Let’s face it – sometimes, we absolutely do judge a book by its cover. The dust jacket illustrations or cover art on a book causes a reaction in the prospective reader, and isn’t that what art is meant to do?
When it comes to book collecting, small things can make a big difference in desirability and the decoration on the cover is no small thing. A recent inquiry through our metasearch site BookGilt.com brought up a common customer question: “How do I find a specific cover? How can I be sure I get the one I want?”
The customer who wrote in was searching for a copy of Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife for his wife, but in order to match the other books in her collection, it needed to have a hard-to-find purple and gold cover. We also see this question come up regularly from Murikami collectors who are interested in the original artwork of his vintage paperbacks. They are both looking for very specific covers and nothing less will do!
Unfortunately, what seems like an easy question can take a number of steps to ensure success. We’ve laid out our tips and tricks, honed by years of helping customers find the right covers.
1. Search by ISBN
Using the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for your preferred book is a great start for refining your search – but it is only a start. Many books, especially popular fiction titles, have the same ISBN for first printings and for later editions with different artwork or covers featuring movie tie-ins.
2. Filter out ‘Stock Photos’
In the above example of a stock image on Biblio, you see the ‘Note: Cover may not represent actual copy or condition available.’ We use that disclaimer because the book you receive might not look exactly like that image, which is supplied by the publisher.
Many listings on Biblio use stock photos, but we also offer a way to search only the listings that feature an actual photo of the book listed for sale. You can choose this option from our Advanced Search Page by clicking the box that says “w/ Bookseller-supplied Photos” or by using the ‘Refine Search Results’ feature on the left-hand side of your search results to ‘Filter by Attribute’ – ‘With Photos’.
3. Search by Publishing Date.
You can search by the publishing date to avoid later printings that may have an updated cover.. If you want the original cover of a book and you know that it was first printed in 1996, use the ‘Advanced Search’ options to filter your result: “Publish Date Between – 1996 and 1996.”
4. Read Bookseller Descriptions.
Each book on Biblio has been uploaded by a bookseller who set their own descriptions. Even if there isn’t a photo accompanying the listing, you can glean information about the cover from the description on the book details page.
Here is a great example of a (sold) listing from a bookseller who didn’t upload a photo but gives a very detailed description of the cover.
The Subtle Knife: His Dark Materials, Book Two – Pullman, Philip
New York: Knopf, 2002. 12th ptg . Soft cover. Near Fine. Unread trade paperback, pictorial purple covers. Slight edgewear. Tiny fore-edge stain. Tight. With ads. 18262 CF shelf
(Bookseller: Gil’s Book Loft, New York, United States)
5. Ask the Bookseller
If you still aren’t confident that the listing is what you are looking for and want a little more reassurance, please use the link to “Ask Seller a Question.” This will open up a contact form that will allow you to send them an email. This feature is on every Biblio book detail page under the “Add to Cart” button. Our sellers are experts on their inventory and they can hopefully clarify any important details about the book before you purchase it!
That’s it! The bottom line is that a little legwork will save you a lot of time, money, and frustration when you are seeking the right book cover for your collection. We hope this helps you find the book you’ve been searching for!
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.