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That Dumbass, Blonde Anne of Green Gables And The Most Idiotic Book Covers On Amazon

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | February 8, 2013 | Comments ()


anne.jpeg

No doubt, if you're a fan of Anne, you've already seen the stupid new "Anne of Green Gables" cover that has been making the rounds. Though this edition was put out in November, the Internet just got their indignant little hands on it this week and it's no surprise, given the collective hubbub, that the cover and, in fact, the edition itself has been removed from Amazon as of this morning. Those of you who are not fans of Anne may be scratching your head over the hue and cry. So here's the deal. Anne of Green Gables or Avonlea or The Island or wherever is a redhead. Plain and simple. If you're not familiar, it may sound stupid to quibble but it is, I assure you, a most essential part of her story. And the young Canadian orphan (young, as in 11 when the book starts, not however old that hussy up there is) is such a beloved character to so many so when you mess with her, you mess with legions. For what it's worth, many of us who grew up not only with the book but the 1980s mini-series think Anne looks something like this:

carrots.jpg

Or, if you prefer, here was the most prevalent book cover when I was a young reader:
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And, if you like, you can see a smattering of editions here. So what's up with blondie? Well "Anne Of Green Gables" was written in 1908 and the copyright has expired putting our carrot-top protagonist in the public domain. As is often the case with works in the public domain, Anne has been snatched up by some self-publishing outfits to be reprinted and distributed (for profit) to the masses. In this case, the culprit is Amazon's CreateSpace.

Now self-publishers are certainly not the only outfits to re-market classic books to a younger "sexier" demographic. Bigger publishers who really should know better are also guilty of this practice. My fellow bookstore employees and I often bemoan what we call "Twilight" covers e.g. these delights from Harper Collins:
changedbookcovers.jpg

And this absolutely batsh*t "Alanna" cover from Simon & Schuster:
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Now you can go ahead and call me a snob for being irritated by book covers. And you can tell me marketing shouldn't matter if the content is the same. But as an employee of an independent bookstore who fights against Amazon every day for its very existence (dramatic but true), I take a particular pleasure in curling my lip in disdain at CreateSpace's misstep. "Oh of course it's f*cking Amazon," we booksellers sighed when we looked up who was responsible for that irritating "Anne" cover. And Anne isn't the only one. Behold the beautiful idiocracy to be found in the CreateSpace collection:

"Jane Eyre"
Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 10.41.17 AM.png

"The Secret Garden"
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"The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer"
Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 10.45.15 AM.png

"Ulysses"
Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 10.46.57 AM.png

"Sherlock Holmes"
Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 10.55.35 AM.png

"The Prophet"
Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 10.51.50 AM.png

"Northanger Abbey"
Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 10.58.03 AM.png

"Ethan Frome"
Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 10.52.53 AM.png

"Emma"
Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 10.49.09 AM.png

"Awakening": The cover for this one is fine enough but the Table of Contens? Well...
Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 10.50.09 AM.png

**Drags out soap box. Clambers atop it.**

I'm not even remotely trying to hide the axe I have to grind. So if you want to get out now, I wouldn't blame you. You might want to argue that these dumb covers have nothing whatever to do with Amazon. That CreateSpace is merely a platform and that whoever chose a blonde Anne Shirley or a tank top'd Mary Lennox or a high heel'd Catherine Morland is really the offending party. But I will tell you this much. No independent bookstore employee would willingly stock that "Anne Of Green Gables" cover. No buyer would order it. No manager would would accept it. No bookseller would shelve it. What's apparent here is that Amazon and their ilk lack the very basic awareness that we bookstore employees pride ourselves in.

Is it blowing things out of proportion to get this excitable over a book cover? Possibly. But what you have to understand is that we've made books, especially beloved ones like "Anne of Green Gables" our religion, our passion. We work for very little money in a dying industry because we care that deeply about what we do. It breaks my heart that we're being edged out by a large, faceless company who has no awareness, no love for books. But I'm not stupid. The market and the basic fact of supply and demand is what's at play here. And I'm sure video store clerks are equally distraught that I've abandoned their knowledge of arcane films for the convenience of On Demand or Netflix. These past two paragraphs are not a lecture or an attempt to convince you of something. Just a sad wistful sigh for something that's dying. Something that I think is valuable. Your mileage may vary.



