When I was living in Japan, it was a unique experience to visit a bookshop, other than the fact that there were very few English books available outside of Tokyo or Kyoto. The reason for this experience was the way in which the people working in the shops presented your new book to you; it was covered in the perfect-sized book cover!
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The counter had a stack of paper with the shop’s logo imprinted on it and when you purchased a novel or such, a piece of this paper would be quickly and expertly folded in such a way as to make a perfectly-sized cover for you book in just seconds!
Why are book covers popular in Japan?
I have a couple of reasons that I picked up during my time there:
- It provides advertising for the shop when the book is read in public, such as on trains and buses, or in the many parks and green spaces.
- It protects the book from becoming dog-eared when going into and out of a backpack, briefcase, or handbag.
- Graphic manga novels are often read in Japan and you may not want to advertise your choice of genre to everyone around you on the train; with a book cover, no one other than the person sitting next to you who might innocently glance over will know what you’re reading (I had the experience of seeing such books myself on a few occasions. Of course, this could go for romance or any genre you don’t want others to see.
How to make a Japanese book cover
It’s very easy; here’s a step-by-step tutorial to help you fold your first cover. Tristan will demonstrate how he folded his Japanese book cover using some brown wrap from a Degustabox, and screen printed using our Screen Sensation unit (you can see the process we used here).
Place your book on a piece of paper; it should be a few inches bigger than the book you are using on the top and bottom and a little more on the sides. Bookshops generally use just one size of paper, but we can use a more bespoke size here at home.
Fold the top and bottom of the paper up to crease where it meets the book. Then remove the book and fold the paper in a straight line with the creases, making the creases sharp.
Place your book back on top and check the sizing: if the paper goes too far past the edges of the book, it won’t fit snugly and the edges will become roughed up during use and defeat the purpose of having a sleek-looking book cover so you may need to make a slight adjustment.
With your book in the centre of the paper, fold it up to mark the spine of the book and then form sharp creases here, too. This may not be practical for all books, particularly if they aren’t very thick, and that’s okay.
Now fold the sides of the paper over the front and back covers of the book and make sharp folds in the paper here.
You’re almost done now!
Slide your front cover into the ‘pocket’ that was created with the folds. Then repeat again with the back cover; with this one you may need to either slightly bend the cover or lift the book spine up off the paper in order to tuck the cover into the pocket.
You’re done! And without using glue or anything permanent or damaging. Here’s the cover of another one we did using Tuttle’s Cherry Blossoms Gift Wrap (and check out the other things we’ve made with this wrap):
Tristan is happy with his work, and his bespoke cover will protect one of Phil’s old books that Tristan is reading.
I often like to carry a book along with me to read, but as we are short on storage space I want to keep my books in good condition so that I may resell them, and a quick cover will help keep them in like-new condition so I can ask for a higher price.
Parents here often have children cover their notebooks with sticky plastic to help protect them, but there isn’t a lot of choice; by using pretty gift wrap, or plain paper decorated yourself, kids can have a much wider choice of covers, and even change them when they’d like to!
So there are many reasons to use a Japanese book cover, and many things you can cover your books with, so have a little fun; give a boring book some personality, and make your books beautiful!