Making Paper Book Covers

On a recent trip to Tokyo I was well impressed by the number of people reading physical books (as opposed to e-books) on the train. As it turns out, many young people in Japan still prefer the “real thing” when it comes to their books.

The second thing I noticed about these readers is that many of the books they held were covered with paper or cloth that presumably protected the book while also concealing the title, etc. from other passengers. This immediately reminded me of protecting textbooks with paper grocery bag covers when I was at school in the US. An oddly fond memory.

The image and text design on book covers is often part of what draws us to a particular title as browsers, but, let’s face it, not every cover is Chip Kidd quality and, frankly, sometimes I don’t want everyone else on the bus to know what I’m reading (it’s not always Dostoevsky). So I decided to give making book covers another try.

Step One:

Pick the book you’d like to cover (hardback or paperback makes no difference), select some paper (I chose wrapping paper that had been used once already but you could also use newspaper, paper bags, old mailing envelopes, etc.) and grab a pair of scissors.


Step Two:

Cut away excess paper until you have a rectangle such that, when folded in half, the paper is about 5 cm larger than the book on every side.



Step Three:

Aligning the book with the paper to judge size, fold down the top and bottom edges of the paper until it is the same height as the book.



Step Four:

Gently slide the flaps created by these folds over the corners of the book’s front cover and pull the paper down until about 5 cm lie on the inside of the book’s cover. Crease the paper at the edge of the cover.



Step Five:

Repeat Step Four for the book’s back cover. Try to make sure that you have pulled the paper tight enough that when you close the book the paper will sit snugly over the whole object.


Step Six:

Enjoy reading your now anonymous and colourful text.


For more on this style of paper book cover, check out the video that reminded me how they were made.

Also, here’s a short blog post on book covers in Japan. Once my sewing machine is up and running, cloth covers may be in my future.

Liz Gillett


One thought on “Making Paper Book Covers

  1. sueannporter1 says:

    I remember the fun of covering text books. Usually with brown paper bags. But one year, my father brought home this strange, stiff fabric material, with tie-dyed designs! It was beautiful. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


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