Sunday, November 21, 2010

Re-packaging the Classics

I think it's really important for teens to have an appreciation for the Classics; we all have to read many of the Classic works in high school, but I think most teens really could care less. When my Sophomore English class read The Great Gatsby I think a large majority of the class didn't really like the novel and never picked up another Fitzgerald book. I absolutely loved it; and it along with John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday got me interested in and loving the Classics.

Maybe we (adults, teachers, librarians) need to give kids more of an opportunity to choose which Classic novels they want to read, rather than limiting their exposure to a handful of novels that "everyone" reads. But beyond just finding the right text for the right kid, we have to be able to make the Classics appealing. And cover design, packaging, and marketing are what's really going to get a teen to pick up Notes from the Underground on their own, which is what's really important.

I recently noticed that several Classics have been re-packaged to appeal to teens, especially Twilight fans, which got me thinking about teens' encounters with Classic literature and what gets one teen really interested in how teens end up loving the Classics.

I don't think it's all about marketing, but I do think many teens aren't lured in those cheaply produced Dover Editions versions of the Classics or other editions with dull covers. The covers are what really draw people into books (that's just the way it is). I know I should read Jane Austen because "everybody says so," but that doesn't mean that when I go to the bookstore I'm going to get excited about a book with a cheesy line drawing on the cover. The first step to get teens picking up the Classics on their own is to make them appealing and great teen orientated covers is a great place to start.

 As much as I am not a fan of the Twilight craziness, I do think the black covers are so beautiful. And re-packaging three of the Classic love stories mentioned in the series with Twilight-sque covers is totally brilliant. I've read so many blog posts by teens that they only picked up Pride and Prejudice because Bella and Edward talk about it and it has a "Twilight cover." If a black cover with red flowers and vampire-y font gets teens excited about Austen, Bronte, and Shakespeare than woo hoo!

Most of the Classics are Public Domain titles (meaning they are no longer under copyright and any publisher can create their own version of the original text), which means any YA publisher could jump on this trend and create a series of Classics with awesome, updated, teen-appealing covers. Maybe some publishers besides HarperTeen (Twilight-sque covers) have already begun doing this and I just have come across them yet. (If you have please comment and let me know, I'm really interested).

I think there's a bigger issue here than just getting teens interested in the Classics. Most adults (at least my parents and their friends and many other adults I've talked to about books) aren't all that interested in the Classics. They read them in high school and that was that. How are teens going to get interested in the Classics if most of the adults around them aren't interested in them either? I think once again a large part of this comes down to marketing. Like I said before I as a twenty-something am really not going to get excited about dreadfully boring pastel-colored covered Classic. But publisher know this (well at least one publisher really knows this) and is creating beautiful, beautiful Classics.

Aren't they beautiful?! Coralie Bickford-Smith is the designer (check out her site here). She's done several different sets of Classics for Penguin, all over which are wonderfully done and all of which I want. The covers just pull you right in. You want to pick them up, you want them, and you want to read them.

Hopefully we will continue to see publishers and designers re-packaging and designing the Classics to lure the next generation of readers into picking up these wonderful books.

What are you thoughts on re-packaging the Classics and what are/were your experiences with the Classics?


  1. Pride & Prejudice is one of the finest book I've read..check out my book reviews at

  2. You make some interesting points. As much as I hate to say it, I *do* judge a book by a cover. A flashy, well designed cover catches my eye; something very simplistic, poorly laid out, etc., often doesn't. Would I read a classic just because of a new cover? Probably not, unless it was a classic I was planning on reading or rereading anyway. But then again, I was like you - I got hooked on the classics at a young age (though I admit, I don't like Fitzgerald)

  3. I agree with mostly everything you said. Usually I don't look at the cover for reading issues. I just have OCD with novels and want the covers for matching issues. (If they're in a series.)

    I loved The Great Gatsby but some novels just don't hold my interest. They should give everyone a choice of what to read in school rather than just saying they'll be reading one book.

    My friend in her Sophomore year, her teacher gave the students a choice of whether they wanted to read the mandatory book or The Lovely Bones. Not surprisingly, everyone chose The Lovely Bones. The cover was fresh, the story was being released in theaters, everyone felt better choosing it rather than something that, like you said, looks cheaply done.

    Now for the covers being done Twilight-esque. One way I a don't agree with that but another way it might be good and I can't really complain. Being Anti-Twilight, I just feel it's sad that they have to imitate other novels to get readers in. Does it catch the readers? Yes. But just that they're putting it alongside Twilight just doesn't feel right for me.

    I loved this post and sorry for the long comment, I just have a lot to say about it also =D