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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ditch Your Jackets, Show Your Spines!

Finally, I am feeling back to normal. You know what the best thing about being sick was? Allowing myself to do nothing, or at least nothing terribly productive. The worst thing about this little hiatus from the real world? Finding myself behind on everything! The weekend was a flurry of activity for me trying to catch up on all the basics as well as pull a blog post together after a one week absence. My oldest, who is away at college, turned 19 today! It was so great to talk with him on the phone, but a bit sad with the realization that this was his first birthday away from us. Cards sent in the mail and a birthday text message simply can not replace a hug. He said he celebrated his birthday by taking his fraternity pledge exam. Hmmm...wonder if there was a book for that?

Poetry book with a beautiful decorative detail.

While I was laying low, not only did I watch bad television,  I also managed to see several movies, went through the entire and fantastic Downton Abbey series (courtesy of Mr. A&A and the Blockbuster kiosk) and had the opportunity to read quite a few books (courtesy of Amazon and Mr. UPS) that were really good. As I unwrapped some of my new books and was throwing away the shrink wrap....and the jackets,  I thought once again about why so many people have this odd attachment to the dust jackets on their books. I was only able to salvage three to photo for this post!
Before: books with dust jackets.

After: jackets ditched!

Not me. I also happen to be one of those people who rips or cuts off the tags on my pillows, sometimes my clothes, and yes even the mattresses in our houses.  The mattress and label police have yet to come knocking on my door.

Penguin classic books. I went nuts the first time I laid eyes on these beauties! I have them all now.

Whenever I buy books, I ditch the jackets. Why? Dust jackets are little more than modern day advertisements. In addition to attracting a potential buyer with an appealing jacket, much like a magazine cover shot, they also protect the cloth cover of the book from dirt and fingerprints from the masses handling them in bookstores so that they remain "sellable". Only in rare cases are jackets valuable. A book can survive hundreds of years under extreme temperature fluctuations and tremendous amounts of use, and remain amazingly intact without the "aid" of  dust jacket.

This set of classics once occupied space in my parents library and now are among my favorite volumes.
Once you decide to buy a book, the jacket in my mind, is useless. Most are also not very attractive. And the ones that have a pretty picture on the cover, as in the case of design books, almost always have the exact same picture featured in the book. Design books in particular can be quite attractive. Designers are afterall in the business of making things look good!

A few of my design books in all their glorious color!

Consider the beauty of old books. The spines in particular are often incredibly gorgeous. Many old books are embossed, have hand tooled details and titles in beautiful script. Most new books have good lettering and the book cloth colors are so attractive. Although most books made now have black, gray, brown or navy blue spines. Thankfully, design books come in every color in the rainbow! Sometimes, when you remove a cover there is a little surprise waiting. How sad would that be not to enjoy it?

A sampling from my husbands "side" of our library.
Selections range from antique German books to sports to his favorite topic: history.
 I think it's perfectly fine to mix antique books with modern selections.

For those still not convinced to ditch their jackets, here are the reasons I've heard most often from resisters:

  • I don't want my books to get dirty.  May I suggest that you refrain from reading just after gardening or eating fried chicken. Oh, and dust once a month with a soft cloth or Swiffer
  • I use the jacket flap as a bookmark. Really? It's not very efficient. It has been my experience that it slips out and you end up re-reading several pages. This is especially problematic with large books. Not to mention, if you leave the flap tucked in between pages for prolonged periods it makes the jacket wonky...forever. Tip: buy a spool of ribbon in your favorite color and place a cut piece in all of your favorite books as well as your current read. Some bookmakers still sew ribbon into the bindings...which I love!!!!
  • I want to save information about the author or book included in the back flap. Okay, cut that portion off the jacket and stick it inside the book. Bonus: you now have a free bookmark!

If I had left the dust jacket on this book, I would have missed this magnificent detail!

My reasons for ditching the jackets and showing all my spines:
  • It makes any library and/or bookshelves look so much better! In fact, it will make the whole room look more attractive. I love bookstores, but I don't want my house to look like one. Do you?
  • I have NEVER thrown a jacket away and then regretted it. For those of you who like to get your books signed, always be sure to do so on the inside, because.....
  • Eventually, all dust jackets rip and fray and end up looking quite shabby. 
  • It's another way to Live Beautifully Everyday!

Before: spines coverd with jackets.

After: jackets ditched and beautiful spines showing!

In case you're still not sure if you can take the leap...remove the jackets from all your books and store them in a closet or somewhere out of sight. After six months if you don't miss them....ditch them for good. And, if your feeling really crazy, rip your mattress tag off too!


  1. I can't believe you have the same liking to books without their dust jackets. I specifically search out old books with wonderful designs on the bindings and facings. I agree, they have beautiful designs on them that really should be seen and enjoyed. Wonderful post, thank you. Have a great week.

  2. Hmmmm Rebecca you have me thinking about this!!

    A good project for a rainy day!

    Art by Karena

  3. OK - one of the first times I have to disagree with you In general, much more time, expense and consideration are spent on the jackets than on the cloth covers. That's why it's considered a coup for an author to receive jacket approval. And many designers, including such icons as Charlotte Moss, leave their book jackets on as they consider them art in their own right. But of course chacun a son gout!

  4. Al, kindered spirits for sure.

    Karena, absolutely perfect for a rainy day project!

