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.


  • 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

  • I would think that publishers would be delighted to see their books displayed on national television in order to promote sales.
    I would utilize a prop of books with no titles, just colors,

    Carl Zwerling

    on September 06, 2022

  • i think we all need to quit obsessing about petty people who want to complain about anything they disagree with that whatever you do , they more than likely can’t be pleased. live our lives , hopefully under the influence of God , and just love and care about the other person more than yourself , do the right thing , and don’t worry about the person that disagrees.

    Jimmy Brumley

    on August 22, 2022

  • It makes no sense to me. They showed them for years. I don’t understand how this could be a copyright infringement, since nothing is being copied. If anything, they are getting free advertising. I think it is a silly trend that people who really love to read would not be likely to follow. I personally love the colorful look of the different book spines on the shelf. But then I am a very practical person who thinks that putting white furniture everywhere is ridiculously impractical, especially when one has children….or when one actually uses the furniture on a regular basis.


    on July 13, 2022

  • This actually isn’t true at all. Displaying books would not require copyright clearance even slightly. You can see all sorts of books on all sorts of bookshelves on all sorts of television shows all over the place, and I can thoroughly guarantee they did not go to the trouble of clearing all of them.

    The truth is that HGTV doesn’t want to advertise for people that haven’t paid them, coupled with the fact that they don’t want to possibly be seen as endorsing or condoning whatever books are on the shelf.

    Got a book by Tucker Carlson? You’ve just annoyed all of your Democratic viewers. Got a book by Rachel Maddow? You’ve just annoyed all of your Republican viewers. Got a book by JK Rowling? You’ve upset the LGBTQ community. It becomes a spiral pretty quickly.


    on July 13, 2022

  • It would make more sense if the opposite was true, where the TV shows don’t show them because the publisher doesn’t advertise with them. Why do they block out automobile logos and building material logos on their shows? The cover on a book would seem like it should be public domain. That’s why they put covers on Books, to draw interest in them so people can see them, want to buy and read them.

    Dave Barnd

    on July 11, 2022

  • To clarify my other comment- the titles themselves are not copyrightable, but if there is artwork on the spine that is a different story. Thx!

    Elizabeth Stringer

    on July 13, 2022

  • I am a lawyer and employee at the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright does not protect names, titles, words or short phrases. 37 CFR 202.1. Therefore there is no copyright issue with displaying titles of books.

    Elizabeth Stringer

    on July 13, 2022

  • You answered the question of the backward books, but I would prefer to see the spines, maybe covered with an attractive cover. Or perhaps use books that are out of copyright?


    on July 11, 2022

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