. Whether that was from lack of interest or ignorance, I’m not sure. Suffice it to say I read a lot of books that were hardly age-appropriate. I probably had a lot of ideas in my head I shouldn’t have had as a kid, but really, I don’t think I’m the worse off for it. My grandmother gave me my first dictionary–real, adult, college dictionary–when I was seven. (And I still have it and use it.) I loved looking up new words I was learning in all the books I was reading. It certainly helped me understand all the adult conversations going on around me and when I argued with someone, pulling out a few big words always helped make my point. Still does.

I didn’t know very many kids who were avid readers, but a few friends had started getting interested by the time we were in middle school, mainly because of the sudden popularity of Sweet Valley High. Never read ‘em. I had become particularly enamored with Edna St. Vincent Millay when I was in third grade and by middle school, I had moved on to other notable poets and had gotten caught up in reading biographies. I did a really extensive book report on Chief Joseph, accompanied by a miniature Nez Perce village (built by me) for good measure. By high school I had discovered Plato, the Brontes and Dorothy Parker. You’d have thought I’d never picked up a book before in my life, I was so excited. Once again, not for the first time and not for the last, it was like a whole new world had opened up.

That’s why I was at the library today…because I needed to spend some time with my old friend Dorothy. And really, that’s what authors are to lovers of books. They’re people who cared enough to put their thoughts, ideas, opinions and dreams down on paper, so the rest of us could share. We escape through them, we are entertained, we laugh, we cry, we learn, we think…oh, we think…

So a big thanks today goes out to all my favorite authors: Dorothy Parker, the Brontes, Jane Austen, Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy, Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Sylvia Plath, Jack London, L. M. Montgomery, so many more I can’t even name them. Thank you for your blood, sweat, tears and courage. Thank you for not giving up when you got rejection letters. Thank you for listening to that little voice inside you that said, “Write! For the love of God, write!” And thank you for trusting in us, your readers, enough to give us these gifts that seem merely bound paper, but are so much more.

Now I’m going to read.