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Against Dust Jackets

I hate dust jackets. Every hardcover that comes into my possession is desecrated, almost immediately, insofar as I automatically remove the dust jacket and often transport it directly to the trash. The only time I do NOT do this is if I have borrowed the book and must return it. In case of borrowing, I simply remove the jacket, put it on the table, and seethe resentfully every time my eye catches it from here on out. Although I have a healthy respect for the physical book as an artifact, and want to preserve it in our culture, I don’t understand why they are still kicking around.

My hatred of dust jackets is just, reasonable, and true. I have many carefully considered reasons for my disgust. For example:

1. Dust jackets don’t actually repel dust. Any bookworm worth their salt knows this story: you go out intending to buy one book and come home with seven. Some are “fun” purchases and others are “serious” purchases. You think, “First, I will read ONE FUN BOOK. Then, I will certainly move on to this very serious doorstopper of a novel about farmers translated from the original German that I bought because the New York Times Book Review said all the intellectuals were reading it and I am an intellectual and I want to impress people at parties.” You take the fun book and put the other six on the shelf. Months, years, decades pass. Then, while moving to a new apartment, you rediscover that book still lying where you left it, dust jacket intact. AND IT IS COVERED IN ONE INCH OF DUST. And there you have it: dust jacket fail, stage one. Dust happens, it’s a fact of life, no crappy piece of paper can stand in its way, the end.

2. Dust jackets are no easier or harder to clean than fabric hardcovers. People who claim otherwise are lying to you. Just get yourself a lint roller, people. It’s 2013. Also, to be honest, a fabric hardcover looks better, more used, more respected, I’d wager, when marbled with dust. Any real book snob knows that the sign of another book snob is proper wear on the fellow book snob’s book. It indicates a love of books that goes beyond the book as fashion accessory, as pristine proof of one’s intellect. Books, like intellects, are there to be used, people.

3. Dust jackets are slippery, and they rip. There is nothing more annoying than lying in bed, reading the latest Tana French in hardcover because goddamnit she is a really good writer, when you notice that gradually the book is inching out of the jacket. And you realize you have to put the book down to adjust it, because adjusting it right there and then means the thing might rip at the bottom. And although it’s certainly fine for the fabric hardcover to show wear and tear there’s something truly pathetic about that guy on the subway who is carefully holding his book to keep the dust jacket in place but it’s all banged up. LET’S ABANDON THE MADNESS.

4. It’s not like we are without the technology to print an image on a pasteboard cover. I have the proof. Check out the pretty Harry Potter books they get in the UK and in Canada!

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Furthermore, if you want a more stately look, are there really any better looking books on the market than Coralie Bickford-Smith’s bound classics?

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Wouldn’t you rather have designs of this kind on your bookshelves? Wouldn’t you rather the gift were as pretty as the wrapping paper?

There are prissy sorts who insist that it respects the “history of the book” or some such nonsense to have such an inconvenient physical trapping. But these people, I think, are just snobs. Join me in flouting their terrible conformist adherence to convention, and throw out your dust jackets. Together, we too can make a difference.

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