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The Greatest Literary Controversy Of The Last Century

Today’s topic is one that I’m almost scared to even broach on this blog.

It’s a topic that has divided families and ripped apart marriages. It’s a topic that, to date, has been avoided by both politicians and political analysts–a topic so controversial that abortion, capital punishment, and gun control seem like light-hearted discussions of the weather.

As I write this, my hands are sweaty and my thoughts are jumbled–so strong is my reaction to this divisive topic.

Make sure you’re sitting down while reading today’s post, friends.

Because, today, we’re talking about dust jackets.

If you’ve ever owned a hardback book, then you know the dust jacket. It’s the paper “jacket”—usually with a fancy design—that protects your book from, well, dust. You can also use it as a bookmark.

So, yes, the dust jacket does serve practical purposes.

But the question is–do you keep the dust jackets on your hardcover books, or do you take them off? And, if you remove the dust jackets, why?

Because you’re displaying them on your bookshelf and you think the books look better without them? Because the flimsiness of the dust jacket just annoys you? Because you’re embarrassed by the half-naked, muscular boat captain with shoulder length hair who is caressing what appears to be a female pirate on the cover of the novel?

And is this a hard-and-fast rule, or do you veer from it on occasion–like maybe when a book has a really well done dust jacket, and you just can’t bring yourself to remove it?

If you are pro-dust jacket, why is that? Do you appreciate the design, the practical use? What is it about the dust jacket that you like?

Me, well, I’m generally anti-dust jacket. I don’t mind them with smaller novels, like the version of Pale Fire I’m reading right now. But, for some reason, with larger books—like Gone With The Wind and Infinite Jest—the dust jackets tend to get loose and ripped up and are just generally annoying.

So I’m a hater. I’m an anti-dust jacketite.

Now it’s your turn. Today, declare your allegiance once and for all…

Are you pro-dust jacket or anti-dust jacket?

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42 Comments Post a comment
  1. I keep them on the book while I’m reading, but I have no major reason for doing so. I just don’t take them off.

    I had to take the dust jacket off of Gone Girl, though, because it was horribly distracting.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  2. I’m anti dust jacket while reading because I don’t want it to be torn while I am reading them and taking them around. When they are on the shelf, I put the dust jacket back on. So I suppose I am both.
    And if I’m really honest, the book without a dust jacket makes me feel smarter than with it on. As if every book were a classic of such magnitude that no cover is necessary.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
    • Yes! Even Twilight would look like a Shakespeare classic without the dust jacket.

      Like

      January 25, 2013
    • same here. dust jackets can be annoying while reading but on the bookshelf i like their shiny appearence.

      Like

      January 28, 2013
  3. I take them off the book, otherwise I usually rip them if they are left on and I also find them annoying. That said, I find I cannot throw them away although I don’t put them back on the book when the book goes on my book shelf. I have a stack of them in the closet. Half naked muscular men are never reason to abandon anything, dust jacket or otherwise.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
    • You literally made me laugh out loud with that last sentence.

      Like

      January 25, 2013
  4. peachyperspectivve #

    Depends on the book. I generally keep them on. I am more inclined to pick up a book that has a cool cover design than a stuffy, boring, basic cover.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  5. I do a lot of reading during my commute, so my books get exposed to the weather, get stuffed into a backpack, banged around, and so on. I take the jacket off and leave it at home – to protect the jacket. Then, I’m done with the book, the jacket goes back on to make to book look better on the shelf.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
    • Not a bad plan. My trick would be remembering where I placed the dust jacket though.

      Like

      January 25, 2013
  6. Great topic (i guessed you’d be writing conclusively whether george orwell was left or right wing..). I’m with you on the anti-dust jackets. Actually I’m anti hard backs, feels like a massive waste of resources, and the books are more expensive. But i also hate my daughter tearing off the dust jackets from Harry Potter and the other monster tomes offered for youngish readers. It’s hard enough keeping track of our household’s books without having to find their coats as well. Nicola http://aroundbritainnoplane.blogspot.com

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  7. Coke v Pepsi debate here. In this case, I am definitely bi-cola-ial. Same holds true with dust jackets. I play for both teams.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  8. Just read e-books! Controversy avoided. (Ducks as several libraries worth of books are hurled in my direction).

    I’m with the consensus though. Jackets off while reading, and on when I’m done.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  9. Dust covers on books irritate me immensely, but I always leave them on. They get torn and battered, but I hate just having a plain book. In general I just tend to avoid buying hardbacks!

