Book Dust Jackets

I’ve been a digital reader most of my adult life but for the past year I’ve been trying to reduce my screen time and started buying real books. I started out with paperbacks but now I’ve moved into wanting hardcovers because they seem more sturdy and will stay in better condition longer.

The one drawback I experience is with the book jackets or sleeves. They always seem to shift and move and get wrinkled or creased. I decided enough was enough and I now remove them when I start reading, then put them back on to place on the shelve.

I thought I’m surely not only that finds these annoying and went out to research why these jackets are still included and the history behind it. According to Wikipedia:

After 1900, fashions in, and the economics of, publishing caused book bindings to become less decorative, and it was cheaper for publishers to make the jackets more attractive. By around 1920, most of the artwork and decoration had migrated from the binding to the dust jacket, and jackets were routinely printed with multiple colors, extensive advertising and blurbs; even the underside of the jacket was now sometimes used for advertising.

As dust jackets became more attractive than the bindings, more people began to keep the jackets on their books, at least until they became soiled, torn, or worn out. One bit of evidence that indicates when jackets became saved objects is the movement of the printed price from the spine of the jacket to a corner of one of the flaps. This also occurred in the 1910s and early 1920s. When jackets were routinely discarded at point of purchase, it didn’t matter where the price was printed (and many early jackets were not printed with any price), but now if book buyers of the 1910s and 1920s wanted to save the jacket and give a book as a gift, they could clip off the price without ruining the jacket.

Now that the jackets hold most of the design it’s as much a part of the book as the pages themselves and I feel like they shouldn’t be tossed away.

I looked into what others are doing with their jackets and came across a few different ideas:

  • Use them as bookmarks (front flap for the first half, back flap for the second half)
  • Throw them away
  • Remove while reading
  • Keep and frame them to hang in their study or library

I would rather the design be printed on the covers but also understand the economics of doing this would raise the price.

When reading books with a dust jacket what do you do with it? Do you find them annoying?

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