Links: Covers, beauty, mega-brothels, Peter Watts, True Detective, Getty Images and the quest for knowing everything

* Hack the Cover!; I find especially appealing this:

It wouldn’t be until years later that I realized this sense of rationality stemmed from a respect for readers. The books were sized perfectly for your back pocket or bag. Giant volumes were split into smaller tomes. The paper was elegant. The binding strong. Bookmarks glued in.

To the extent American publishers want to protect their paper business, they should be making physically awesome books. Too rarely they do.

* Germany’s mega-brothels, news to me.

* Peter Watts assaulted by U.S. border guards for no discernible reason other than asking questions.

* Getty Images and making “free” photos into a business. This makes more sense than any other analysis I’ve seen; certainly the value of stock photos is approaching zero. In my own small way I’m part of that effort since all my photos are “creative commons” licensed and friends have seen them on random places around the web. I’m not a professional or even a highly skilled amateur, so any expert photographers can restrain their opinions about my shortcomings. Despite those shortcomings I can hit some shots and very good cameras and lenses are now very cheap by historical standards; a couple hundred dollars can buy equipment better than what pros spent thousands on ten years ago.

* Good news if true (and long overdue whether true or false): “Shaking Up the Classroom: Under an increasingly popular system called competency-based learning, students are promoted after they master material—not just because they have spent a year in a class.”

* “Wonders of the Invisible World,” or, the True Detective finale.

White covers on nonfiction books

What gives with the numerous pop science nonfiction books with white covers? Both Gladwell books I own have them, as do a variety of others, as pictured here:

White book covers

Is this some bizarre trend? Does white convey authority of some kind? Is my sample size biased? These all seem like possibilities, but, judging from the shelves I’ve seen in airports too, the white cover on nonfiction seems quite popular. Only a few novels I own have white covers: Richard Russo’s Straight Man, a hardcover British edition of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep and perhaps one or two others. As for nonfiction, I have all the ones pictures as well as Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness, Freakonomics, and others.

EDIT: The Los Angeles Times’ Carolyn Kellogg discusses book jackets on the blog Jacket Copy, which discusses more than just this subject.

EDIT 2: I e-mailed Tyler Cowen on the issue, noting that his first book, Discover Your Inner Economist, is white, while his forthcoming Create Your Own Economy is red. He replied: “White looks better on-line and in thumbnail form, red looks better on a table full of books…

We’ll see which one does better!”

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