Bad book covers

by Dan Zambonini

I was reading Pitchfork's Worst Album Covers article, and wondered if a similar list could be compiled for programming books? OK, so coming up with 'not very interesting' programming book covers is a bit too easy, but there are many that make you think "Huh? Why?".

Programming book covers

Here are some examples of the kind of thing I mean. In particular, pretty much all of the Wrox and Manning programming books follow the themes above (the first two on the left).

The Wrox ones in particular worry me. Credit where it's due, and all that, but do we really need the author(s) on the front cover? It's hard enough walking up to the attractive sales person with a computer programming book, without it having a picture of a 50 year old bearded man staring out from the cover.

Why can't we have something cool, but still ambiguously relevant, on the front? Maybe some impressive extreme sports might work; Perl books could have Extreme Diving, C could have Extreme Yachting (for poor phonetic reasons only) and .NET technologies could have Extreme board games; maybe Monopoly?

Have you come across any dodgy book covers? Let me know.


2005-11-15 09:35:41
You know the old saying!!
"Never judge a book by its cover!"
2005-11-15 10:29:32
My book!
As an O'Reilly author, I didn't have any say over what went on the cover of my first book. Since it was in the Linux series of books, the "theme" that those books follow is The Old West - cowboys, indians, settlers, wagons, etc.

I was hoping for something like an eagle soaring over mountains, or something that reflected the title of the book: Linux Unwired.

Instead, I got a cowboy's butt. You can see what I mean at

The first day I saw the cover, I called my editor and said "Why does my book feature a cowboy's butt?"

2005-11-15 11:21:15
The Build Master

I had this image pinned up in my office for a while. The book is actually an interesting look into how Microsoft builds its products, but the image of a knight in shiny armor as (drum roll) The Build Master is pretty odd.


2005-11-15 13:37:03
Re: The Build Master
You have to feel sorry for the graphic designer who was given that title though...

"Jon, we need you to design a new book cover"
"Great! What is it? The new Harry Potter? Terry Pratchett?"
"Even better: Microsoft's Software Configuration Management Best Practices"

2005-11-15 13:39:04
Re: My book!
You may be lucky, and get a cult gay following. Could be a new strategy for O'Reilly.
2005-11-16 02:27:28
Wrox... ugh!
It's all about establishing an easily recognizable brand, of course, but the Wrox thing did get a little out of hand. One picture on the cover, OK. But when they got to the huge, 20 author XML books... well, it got to look like the attendees at the Quasimodo Convention :-)

(And I speak as one who has his mug shot on quite a few of them)

If you want arty, thoughtful book covers, how about the DevelopMentor series from Addison Wesley? I still can't really figure out what a garden gnome has to do with servlets and JSPs...

2005-11-16 06:31:56
An easter egg in a bordello
It is very difficult for graphic designers to make a cover for fairly abstract technical books. But there is a strong conservative streak in them or their masters.

For my "XML & SGML Cookbook" I asked the graphic designer for a cover that looked like an easter egg in a bordello. Here is what I got:

2005-11-21 17:49:53
St. George, the Dragon, and the Compiler
An oldie, but a goodie. Still my choice for the worst computer book cover ever.


2005-11-22 10:15:42
St. George, the Dragon, and the Compiler
Hold your calls, we have a winner!