You know that there are some books that people think you should not read, books where the simple act of reading them constitutes a hazard to life or liberty? But we're not talking about censorship.
No, this is a case of the book's very author deciding that reading his book in public is dangerous. The very people who put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) have decided that it is irresponsible to send you into the world with a copy of their works without some way to keep you safe. They like to give you the idea that you will need some kind of disguise for your book and so provide one in a sort of factory-installed Book and Switch.
You can pull this off with either a hardback or a paperback book, but the method varies. Hardback books are published with a reversible dust cover with an alternative title and cover image on the inside. A paperback has an alternate cover on the back of the book. In both cases, the alternate cover is usually something along an opposite line to the real cover.
- Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorised Autobigraphy has the alternative dust-jacket cover titled: The Luckiest Kids in the World! #1 The Pony Party by Loney M. Setnick.
- And for the 10th book The Slippery Slope, one could receive a bonus cover that was titled NOT A Series of Unfortunate Events and other amendments like "NOT by the author Lemony Snicket" or quotes on the back saying things like "This book isn't by Lemony Snicket and isn't about the Baudelaires! I think it deserves a gold medal!"
- Scott Adams' The Joy of Work has the alternative cover "Company Loyalty: Your Key to Success."
- The first print edition of The Non-Adventures of Wonderella has a back cover designed to look like a coffee table book about wines.
- Despair.com (the makers of the original Demotivators) used to sell a book instructing managers on how to use despair to motivate their employees. Due to the allegedly provocative contents, the cheapest edition came with the alternate cover Productivity and Ethics in the Workplace to scare away anyone from reading it. (More expensive editions came with a lock and key for the book.)
- Not Played for Laughs: When the "Harry Potter" book series proved popular with adults, they were re-released with plain covers◊ lacking the cartoonish drawings on the original editions, so that adults would not feel embarrassed about reading them in public. It doesn't seem to have been necessary, since the books became so popular that most people were not embarrassed to be seen with them.
- One issue of MAD featured a "Newsweak" cover with an angry Nikita Khrushchev look-alike. Fake covers for the magazine (ostensibly so your teacher or boss doesn't catch you reading it) came out every couple years, spoofing popular magazines, school papers, and even a composition book
- In an amusing inversion of this, motivational speaker Larry Winget once revealed during a speech that he had created false book covers to slip around the (legit) novel he was reading so people would stop talking to him on flights. The false covers had titles such as "How To Sue The Person Sitting Next To You On An Airplane" and "Finding Love On An Airplane". And according to him, they work.
- One of the best things about electronic tablets or e-readers is that no one can tell what you're reading on them. Your average troper can browse our Fan Fic Recs at their leisure without worry of any judgemental stares from nearby civilians. Also works on smartphones.