Holly Rollins


The objective of this Thesis was to determine the relative value of the cover design, price, and customer rating (e-book attributes) to consumers of science fiction or fantasy e-books. The motivation for this research was that the way we shop for digital books is different from the way we shop for print books. This led authorities to take positions as different as "[Book covers are] dead because the way we touch digital books is different than the way we touch physical books," (Mod, 2012), and "[Typographic covers] are one way to go," (Bridle, 2010).

A conjoint analysis was designed to test the relative importance of the book cover. The attributes and levels investigated were: cover ("traditional attractive," "traditional unattractive," and "all-text" levels); price ($2.99 and $6.99 levels); and rating (3 star and 5 star levels). Offerings comprising twelve combinations of these attributes and levels were presented to 96 participants and preference responses were recorded. Following data scrubbing and statistical validation, a total of 48 meaningful and statistically significant responses were selected as the sample population for conjoint analysis. Based on the results of the experiment, the traditional attractive cover was strongly preferred to both the traditional unattractive and the all-text cover.

Even among participants who only viewed thumbnail images (24 of 48), 63% found that the traditional attractive cover added significant value to an offering, versus 8% who thought it reduced the value of an offering. Among participants who viewed full-size cover images (24 of 48), 79% thought that the traditional attractive cover added value to an offering, and no one thought that it reduced the value of an offering. On the other hand, participants who only viewed thumbnails were split on the value added by the all-text cover (6 negative, 12 neutral, and 6 positive). Among participants who viewed full-size cover images, the overall perception of the all-text cover was slightly negative (4 negative, 18 neutral, 2 positive).

The principal conclusion of the conjoint analysis experiment is that book covers are emphatically not dead. Overall, participants in this experiment assigned 73% of the total value of the offering to cover design (compared to 17% for price and 10% for rating). This percentage is consistent with the Schmidt-Stölting et al. study of the German brick-and-mortar book market where book covers were responsible for 74% of the value created by the attributes cover, price, and rating (word-of-mouth).

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Electronic books--Public opinion; Book covers--Design--Public opinion

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Print Media (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Media Sciences (CIAS)


Patricia Sorce

Advisor/Committee Member

Robert Eller


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at Z1033.E43 R65 2014


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes