Chip Kidd: Book Cover Design & The Future of E-books

Chip Kidd, renowned book cover designer is currently on a trip to Ireland and this evening he did an interview for Culture Shock, an arts program on one of Ireland’s national radio broadcasters, Newstalk, hosted by Fionn Davenport.

Chip Kidd  is an associate art director at Knopf, an imprint of Random House. He joined the Knopf book design team in 1986, turning out jacket designs at an average of 75 a year, Kidd has also freelanced for DoubledayFarrar Straus & GirouxGrove PressHarperCollinsPenguin/PutnamScribner and Columbia University Press. He also supervises graphic novels at Pantheon, and in 2003 he collaborated with Art Spiegelman on a biography of cartoonist Jack Cole.  His output includes book covers for Bret Easton Ellis, Haruki Murakami, Dean Koontz, Cormac McCarthy, Frank Miller, Michael Ondaatje, Alex Ross, Charles Schulz, Osamu Tezuka, David Sedaris, Donna Tartt, John Updike and others. His design for Michael Crichton‘s Jurassic Park novel was carried over into marketing for the film adaptation.

His novel, The Cheese Monkeys (Simon and Schuster, 2001), is an academic satire and coming-of-age tale about state college art students who struggle to meet the demands of sadistic art instructors. The book draws on Kidd’s real-life experiences during his art studies. The sequel novel, The Learners, was released in 2008.

Chip shared his experiences of designing covers in the book publishing industry and the advent of e-books to the market. Significantly, Kidd believes that e-books remain a niche market and though the format will steadily grow, he has strong doubts they will ever eclipse the reader’s demand for the printed book. What I found most significant in Kidd’s interview with Davenport about e-books is his belief that much of the interest and attention on e-books and the arrival of the European Kindle is being greatly driven by the media and simply does not correspond to the interest from the reading and buying public. In an ever-changing world where we seem to discuss the future of publishing on a day to day basis, Kidd is the one of the inside voices of the commercial book industry who expresses a more tempered view on e-books. I wonder if perhaps Kidd is the other side of the more cautionary approach to the digital advancements  in publishing. Certainly, Kidd cannot be accused of being a conventionalist by any means. But in the great salvo of the commercial digital publishing world, perhaps he provides one stance and reason publishers are so circumspect and reluctant to overly change, invest finance, and ultimately, remodel their business plans for the short to medium term publishing future.

You can hear a podcast of the interview here. Kidd will also be appearing at the Offset festival this week in Ireland.


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