Dust Jackets

So, because I should be writing and have no time to take on a meaningless housekeeping project, I had the following thought:

“What would all these books on my shelf look like if I took off the dust jackets? I bet that would look cool. I’d want to save them, though – the jackets – because… well, I mean, throwing them out is just kind of wrong, right?”

I’d be interested in everyone’s own thoughts on dust jackets, their removal, their storage, etc.

They are one of life’s great mysteries dust jackets. What are they for?

I do keep them on the hard back books I have, but they look pretty shabby.

I suppose you could say that if you remove the dust jackets then the book covers will start to look shabby themselves, but as you have to keep the dust jackets on the books to protect them, then the shabby jackets just make the books look shabby anyway.

90% of my books are papberbacks which is a bit of a relief as I don’t have to worry about this too much.


If you’re a collector, dust jackets are extremely valuable. A first edition of The Great Gatsby in its original jacket brings a far higher price than the same edition, sans jacket. To protect the jackets, it’s best to wrap them in clear mylar covers. That will often dress up even a shabby or tattered dust jacket.

For not so valuable editions, the dust jackets help to preserve a book’s spine and covers. So that cuts down wear and tear, and helps to bring a good price if you decide to sell or donate your library to a school.

If you think the books look better without jackets, go for it. But remember a jacket helps to protect the covers from wear, staining, and sun-bleaching. If your books are exposed to dampness or strong sunlight, the covers and paper will age rapidly. The best environment is cool, dry, and dim: like a wine cellar.


I take them all off. I much prefer the minimal and much more “bookish” aesthetic of the design beneath the jacket, and I am careful with my books anyway. They usually get thrown away, as well. The only exceptions to this are signed copies that are worth anything. But then I don’t keep those out on the shelves anyway.

I don’t like them. I do like books with glossy full-color hardcovers that look like book jackets. Children’s picture books usually have a lookalike cover under the dust jacket. Other books rarely do.

A long time ago I read an article about some libraries saving shelf space by discarding dust jackets. One is thin, but hundreds of thousands really add up.

But where do we call a halt? Shall we tear off covers? They take more shelf space than dust jackets. The introduction, the index, the references? How much of a book do we jettison before the dwindling corpse no longer is a book?


Good question, PJS. Personally, I’m much looking forward to jettisoning most of my library and going digital, but the day is not yet at hand.

Not me. I spent 4 years in college, 9 years in post grad, and many, many years of reading hard cover books, before personal computers came along. There is something about the feel of a physical book in my hands and on my desk…

I do a fair amount of writing on the computer, and reading short stuff. But long reads on the computer? Not for me.

I like putting them on other books I have. Keeps people guessing when they browse through my books or “borrow” one.

Going digital can’t be done, in my opinion. What do I use a spare screen for? Reading another PDF, of course! Real books are like a free extra screen.

The paperless office is not happening, either. All that extra paperwork you get from the computer outputs, you see :slight_smile:

Learn to love your books. They work when the power is out, just like your notepad and pen/pencil/blood/chunk of charcoal. Keep the jackets on to show your love.

I agree with you in principle. I do not think “digital” has advantages that outweigh its disadvantages (which you point out the most egregious). In practice I must disagree with the “can’t” point.

Now I know we are discussing opinions but there is a point to me made. “Digital” CAN be done if one has will power enough to execute. I am 90% digital in my office. I have no paper that is not manually signed. I print nothing and mandate that folks bring laptops to meetings instead of printout. If you really need to take manual notes (helps me some times) get a tablet PC. I will pay for it for you (out of my budget). I will be implementing a “digital signature” policy and a scan to pdf archival policy starting 1/5 to complete the “paperless” scheme. We estimate that my group will save over $US100K once this move is implemented just in my team.

I will NEVER go paperless at home. The cost to me is marginal but the enjoyment of the tactile sensations of holding a book, or crushing a bill, or tearing up an offensive correspondence … immeasurable.

Back to the topic though… I don’t buy books with dust jackets. I really dislike the flimsy “look how good my book is” advertisements. I am probably the freak here, but I don’t browse book stores anymore. I go with specifics in mind, get them then leave. To me the jackets are nothing more than those annoying adds you see on websites.

Again, I am probably the freak here.

Since someone brought up bindings, I am having a terrible time finding well bound books any more. I typically buy Easton but they are getting pricier and with the large amount of requests the kids are sending I will need to get a second and third just to support their reading habits. Does anyone have a suggestion for alternate sources? Mostly classics, nothing newer then Lewis and London yet.

I agree with Amber that the underlying book itself is usually more aesthetically pleasing than the dj – it feels real and solid, while the jacket feels flimsy – but dust jackets often have information about the book and/or the author that are not available in the book itself, so I always keep them on the books they serve.

That’s a good point, but. I suppose, apropos to the above digression on going entirely digital, I’ve been digital enough for long enough that I get 100% of my author/book information from places like Amazon and Wikipedia. I’ve certainly read the inside notes, usually when browsing in a bookstore, but I cannot think of a single time when I’ve wished that I hadn’t of tossed the jacket, years later, for want of information. As for the back cover—well that’s just marketing usually: An horrifically written synopsis accompanied by rave reviews for prior works. I’m probably a freak like Jaysen in this regard: I don’t need it; don’t want it. Ads and marketing are clutter enough for even the ascetic in this part of the Modern World.

Speaking of advertising on books, I remember a while back I was complaining to a bookseller that a book I wanted was only available in trade paperback and not mass market paperback. (I like the smaller size, it’s easier to carry around.) One of the things the bookseller told me was that people didn’t like the ads in the back of the mass market paperbacks, and those weren’t there in the more expensive trade paperbacks. It was then that I realized that as much as I hate advertising in general, an “if you like this, you might also like” set of ads at the end of a novel was one of the places I appreciated having it. They were of course all books from the same publisher, but not necessarily from the same author, and I did sometimes look up one of the books advertised in that way if it sounded interesting.