IO Guideline – Ebook Covers

The main challenge for both ebook covers and digital-audiobook covers is that they will almost never be seen at the full size or resolution of a physical print or CD edition. Now and again, a reader might view an ebook cover image on a 7″ screen (often in grayscale!), but your cover has to look it’s best as a thumbnail, only 100 or 200 pixels wide, at 72 dpi.

This is because when a reader is deciding to buy your book instead of someone else’s, he is usually looking at a vendor website, like Amazon.com. And those websites display covers as thumbnails.

See, for example,

amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks
You need at least a 1050×1400, 72 dpi image for those occasions when the reader views the cover on his own device (Amazon now recommends 1875×2500), but thumbnail size is the size that actually matters for sales.

Therefore, high-concept images with clear, big text work best. Note that the store displays extra information to the right of the book, so the cover of an ebook doesn’t have to carry as much info as the cover and spine of a print book do.

In addition to this major restraint on size, Amazon (by far the biggest ebook seller) usually attaches a little “tab” to the bottom of Kindle edition images, e.g.,

http://www.amazon.com/The-Hunger-Games-ebook/dp/B002MQYOFW

In general, that’s where these sorts of media markers will be added, so it’s best to keep the bottom-right corner clear.

Here are some covers that we think work pretty well at this tiny size:

  1. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51YjsqQ-7oL._SY160_.jpg
  2. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41QtKXqLNgL._SY160_.jpg
  3. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41JFf6mGzOL._SY160_.jpg

#1 is very good. Readable title, readable author name, and readable image.

#2 is also pretty good, but notice that “An 87th Precinct Novel” is barely legible. This makes sense on a paperback, but not on an ebook cover.

#3 is also very good, but has the same problem as #2: the additional text is not easy to read: “A Kindle Single by”

Here are some covers that would work without all that tiny extra text:

  1. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41ehfaYA80L._SY160_.jpg
  2. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TmZOLRffL._SY160_.jpg
  3. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51UO234NX1L._SY160_.jpg

Those covers might work very well on print editions, but for digital editions, we’d want to take out the tiny text and have something recognizably similar, but uncluttered at thumbnail size.

Anything But White

The background of Amazon.com and other websites is generally white. This means that books covers that have solid white backgrounds can end up fading into the webpage like the Cheshire Cat. If you do need a white background on your cover for some reason, we’d put a thin black border around the edge of it to help your potential customers’ eyes.

Designing for Print and Ebook at the Same Time

If a print cover is going to be made for the same book, make sure to keep the PSD or INDD file with separate layers for the text and other design elements, so that it can be easily adjusted for the two different mediums. In particular, when converting a print cover to an e cover, you may want to take out smaller text and smaller image elements).

For professional help with your ebook cover, email us.

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