Those Vintage P K D Covers

August 13rd 04:54
by why

It just baffles me. There’s a landslide of interesting Philip K. Dick covers out there. And yet, were you to pick up The Man in the High Castle, you’d likely wind up with the schmaltzy construction paper torso of astonishment at right. Are those supposed to be surprise lines or something? No, that naked, armless guy is embarassed, poor thing! “Hey, I thought I was posing for a can of Paul Mitchell primping wax! What’s with all this dystopia??”

Couldn’t we have just stick with white tiger on a ledge? Or czech this one!

See, this is exactly the benefit of used books. Aside from the glorious marginalia and ad-hoc footnoting, you get to find a nice, fun cover that isn’t around no more. And where does one go to scoop up used books? You go to AbeBooks, probably.

Here is what AbeBooks looks like:

Some entries have covers, but a lot don’t. Usually they only show the covers of the newest editions.

However, we can grab some editions from the cover library at LibraryThing:

This hack will only add covers to AbeBooks. If Abe already shows a picture (and some booksellers do show a photo of the actual book from their inventory,) then those images will be left alone.

Of course, some entries are still blank. If there is no ISBN. Or if LibraryThing lacks the cover — which is common, but less common than Amazon.

Here’s a shot of an updated book page, with the real cover.

See? A fine, illustrated cover from days of yore. Devoid of panicky torsos and their ilk.

The Greasemonkey script is entitled AbeBooks Covers at Find yourself a Clooney-free Solaris.


Note from the LibraryThing guy...

said on August 13rd 01:13

Two points on a cool idea.

1. You’re going to need to change the developer key. Developer keys are assigned personally, not to be given out in free scripts to people who have not agreed with the developer key agreement.
2. This is a cool script, but it has potential to confuse and prompt some bad buying. Covers are not, unfortunately, truly ISBN -specific. At least, they don’t HAVE to be—the rule is that the ISBN only need change when the interior of the book changes, and even that is flauted. I think it would be a shame if someone bought a Cluny-less cover and, when it arrived, it was Cluny-full.


said on August 13rd 07:13

That list doesn’t have the UK Penguin Modern Classics one that recently enticed me to read it:


said on August 13rd 09:22

And if someone (shamefully) just discovered old faithful StanLem, which book would you suggest as the first to hunt in this way?


said on August 13rd 11:25

EmC: Lem’s work divides loosely into three categories:

  1. sublimely ridiculous techo-yarns
  2. demonstrations that the universe is unintelligible
  3. pseudo-nonfiction or Borgesian “fictions”, e.g. prefaces to or reviews of non-existent books.

For techno-yarns, try The Star Diaries or The Cyberiad.

Solaris is the most famous example of the latter category, but the only English translation is a second-gen translation from French. I liked The Invincible and Fiasco.

Examples of the pseudo-nonfiction are Imaginary Magnitude and Microworlds.

The collection Mortal Engines is a good starting point (and it contains the story from which I nabbed my moniker).


said on August 13rd 12:02

@EmC: automatthew summed it up nicely.

I’d personally recommend Invincible for straight-ahead sci-fi awesomeness, and The Cyberiad for more imaginative and humorous fare (see also Calvino’s t zero and Cosmicomics.)


said on August 13rd 16:43

I agree with dave, I like the cover of this copy:

P.S.: Yes that is my self bound copy of the Poignant Guide, I saw it on my bookshelf when I went hunting for Dick, so to speak.

P.P.S.: The Clooney Solaris wasn’t that bad, you just have to mentally separate it from Lem’s and Tarkovsky’s. Well I liked the soundtrack anyway.


said on August 15th 17:46



said on August 15th 17:46



said on August 16th 09:30

for stan lem reading: don’t forget ‘Eden’, an early novel that encompasses many of those topics central to stan lem


said on August 16th 09:30

for stan lem reading: don’t forget ‘Eden’, an early novel that encompasses many of those topics central to stan lem


said on August 21st 22:37

“good food in heaven”! I’m about halfway into 3 stigmata and the only thing on the cover of my copy is a black and white of PKD clutching a cat. such torsos, I wish.

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