Jiminy Christmas! | Dust Jackets Must Die

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 Just-A-Fold Archival III 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!

Scott VanderPloeg
Scott VanderPloeg

Scott works in I.T. but lives to eat and read. His other ramblings can be found at AE Index and eBabble. Art collection at Comic Art Fans.

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Laura Thomas
Laura Thomas
13 years ago

I totally agree with you on this point yet again, sir. The dust jacket is obsolete! All it does on the shelf is get tattered and torn by people browsing, and then in the way when the reader is reading. Do away with them and put an effort into the actual cover of the book.

Andrew Ardizzi
13 years ago

I have to agree to an extent. I think they serve a purpose, and some look cool. Not even generally in comics, but hardcover novels as well. An example is the Magic the Gathering novel “Agents of Artifice”, which comes with a nice reflective cover. In addition, they do protect the books.

Even still, I find they slip around when reading and really do just become a pain. A good example is the Frank Miller Elektra omnibus, which even though is only a small jacket just got in the way. Some of my favourite hardcovers as of late have been IDW’s Angel trades, which engrave their designs on the cover, or even a recent example in Superman Earth One. They don’t really serve a purpose, and I have one friend who throws them away outright as soon as he buys one.

4 years ago