Why have a book without pictures?

What can I say? Pictures make a book more interesting. And I bet you agree with me too. It’s sad that society reasons you must have nothing but text on a page. Don’t get me wrong. Book design is an art unto itself and takes a lot of work to make it look perfect. But still, books without pictures have always looked boring and inaccessible.

If picture-less books are less effective, then why aren’t there more illustrated books?

Cartoon of a boy with a book and some popcorn. He says, A book without pictures is like popcorn without salt.

What can I say? Pictures make a book more interesting. And I bet you agree with me too. It’s sad that society reasons you must have nothing but text on a page. Don’t get me wrong. Book design is an art unto itself and takes a lot of work to make it look perfect. But still, books without pictures have always looked boring and inaccessible.

If picture-less books are less effective, then why aren’t there more illustrated books?

  1. Illustrated books cost more to produce. You have an illustrator or photographer to pay and printing costs shoot up, especially if you are printing in more than one color.
  2. It takes more time. An editor and designer have to make the extra effort to find and assign an artist.
  3. If an author asks an illustrator to work for them, it is frequently for free. Nobody wants to put effort into a project that wasn’t their idea and will likely see no payment.
  4. Authors also run the risk of having their book turned down just because they submitted it with illustrations. Even if it’s an illustrated book, the publishing house wants to use their own illustrators they know they can depend on.
  5. We’ve been raised to believe illustrated books are for children and poor readers. In fact, a New York Times article said parents are encouraging kids to skip picture books altogether and get to the chapter books as soon as possible.

Number five has become part of our culture because of the first four points. For centuries, it has been easier and faster to produce mass-produced, picture-less books. Until the twentieth century, producing an illustrated book was a time-intensive, cumbersome, agonizingly slow process.

But today, it’s never been easier to create an illustrated book (easier, not easy!). Technology allows us to use illustrations without special printing plate treatments, engraving or even color separations. Just in the last twenty-years, the cost of printing in full-color has plummeted because it can all be prepared on the computer.

In just the last five years, print on demand has made printing even cheaper. Now an author can be their own publisher. And the same files that are used to print a book can be used to create an ebook.

We need to get over the false notion an illustrated book is somehow inferior to a text-only book. If anything, illustrated books can take complex concepts and simplify them. It can break up long text and allows us to use a different region of our brain. It can even communicate in a different tone. Much like body language communicates on a different layer from our speech, The look and style of illustrations can give the book a tone writing simply can’t.

And besides, illustrated books are just more fun to read!

Author: Kevin Spear

I am a marketing professional with a design flair, based in Clayton, Ohio. I specialize in digital and content marketing that increases brand awareness for small businesses and nonprofits.

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