HGTV Secret Revealed! Why Books Are Always Backwards

HGTV Secret Revealed! Why Books Are Always Backwards

Big HGTV secret coming at ya! And maybe it’s something you’ve never even noticed. But have you ever been watching a show on HGTV, and when they cut to the big design reveal, you see that any and all books in the space are turned around backwards?

As styling shelves became even more popular in interior design over the years, the number of times books were shown turned with spines facing inward really ramped up.  So people at home started displaying books this way, and it actually became pretty popular!  But do you know why books are turned around backwards on HGTV shows?!






So what’s the HGTV Secret?

It’s a really simple answer: copyright!  That’s right, this isn’t some breakthrough of a design trick. Although it’s actually kind of a hot button issue with book lovers who aren’t fans of hiding the titles. It’s because the network would have to get copyright clearance from every single title in order to display them.  And that’s not very realistic considering each design could have at least 10 books in them!

Look at me here (below) in Season 1, Episode 8, “Have a Big Kind Heart and Stay Weird” … I’m even holding them backwards!!!  See?! If it has a title, it can’t be shown.




So there you have it!  Tell all your friends about the HGTV secret!  And while we’re talkin’ about books facing backwards, let’s take a walk down memory lane of some of my favorite book styling moments from Hidden Potential






This was such an EPIC bookcase in Season 2, Episode 11, “It’s My Dream Home Now.”  We needed a quite a few books to style all of these shelves, and yep, they’re all turned backwards!  I think while it may not be practical for such a large bookcase if you need to access the books often, the pages facing outward do look nice here on the blue paint color.




That same house also had this cute coffee bar we installed for the homeowners. No spines shown here, either!




Another example above, this one from “Come Sit With Me” in Season 1.

So whether you’re in the “spines facing out is better” or “pages facing out looks cool” camps, bookcases and shelves need to be styled! I’m pretty obsessed with styling shelves – it’s kinda my thing – so here’s some of my favorite finds to help get you started.


  • It’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever seen. To me it says that the books are only there for show since it would take forever to find a particular book if you have to pull out each book to find the one you are looking for. Lawyer’s are saying it is not a copyright issue.

    Barbara Kingry

    on January 31, 2024

  • Looks like the producers and designers maybe just don’t know what books are for- Generation Y perhaps, never read one in real life? Interiors for idiots.


    on January 31, 2024

  • Can’t they just blurr out the books? It’s a really stupid look. I don’t think this was a “thing” a few years ago!


    on January 31, 2024

  • Tһanks very nice blog!


    on January 31, 2024

  • Turning the books around looks really dumb. Has anyone ever, ever been sued for copyright stuff for showing the spines of the books?

    Mike Weatherwaxx

    on January 31, 2024

  • It’s ludicrous to think that displaying books backwards is a design feature! It’s simply HGTV not wanting to endorse products they haven’t been paid to feature. They also don’t want to risk offending people who don’t approve of the books. I would much rather see the designer use book covers.

    Debbie Bayley

    on January 31, 2024

  • I think the idea of displaying books with their spines toward backward is the most ridiculous idea ever. If It is a copyright issue (which I doubt), let the network spend some money to cover that issue! I love books and it looks like the homeowner is a complete idiot to shelve their books in that fashion! I will never do it even if it is the in thing!

    sharen martin

    on January 31, 2024

  • I think it is very disrespectful to the books to be placed backwards on the bookshelf.


    on January 31, 2024

  • I read a lot & would hate to pull a dozen books to find the one I wanted, crazy stupid & etc .

    Alma Webster

    on January 31, 2024

  • Seems the lawyer from the copyright office has the final word on this and the practice is entirely a network decision. Clearly this not a consideration on news networks when they interview their guests. Frequently shot in a home office, books are frequently on display with spines and sometimes covers in full view.

    Michael Conrad

    on January 31, 2024

  • Putting books in backwards is just stupid! Sorry to be blunt.


    on January 31, 2024

  • Just blur the titles like they do with other things. They look ridiculous put in backward

    Carol Kirst

    on January 31, 2024

  • Books sitting that way looks ridiculous. So a person has to take the time to turn every book around to see what it is? That makes no sense whatsoever. That’s one design flaw you’ll never find in my home.


    on January 31, 2024

  • If the TV legal department has stated that graphic designs on books, not the titles, are possibly copyrighted, please make sure that everyone takes off their clothes ~ unless permission was granted by the clothing company beforehand ~ as they are surely much, much more recognisable and so run the risk of infringement.



    on January 31, 2024

  • To the admin, You always provide practical solutions and recommendations.

    Amber Wilt

    on February 28, 2023

  • The books look really UGLY and weird that way, spines inward. As a book lover, I hate this.

    Amy Seitz

    on February 14, 2023

  • Turning books backwards is the most ridiculous design decision that has come up in the last 10 years, any designer that thinks that spine on books is either too busy or has copyright infringement as the issue, should do some research, or talk to an attorney in that field, as that is completely false information and for that to be stated by any designer as their reason should be something they should consider sending that designer packing, absolutely the worst thing that can be showcased as something to even consider doing to books, even if someone is not an avid reader but like the look of a small library, it is in no way functional to any individual to have the books turned around, there is no way to find or view what you may want to read, which is the reason for the title to be on the spine in the first place, new designers are seriously misguided in this kind of thinking and need to go back to what they should have been taught in Design school, “Functionality” is one key in design, and HGTV should not be allowing this nonsense to continue, along with the false information associated with the reasoning behind this stupidity.


    on February 14, 2023

  • Copyright doesn’t work that way. Showing the Titles would not be an infringement.

    Maria Town

    on October 17, 2022

  • No, Thelma. It’s just for the show. When filming is over I’m sure the occupants turn the books around.


    on October 14, 2022

  • All I see it’s for people who have books just for show.
    I can’t imagine trying to find particular books on a regular basis.
    What a hassle!


    on October 04, 2022

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