Originally published at Comic Book Daily under my Jiminy Christmas! column.
Why are publishers still producing dust jackets? The technology has been around for a good century or so to print whatever you want right on the book cover. In fact the dust jacket was meant as a protection for the book binding of the 19th century and was discarded immediately. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that fancy designs and artsy materials appeared on the dust jacket to attract potential buyers and has been a selling tool ever since.
You can’t really read a book with a dust jacket on: you end up holding it while the book slips down and out. To keep the book and dust jacket together when reading you have to hold the book by the front and back; completely uncomfortable. In the end you take it off and enjoy the reading experience. I guess that’s why books are worth more with the dust jacket: they’re so annoying people get rid of them and they become scarce.
The big issue for me is I’m a collector: that means try as I might I can’t just toss the dust jacket. I have to preserve it and keep it minty fresh: I know it adds value to the book! A company called Brodart invented the book jacket cover about ninety years ago and I use their [intlink id=”1004″ type=”post”]Just-A-Fold Archival III[/intlink] acid free polyester covers; same thing as the libraries use.
Here’s my V For Vendetta dust jacket wrapped in a Just-A-Fold III cover; shiny and a keen protector. My modus operandi is to remove the dust jacket when I get the book, wrap it in a book jacket cover and leave it off the book until I’m finished reading it. When the book goes into my library the dust jacket goes back on; the less handling the better.
Contrast that with the stress free reading from most Fantagraphics and Dark Horse hardcovers. They print what they want on the book cover itself and provide the same advertising and consumer appeal. Take Adele Blanc-Sec for example: here’s a full colour cover, front and back, that captures everything needed without resorting to a dust jacket.
Even more bizarre is a beautiful book covered up by a dust jacket, as with James Jean’s Fables Covers. This makes absolutely no sense; why spend the money when it’s going to be covered up?
Publishers please stop making dust jackets: we don’t need them anymore!