    Q, I have heard this too. On the flip side I have also heard from authors themselves of not loving their book jackets or colors as the publishers have significant influence over the final product and what they think will make for good marketing. I personally can not think of a book jacket that I've ever purchased that looks like art...but absolutely agree chacun a son gout! However, perhaps if I ever had a book published ego would make me save the jacket...although likely hidden in a closet!

  5. My mother always used the latest greeting card or letter she received ... or the newest photo of a love one ... as her bookmark. I loved that and have continued her tradition. (It's the little things in life...)

    Jane in Ohio

  6. Although the textured spine of the book is appealing, I prefer leaving the covers on. Do you simply trash the covers or repurpose? I totally agree about the mattress labeling. Superfluous, at best.

  7. I used to rip off all
    my jackets but have gotten
    a bit lazy about this, so
    I'm going to rip the rest
    asap!!! The only ones
    that I haven't ripped are
    those by Rosamunde Pilcher,
    because all of her covers
    are beautiful botanicals : )
    Glad you are feeling better!!
    Sniffing along with you about
    being away from your eldest
    for his b-day. That will be
    me in two years : ( Love your
    posts as they inform with a
    smile....and often, a laugh-
    out-loud moment, which is a gift,
    my friend!
    xx Suzanne

  8. Dust jackets are tacky,tacky,tacky! Thanks for pointing it out in a tactful way and I really like the tip about using ribbon to mark your place!

  9. What a great post! What is it about design, garden or coffee table books in general that makes us want to save the jackets? Once they are torn..they are relegated to the closet!

  10. Rebecca!
    I just went and removed all the dust jackets from the books in my family room! Love the idea....why didn't I think of that!
    Have a super week!

  11. What a great post! As soon as I finished I walked over to my bookshelf and got rid of them all. Your right, looks so much cleaner.

  12. I've been thinking about doing it too! Love seeing yours!

  13. Great to have you back and I'm glad that you are feeling better. I've wondered if something was up with you. I always take the dust jackets off of novels and books that I put in shelves. In fact my favorite for bookshelves are antique leather books that I have collected for years. I have to say I leave the jackets on my beloved design coffee table books. I just like the color and interest it adds.

  14. I am so loving this post, I thought I was the only person on this planet who ditched the dust covers....welcome to my world Rebecca. I think the books look better without the dust covers and they don't look so busy on my shelves. As for your son I l know it's hard but they do grow up thankfully and become people whom you can be proud of, embrace and cry over that moment. Glad you're feeling better!

  15. I love seeing your book titles....we share a love for the same ones! I just devoured Charlotte Moss' new book.

    Although I have the covers on a lot....I have a lot without the covers. I decide once I see the color. In fact, I went in search of books with white covers so that I could group them in my guest room.

    Fun, fun post!!!
    xo Elizabeth

    ps: So happy you're well again! Such a drag to be sick.

  16. We are dust jacket tossing, tag ripping out twins! Glad to hear that you are feeling better! Seriously coveting your Penguin classics collection.

  17. Your title enticed me.....It is spring,hmmm: leave my jacket, show more spine?! YES! LOL!
    I have the same attitude to certain book covers, but not all. I think in the days, when books were mainly made with either leather or linen, they were beautiful and actually did not have a dust jacket to begin with. These are an invention of later years, when bookmaking became a cheap mass production. Carton book style needed a dust jacket to sell, to make those shiny prints and all. I try to avoid these. I love beautiful linen covered books, like the Penguin series or others like that and on coffee table books I usually leave the dust jacket. I have so many old, wonderful linen covered books, no dust jacket needed indeed!
    And oh, I hate those itchy labels on clothing, sometimes its almost impossible to get rid of those, especially on certain garmets closest to your skin!
    Nice shelves btw!

  18. Hi all, who knew dust jackets could be so controversial! For those on both sides a reader sent me an email with a very good reminder: If you ditch the jacket on a book that may have value in the future, the price you will get for that book would be significantly less. Thank you very much Sam for sending me this note!

    It's a gamble for those of you who tend to trade/sell books. If I acquired a book where I thought this would be an issue, I would keep the jacket it came far I don't think I have any where this could be of concern.

    Jane, I love the idea of a letter or card as a bookmark. Another reason we should all send more mail!

    P&H, I would keep those jackets too, or take them off and frame them, they sound lovely.

    PPT, good point for those who like to arrange their books by color, impossible to do with the jackets left on!

    Zhush, how did I know! :)

    Victoria, so funny!

  19. I will admit it is the first thing I off that jacket and show its spine! Although after reading all of the comments I am now feeling a bit guilty. Hope all is well Rebecca!

  20. Wow, I've never thought about these dust jackets but it makes sense! After all, the older books I saw on my grandparents bookshelves that are now on mine still look the same and I enjoy their beauty.

  21. You're book collection is beautiful! I'm a jacket stripper myself. Now I just have to get my bookshelves styled.

  22. Love, love, love the Penguin's!! I've given them as gifts but don't have any as of yet for myself...I said, 'as of yet'...soon!!
    I actually have a mix of jacketed and depended upon who looked better with or without, just like people. ;)
    So glad your all better...
    xo J~

  23. Thank you for this great tip! I immediately went home and removed all the jackets off my books. They are much more interesting to look at now! And for those who are afraid to commit to this new look, just put the covers in a bag and store for a few months. If you decide you are happy with the look, then you can discard the book covers.


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