How are ebook covers different?

The cover of a book does a lot of work. The spine will give you the the author and title, so that you can find it on the shelf. The back or the flap will contain vital blurb designed to entice you into the story. The cover will have attractive and informative artwork to catch your eye. There may even be a recommendation from a famous author or critic. The book is usually big enough to sit comfortably in your hands so there’s plenty of space for detail on the cover.

An ebook is different. There’s no need for spine or back cover art because these parts of the book effectively don’t exist. The front cover is the only artwork associated with the book. In this image from Amazon (who have 70% of the UK online sales according to the Booksellers Association) the cover image is a small fraction of the space dedicated to the book. The thumbnail image is usually only around 21mm x 30mm (depending on various factors, obviously, such as how much you zoom in).


If a reader is buying directly through an ereader like the Kindle, then there’s a good chance that they will be looking at the image in greyscale, not in colour. Once the ebook is bought there will also be a large version of the cover image that will fill the whole screen (most ereaders are somewhere around 6 inches high) but it will still be greyscale. It’s also possible to ‘look inside’ some books on Amazon, in which case there will also be a large colour image of the cover.

So, in summary, ebooks need to:

  1. Look good in colour
  2. Look good in greyscale
  3. Look good in thumbnail
  4. Look good in larger sizes

In my next posts I’ll discuss how this effects the style of ebook covers. If you’re interested in more information about the size of ebook covers then read more at Webbish Books, The Book Designer and PasswordIncorrect.