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By December 4, 2017No Comments

Source : The Pioneer

The 16 covers longlisted for The Oxford Book Cover Prize were announced recently. Organiser Priti Paul and jury member Namita Gokhale shared the highlights with Kritika Dua


A Book cover acts like a window to the content — a blend of the authors ideas with the illustrator’s creativity. With the brilliant cover designs getting noticed more and gravitas given to the illustrators behind it, it acts like a bait for the non-readers as it tends to attract them contributing to a wider readership or for avid readers who get intrigued about the novel through its cover. To celebrate the creative minds of the publishing industry, Priti Paul came up with the idea of The Oxford Book cover prize, now in its third edition. The long list was recently announced at the Oxford Bookstore while the short list will be announced at Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival next year. The winner will be announced at the Jaipur Book Mark of Jaipur Literature Festival and will get a cash prize of Rs  50,000.

In an era dominated with electronic gadgets, people are constantly opting for e-books, but the hardcore reads will agree that the essence of reading a book remains in its hardcover and crisp pages. This event aims to brings back the attention to a paperback or hard copy edition, thus restoring the balance in the universe of literature. It is also a significant step towards acknowledging the artistic genius of book cover designers and illustrators. Not only that but it will also bring forth the illustrators who play a crucial role in impacting a book’s sale by complementing the authors work. Paul noted, “The Oxford Book Cover Prize is a first-of-its-kind honour for splendour in book design, and an endeavor by an iconic bookstore to perceive and empower the phenomenal work of artists, designers and distributors crosswise over India. The prize acknowledges the significance of the  illustrations and story, especially in our undeniably visual age, and trusts that a book cover translates and interprets the resulting content in critical ways that add to its definitive achievement. The USP of this prestigious award is a pioneering initiative to honour and appreciate the hard work and artistic approach behind developing a book cover. This award has created a platform to bring out the talent of the illustrators and designers, holding them in front of the world reading community.”

The jury comprises — Aman Nath, a heritage hotelier and architectural restorer; Alka Pande, art critic and curator; Dayanita Singh, contemporary Indian photographer and illustrator; Namita Gokhale, author, publisher and festival director and Priti Paul, owner of Oxford Bookstore chain. They share a collective admiration for books and commitment to reading. “The varied interests of jury members helped create a rich and diverse perspective for the selected long list. We have retained the jury from year one, to maintain continuity and build strong foundations for the prize,” shared Paul.

On proffering a platform that celebrates the skilled illustrators and book cover designers, Said she, “Standout cover design is an integral part of the success of a book, designers and illustrators play a vital role in helping a book become emblematic and create recall. It was conceptualised with an aim to award brilliance in book design, an attempt by our bookstore to recognise and encourage their extraordinary work by bringing them in the spotlight and bestow appreciation.”

Three years since its inception in 2015, the event has advanced and enriched as an award. “Right from the jury’s approach to the selection process to the methodology of accepting entries has evolved in the last three years . Each year we witness a steady rise in number of entries with a pan India reach. In the first year, our selection process was based on the covers. In our second year, we took it to next level with entries comprising the front, the back and spine of the title. And this year, for the long list selection each entry was discussed, debated with the 86 physical copies of valid entries laid out for the jury’s pick.”

An illustrator plays a crucial role by giving shape to the ideas of the author in the form of the book cover. However, their names get lost somewhere and they don’t get the much-deserved credit at times. Jury member Namita Gokhale said, “The Oxford Book Cover Prize has worked hard over these three editions to highlight the behind-the-scene efforts of designers and publishers to impart beauty and substance to the book through typography, graphics and illustrations. The prize has been well received by the publishing, design and writing communities.”

However, the task of shortlisting the 16 book cover designers for the long list from numerous entries that came their way was not an easy one. “We received an enormous number of entries from over 34 publishers and solo designers. From these, we identified 86 valid entries which were shared with the jury through digital lists, print catalogues and physical copies. Aman Nath, Dayanita Singh and Alka Pande gathered at the Tijara Fort and spent the day with the books. I was there but recused myself as one of my books was on the shortlist, and thus, the artist Jagannath Panda was brought in as a guest jury. With these diverse perspectives, we arrived at a consensus on the shortlist, factoring in graphics, design identity, relevance to the subject, and the intangible something that makes for an arresting and unforgettable cover.” Thus, there should be a balance of graphics and narratives in the book cover.

She has seen the evolvement of book covers since she made her debut in the fictional world with Paro: Dreams of Passion in 1984. “Book design and aesthetics is evolving every year, as publishers and designers are investing in originality and creativity to make that vital visual connect with readers. There is a lot of diversity in style of book covers which can be witnessed through different countries and their cultures. Case in point, the French seem to prefer a graphic approach and stress on typography and emphasise the title and author. Hindi book publishing tends to have illustrated covers. There is a new style that has evolved for mythology and speculative fiction, while noir, crime and thriller titles have another sort of edge. I have noticed that most writers have very personal ideas on what their covers should look like, while the marketing division may have another take altogether. I have also learnt from long experience that it’s better to go with the instincts of the publishing team.”

Gokhale is the harbinger of modern literature as an eminent writer, publisher, jury member and also a festival director. On juggling between these mediums, she emphasised, “I love what I do and feel privileged to be doing it. I do juggle all these different roles, but find joy in doing so.” She has penned some alluring works of art including the recent panoramic historical novel — Things to Leave Behind which takes the reader into the picturesque world of Kumaon. She has been in the industry for more than three decades but doesn’t want to reveal her source of driving force. “I’m actually a lazy person who is very good at doing nothing! I just happen by accident to be in the midst of all this spinning activity.”

A well-designed cover instantly conveys the essence of the book, giving shape to content and thus fulfills its responsibility. Book covers are timeless art pieces and a great book cover will always stand out and call out to its readers.

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