The Future of the Ebook

Recovering the Classics Launches to Give Public Domain Books Decent Covers, at Long Last

Go ahead, take a stab at Dracula.
Pretty. (Photo: Daily Lit)

Pretty. (Photo: Daily Lit)

Many of the great classics of English literature are now in the public domain and, therefore, available for download pretty cheaply on Amazon. The downside is that most of the covers are half-assed and, often, ugly as a mud fence. Even those Barnes & Noble Classics are pretty meh.

Enter Recovering the Classics, an attempt to crowdsource actually attractive covers, making its debut today as literary types descend on New York for Book Expo America. It’s the fruit of a collaboration between DailyLit and the Creative Action Network (the guys behind Design for Obama), who are asking the public to take a stab at updated illustrations for 50 public domain works.

Several designers have already contributed their own versions; if you like what you see, you can order print-on-demand copies through the Harvard Bookstore (ah, modernity!), or you can get an ebook for $2.99. (Granted, they’re free on Project Gutenberg.) Included on the inaugural list: A Tale of Two CitiesDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Moby-Dick. If the project goes well, they’ll roll out another 50.

If you’ve got a really great idea for the umpteenth cover of Pride and Prejudice, you can submit it here. You get more lit nerd cred if you take a stab at something like Winesburg Ohio or Bleak House, though.

Sadly, there’s no crowd-sourced project that can erase your terrible memories of slogging through The Scarlet Letter as a high-school freshman. Sorry.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com