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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • Bookwurm

    tom cruise / jack reacher anyone? I've come to the conclusion, that they just don't care anymore.

  • Sunsneezer

    Those are offensively bad, even if you make abstraction of the content of the books. This is low-grade graphic design from intention to execution, put together from a couple of keywords, a ShutterStock account and a folder of miscellaneous fonts.
    I'd suspect poorly unsupervised outsourcing. Soon to be made entirely by algorithms, of course.

  • ladydi

    The only people who would willingly buy these books are librarians who work in all-girl schools. I should know, because I am one. I'm very guilty of buying classics with covers like these, but here's what I think: if Romeo and Juliet is going to get picked up just because the Twilight-esk cover appeals to my fickle students, then to be honest I'm totally okay with it. Is it a crime to all mankind? Yeah. But hey, gets my kids reading.

    Just to be clear: I hate all of these covers, and cringed openly when I saw the Anne of Green Gables cover because what. What.

  • Guest

    _sheds tear, claps morosely_

  • Guest

    Eh, the fan-made covers are fine. I don't get to ever see them, so whatever. It's the Harper Collins bullshit that enrages me.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    This is probably comparable to how I felt when they cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.

  • AshBookworm

    These are seriously painful to look at. I can't pick the worst one. It just gets worse and worse as you scroll down the page.

  • par1964

    Ahem .... she got her red hair from the red soil of her home, PEI. She obviously spent the summer at her aunt's place on Cape Cod, and the white sand turned her into a blonde ......

  • "Is it blowing things out of proportion to get this excitable over a book cover? " Hell to the NO! Books are things we cherish, they're our friends, our hopes, our lives in alternate universes. So when you mess with my imaginary life, you mess with me. Shame Amazon. Shame.

  • PREACH IT, MAMA.

  • Pix

    I am right up there on your soap box, if you will nudge over a bit! There's a reason I search out the early 1900s editions of my favorites; it truly adds a certain something to the reading, a something that would be annihilated by these covers.

  • John G.

    Is it blowing things out of proportion to get this excitable over a book cover?

    Absolutely not! Someone has to hold on to the little remaining decency left in our world. Before hypertext, the book cover was an important key that the author/publisher gave you to send you and to guide you on your journey. There are sci-fi books that I read as a child that put oceans of meaning into their cover art, images that I would repeatedly refer back to as I read. A book's cover is it's signature, the mere colors of which can re-open that world you got lost in years go in an instant. And it's not Amazon that's at fault. They are just a symptom. The problem is mass-market/ mass-consumption capitalism that seeks to make everything into a production-line widget that increases its profit margin every year, even if merely by pennies. The more you break something like a great novel, something that has a soul of its own, into a widget, the more you make it less of a book. And if it's just a widget, then who cares about the cover, or the words, or anything. It's just a piece in the machine now, the machine that turns the soul into units for sale, with a sku number, a wireless RFID chip, free 2-day shipping anywhere in the world, and multiple, interchangeable covers. re-package, re-purpose, re-design then re-sell. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The art and soul has been removed. The machine function without us now.

    Hang in there, Joanna. You keep up the good fight. Independent bookstores and their ilk, will not be here much longer, and that is one of the saddest facts I know.

  • Guest

    John, it might interest you to delve into a little book/print history, esp. in Britain 1775-1900 (which is a stunningly fascinating topic, I'm not even kidding). The profit drive surrounding our beloved books isn't new. It shaped the design of books we now consider "classic," the breaking of those novels up into volumes, the size and bind, and a whole host of other paratextual things--not to mention who got into print and for how long. It was major commercial, major cutthroat, and major ugly, and ideals about "the art and soul" of literature were ferociously debated then, too. And don't even get me started on the whole Dublin piracy industry! Or the war on "circulating libraries." Things exist on a continuum, absolutely, and are worse now, but Dickens, Johnson, Hardy, Austen, Braddon, Radcliffe and Lackington wouldn't see anything alien in what you wrote--except for the digital tech shift, of course. :)

    Joanna's fight, though? Necessary. At least they weren't fighting to keep books in print 200 years ago. /weeps

  • Mrs. Julien

    I ♥ Pajiba.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Nice points.

