The Cover that Judges You, courtesy of the designer.

The Cover that Judges You (image courtesy the designer)

We’re used to judging books by their covers — but perhaps we’d think twice about our premature judgments if books judged us back. And now they can: at the 2015 Art Directors Club Netherlands Annual, Dutch designer and digital entrepreneur Thijs Biersteker premiered The Cover that Judges You, a book jacket with built-in facial recognition technology. If the cover detects that would-be readers’ expressions betray judgment, positive or negative, it remains stubbornly locked, “but if your expression is neutral (no judgment) the system will send an audio pulse and the book will unlock itself,” the website explains. In other words, books equipped with The Cover that Judges You open only for readers with equally open minds.

On the project’s website, Biersteker writes that he aimed to create a book cover that is “human and approachable hi-tech.” Fitted with cover art displaying a geometrically rendered human face, The Cover that Judges You suggests that the act of reading is an exchange: to pick up a book is to enter into a dialogue with its author and its content. For this reason, we have a responsibility to our reading matter: we are obligated to approach it thoughtfully, without preconceived biases.


The technology behind The Cover that Judges You

Biersteker told Hyperallergic that he hopes the product will encourage readers to “approach the book without judgment, ready for full amazement.” “In a world where we see so much we lose the wonderment of seeing something new and great,” he said. Hopefully The Cover that Judges You will restore some of that wonder — without judging you too hard.

Becca Rothfeld is assistant literary editor of The New Republic and a contributor to The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Daily News’ literary blog, The Baffler, and Slate, among other publications....