Liked Jane Eyre, hated the cover? Now designers can sell classic books with new jackets

Publishers and retailers often try to repackage classic public-domain works like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with new covers in the hopes of pulling in new readers. (Exhibit A: Mr. Boddington’s Penguin Classics, sold at Anthropologie.) Now a new initiative from Plympton/DailyLit, the Harvard Book Store and the Creative Action Network (which also ran the Design for Obama campaign) aims to let users design their own covers for classic books, then sell the books in both digital and print formats.

Recovering the Classics” launched Tuesday and invites readers to design a jacket for one of 50 classic public domain works (MiddlemarchJane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities and so on). The books are then sold, with their custom covers, through the Recovering the Classics website. Ebooks are $2.99 and are sold using Ganxy’s technology; they’ll eventually also be sold on Kindle (s AMZN). Print-on-demand paperback editions, which can be ordered online, are available from the Harvard Book Store through its Espresso Book Machine. (Jeffrey Mayersohn, the owner of the Harvard Book Store, is an investor in Plympton/DailyLit.)

Each time a book with a custom jacket is sold, the artist makes money: 40 percent of a book’s revenue after the retailer — digital or print — deducts its costs. DailyLit and the Creative Action Network split the remaining 60 percent.

Recovering the Classics eventually plans to sell the covers as posters, and also hopes to bundle an ebook with each print book sold. It also plans to work with other bookstores that have the Espresso Book Machine.