  • Melissa Doucette

    LMM's family own the right to Anne's image, which is why whoever put a blond on the cover. However, being an Islander born and bred, I feel I must quote Grumpy Cat: NO. (Also, I'm a redhead, and if I had a dollar for everytime some clever person called me Anne of Green Gables I'd be able to buy Anne's soul back from the horrible sequel movies.)

  • mswas

    I didn't know Ulysses was so groovy.

  • kevennewsome

    I agree with the cover problem. But let's not belittle the model, who probably had absolutely nothing to do with her photo being chosen to cover Anne. For all we know, this may have been a senior picture of someone who's creepy uncle used it in Createspace to make a fast buck...and you've just called her a hussy. If no one else will cry foul on behalf of the unfortunate model, I will.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    No, that bothered me too. Thanks for speaking up.

  • Guest

    Truth.

  • TheReinaG

    Was I supposed to eat a lot of acid before I read Ulysses? I must have missed that advice at some point.

  • It would have been an easier read, certainly.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Seriously, it couldn't possibly hurt.

  • bewegung951

    After staring hypnotically at the cover for "The Prophet," I have decided that it's greatest irritant is the font.

  • BlackRabbit

    One question: what's...happening on that cover to "The Prophet"? Is it what it looks like? Because it LOOKS like a guy giving a girl the "downstairs kiss." Or perchance I am smutty.

  • spljt

    I thought the Northanger Abbey cover was clever. No, now, hear me out. Imagine the cover portraying the glamour and fashion of one of the female characters from the awful novels Catherine has been reading and interpret the red shoes and dress to symbolize the inflamed imagination that leads Catherine to suspect the Earl or Duke or Count or whatever he is of murdering his own wife. I think it fits Catherine fevered daydreaming.

  • maureenc

    The dress isn't bad (by which I mean it's vague enough where it *could* be a late 18th/early 19th century style, and the red satin does conjure up the sensational novels Catherine adored), but I don't think they had four inch platform heels during the Regency.

  • apsutter

    Ugh...why are they trying to make these wonderful old classics "current?!?!" They were written about and for a specific time period god damn it! I dont want to see a little 90's scamp as freaking huck finn or tom sawyer!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I think they're just using stock photos. They need something for the cover, and this is as close as they can get for as little effort.

  • TheAggroCraig

    You're supposed to look THROUGH that Ulysses cover. Then you'll see a sailboat with him tied to the mast.

  • Quatermain

    When, Lord? When the hell do I get to see the goddam sailboat?

  • nosio

    The Ulysses cover cannot be real. I refuse to believe that is a real thing.

    This whole post made my heart hurt a bit.

  • BWeaves

    I love books. Real books. And I am influenced a lot by the cover.

    I remember the British versions of Harry Potter came out in two covers each. One for adults and one for children.

    I'm more likely to buy a book if it has a classic work of art on the cover that seems to match the plot.

    RE: The Twilighting of the covers of classic novels? Anything that tricks kids into reading the classics is OK by me.

  • Guest

    Yeah, the 5% of under-30s who can stand to read "old-fashioned" language (i.e. anything written before 1920). I know--I get the student feedback every semester. Sometimes we can get a few to overcome their bias and develop an "ear" for it, but...not as many as we'd like.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Actually, this is a good point. I am also influenced by the covers of books - I buy a fair amount of fantasy, and if the cover is uber-cheesy I don't pick it up to read the back.

  • Know what makes me mad about the Alanna covers? I purchased the books for my Kindle years ago. I noticed about six months ago that the original cover art had been "updated" with those ridiculous new covers. Leave well enough alone, Amazon. Leave well enough alone.

  • BWeaves

    Why does Sherlock Holmes look like Robert Downey Jr.? Oh, nevermind.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Books are not dying. They are just changing.

    And travesties are invariably committed on all copyright-free materials that could possibly make anyone a dime.

    Yelling at Amazon CreateSpace is like yelling at Etsy because some of the merchants sell tacky stuff. Because that's what it is, tacky, but only marginally tacky than many books that are published through more traditional routes.

    I think these covers are hilarious though, esp the actual HarperCollins ones. And I get the general frustration with Amazon.

  • Deidra

    So that whole "don't judge a book by its cover" is purely metaphorical? This IS a puzzlin' world.

  • She's not judging a book by its cover. She's judging a book cover by that same book cover.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    you win!

  • kushiro -

    I'm glad they finally published the long lost chapter of Tom Sawyer, In Which Tom Tricks the Neighborhood Boys Into Re-Carpeting His Parents Rec Room So He Can Play His New Wii U.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Ethan Frome: fey, English, and rich. AWESOME!

  • nosio

    This made me laugh so hard. WHY IS HE HOLDING A PUPPY?

  • BobbFrapples

    Librarians stand beside you on this one. If the cover doesn't represent the book inside, we reach for our handy-dandy pitchforks.

  • $27019454

    She looks like Ana-Nicole Smith of Green Gables

  • Gilbert

    Maybe they were blonde carrots?

  • Zirza

    Back in the day when I, too, used to work in an independent bookstore (which has sadly been gobbled up by a larger and much more populist chain) the first thing I learned was that covers matter - but only when people are browsing. Generally if somone came in looking for Jane Eyre or Wutherin Heights they'd leave with either the cheapest copy or the classic hardback in leather.

    But absolutely great books have sold considerably less than they ought have because the cover was ill thought out.

    Oh, and my copy of The Secret Garden has an even worse cover. It looks like an amateur rendering of Strawberry Shortcake that's been lying behind the window of the garden shed for six years.

    The Tom Sawyer cover might have worked had they put the kid in period gear. He's cute.

  • Lauren_Lauren

    It's just Anne's modern cousin, Blonde of Pay Cables.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Internet, we have a winner.

  • mswas

    ding ding ding!!!

  • Lauren_Lauren

    Holy hell. Apparently I should print this comment and frame it.

  • Doombear

    On the plus side, it amuses me to no end to imagine some young person thinking they'd picked up the next "Twilight," only to learn that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

  • Guest

    This THIS is the winner right here. ^

  • Whilst I completely agree with the whole article, occasionally it does actually work. I'm a school librarian and have a student whose favourite books are now Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Rebecca and I was only able to convince her to try them with their shiny new, Twilight-esque covers. Previously all she read was Twilight and the like and now she's devouring Daphne Du Maurier's back catalogue. So I'm totally on board, and I boycott Amazon and am thoroughly devoted to my life of independent bookshops and libraries, sometimes teens need a little veneer of shiny to convince them to try something they see as dusty and boring. It's a shame there's no middle ground between the dull, old fashioned covers and the derivative, silly covers that tick both boxes. (That Anne cover is an abomination though. As a redhead who idolised Anne growing up, it makes me angry, and none of my teen readers would ever pick that up!)

  • Buck Forty

    Thankyou! Yes, the blonde Anne is wrong but aside from that... what a bunch of book snobs we have here today. If that Tom Sawyer cover can get a young boy away from his computer game/app for long enough to just at least try one chapter then I say more power to these publishers.
    Again I say: book snobs!!

  • Robert

    Before Borders shut down, I witnessed this happen in real life. I was chatting with some of my worker friends and watched as a group of tweens said "OMG, it looks like Twilight." The chain made them put all of these ridiculous tween-marketed covers on a display table between the romance and lit racks. They walked away with copies of Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Emma.

  • Hopefully they found a new favourite book!

  • JoannaRobinson

    I'm comforted by the knowledge that Bella and Edward's favorite book involves puppy strangling.

  • There was a bunch of puppy strangling in Andrea Arnold's movie version, but I had no idea that was from the book.

  • Irina

    Objectively the worst is the Bella-fying of Alanna, but for some reason I'm most annoyed by the cover for Emma. It's a simple touch, but it's way too intimate, so out of sync with the spirit and the setting of the book and, I don't know, it's just so WRONG. Then again, I wouldn't object to this as the cover for North&South (thanks to Richard Armitage who made it seem like kissing a woman in the middle of a busy train station was so very appropriate for 1855).

  • periwinkled

    I was aware of blonde Anne, but the high-heeled Catherine Moreland kills me. Although Catherine herself might well get a kick out of it.

  • Blake

    Bad book covers are the reason I use a e-reader (also to avoid conversations will riding the train to work). I don't know how many times I received a questioning look when I was reading:

  • Siege

    I also feel your pain about embarrassing covers on the train. I currently have a book in my to-read pile that's about a fire at a gay bar in 1970s New Orleans. It's a non-fiction work about a much overlooked tragedy and the callous way people reacted at the time...but I just CANNOT be sitting on the subway casually paging through "Let the F_ggots Burn".

  • Wembley

    Does no one know how to make a book cover out of a paper bag anymore?!?

  • cheryl

    As a WWII buff who lives in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, I feel your pain. It's almost as hard to read on the bus as this:

  • BWeaves

    My husband has this book, and I have to keep it spine side to the wall in the event my parents come over. My dad was in Nazi concentration camp as a child, and while I don't think he'd object to the book itself, they tend to freak out when they see a swastika.

  • PaddyDog

    The Secret Garden one is the worst because there's a weird hint of pedophilia about it.

    About 10 years ago, I was buying a book in what was then the local bookstore (now a dry cleaners) and the person at the register tried to sell me Sean Hannity's book that was on promotion at the time. I declined telling her I would rather burn my money than give it to a Hannity publication, and she said, "yes we hte him too but the money we get to do the promotion outstrips any profits we would make this month from selling books". That's when I knew it was over.

  • $27019454

    I upvoted you because I, too, thought that it looked creepy-bad-touch-y, but was too worried that if I said it, people (you lot) would think I was creepy-bad-touch-y. Then I remembered where I was and the company I am among and I didn't say it because it was NOT WEIRD ENOUGH.

    And then you said it and I'll stop drinking iced coffee now.

  • kushiro -

    Well, I certainly can't wait to read the adventures of Anne and Diana and the one time they drove their pickup to the rainbow party at Gilbert Blythe's place.

  • pyrajane

    I don't know... plaid shirts totally scream Pre-WWI.

  • I wrote my senior thesis about Jane Eyre, so that cover feels like a slap in the face.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    Is that Lizzy Caplan on that "The Woman Who Rides Like a Man" cover?

  • Guest

    Well, this makes me stabby.

  • Robert

    That Ulysses cover is the most offensive to me for some reason. I think it might be that the other ones, in their totally misguided ways, at least attempt to somehow connect to the content of the books. That connection is "Jane Eyre is a girl, teehee," but at least it exists.

  • Agreed. It's technicolor barf.

  • Tom

    I'm guessing they're attempting to give it a "modern" and "appealing" cover like the others in the post but they can't latch onto anything simple so they just did that. It was probably either that cover or an accurate cover that would be too boring.

  • Robert

    They could have had a gorgeous freckly girl lying in her sheets with a rose carved out of delicious organ meats and it would have matched the other Twilghted covers perfectly.

  • Bert_McGurt

    It's like some bizarre stable time-loop recursive experiment whereupon someone took an Erich von Daniken cover, crossed it with the graphical wizardry common to late 80's health class/fast food training videos and filtered it through the Windows 3.1 version of Paint in an attempt to create an interpretation of what their vomit looked like after gazing upon at the grotesque hybrid abomination they'd created.

    And now I've gone cross-eyed which somehow makes it look EVEN WORSE.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    It gives me hope. I, too, can pick the bucket tool and a gradient and click a mouse, which means some day I could design book covers!

    I mean, granted, I will subsequently kill myself because shame and guilt.

  • Four Eyes

    As an ardent book reader with friends who work in bookstores (it's always good to befriend your suppliers) I am still ticked off at the "Twilightifying" of these book covers. Some may say that it's necessary to attract younger readers, but is it really? Aren't these attempts just actually patronising youths and underestimating their intelligence? Geeze! You're not blowing this out of proportion at all. What they HELL did they do to Alanna???

  • APOCooter

    They read Twilight. There's no underestimating whatsoever.

  • Lee

    Anne of Green Gables was an engaging, fiery character, loaded with imagination and personality. Bella is...well...the opposite to that. I feel sad that Bella is the heroine for preteen girls of today, and those dreary books are their bread and butter.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Whoever created that Anne cover should be humiliated into the very dust.

  • Tom

    I never knew that Anne was a college student who looked like Kate Upton. And the "Ulysses" cover makes my eyes hurt. Who would buy that?

  • Kala

    That cover is seriously freaking me out. For real. If I scroll up one more time, I'm going to start wordlessly screaming at my desk.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Clearly, the goal was to trick people into thinking it was a Quantum Leap novel where Sam does a mega-leap into the times of the Odyssey.

  • TheReinaG

    Win. Also: I might buy that, just for shits and giggles.

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