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  10. To be honest, I’m not fussed. On, off, it’s however I’m handed the book.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
    • Argh, hit ‘submit’ before I could finish. Most hardbacks I read come from the library, where there’s no removing of the dust jacket as it’s covered in plastic and taped on. I don’t buy too many hardbacks as they are just too heavy.

      Like

      January 25, 2013
  11. I keep them on just because I like to keep them looking as close to the same way as I purchased them.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  12. I have a fairly large library distributed over many shelves and often have a hard time locating a book that I know I own. In that case I look it up on on Amazon and then know what to look for, but only if I leave the dust jacket on.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  13. Like some others who have already responded, I take the dust jacket off while reading, and put it back on afterwards when I’m ready to shelve it. I can’t say I prefer a book with or without a dust jacket. I like to keep it in the condition it’s in when I purchase it, even if the dust jacket is a bit ragged.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  14. I’m with most everyone else. I love them for their designs, but take them off when reading because they get severely battered coming in and out of my bag and on the T.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  15. I never thought about taking off the dust jacket, and really didn’t even consider the option, until an architect friend of mine with a very cool mid-century modern-designed home removed the cover of several books for aesthetic reasons to display in the living room decor. He described it as “clean looking.” After that, I started paying more attention to what’s under the dust jacket and I was surprised to find that some books look much nicer without it. But mostly I leave it on.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
    • That’s my wife likes the dust jackets off. Gives the bookshelf that same “clean looking” feel you are talking about.

      Like

      January 29, 2013
  16. As a former bookseller at an independent bookstore in San Francisco, I have to say that I feel somewhat ambivalent about dust jackets. It is soooo much easier to find a book on the shelf if you know what it’s jacket looks like. But if they get mauled by customers, it’s hard to sell what looks like a “used” book.

    At home, my son recycles covers, but then he dog-ears books, something that makes my skin crawl. Of course, when he sees me making notes in the margins of my books, highlighting specific passages or words, he feels free to say, “I thought we aren’t supposed to write in books.” Book “usage rules” appear to be extremely arbitrary.

    I love the feel of certain jackets, the ones with a touch of suede. And I like using the end paper as a bookmark, switching to the back paper once I’m past the halfway point.

    I volunteer at my son’s school library. Every new hardback with a jacket must be “covered,” using plastic sheets designed specifically for this purpose. It does extend the life of the book (and its cover) significantly. And the dust jacket makes it much easier for kids to find a book on the shelf. Many series books, such as Erin Hunter’s “Warriors” have spine markings (cat faces) on the jackets to make them stand out from others on the shelf.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  17. vrbridge #

    Generally I keep them on while I’m reading them. They serve as a way to save the book from my carelessness. When I’m ready to give them their home on my shelves I look at the condition of the book and decide from there. I like my books to look unique from one another, so if the dust jacket has a great cover I will keep it on. It’s decided case by case.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  18. I like to shelve my books as soon as I get them – it helps prevent being swallowed up by growing piles of books everywhere. And I like hardcovers. When I take one off the shelf to read, I leave the dust jacket on the shelf as a place keeper and I put it back on when I am finished with the book. I hate reading with the dust jacket because the book tends to slip out of the jacket unless the book is flat, and I almost never read with the book flat.

    I also don’t buy many new books – most of my books are used. I like the keep the jacket for a sort of historical reference as well. It’s interesting to see the artwork during different eras.

    Plus, you never know when something will become a “classic” and if I were ever to sell a book that has become valuable, I believe it fetches a higher price if it has the dust jacket. Not really a major reason, but something that sort of sits in the back of my mind sometimes.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  19. If it is a long book, such as Gone With the Wind, then I remove the dust jacket while reading to protect it, then put it back on the book when I return it to the shelf. With a smaller tome, I may keep the dust jacket on and probably will use it as a bookmark.

    My children remove the dust jacket of every hardcover book the second it gets in their grimy hands, which probably is for the best. I cannot bear to throw them away and therefore have an entire dresser drawer in our guest bedroom filled with crisp dust jackets to children’s picture and chapter books. (I am, however, considering framing some to use as art in our basement playroom, but I’m going to have to grow accustomed to the idea first.)

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  20. dste #

    I always keep the dust jackets on because… well, honestly, until I read this post it never would have occurred to me to take them off. I don’t dog-ear pages, I don’t write in books, I just keep them the way they were when I got them. I guess I’m just used to reading books that aren’t mine and that therefore I have to take good care of, so that even when the book is mine I treat it almost like it isn’t. Whatever, it’s not like I own that many hard-covers anyway.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  21. I’m pro- when the book is on the shelf, but anti- when I’m reading. I generally take them off and leave them somewhere until I’m finished reading the book. I kind of love them because they’re usually so beautiful, so I don’t want to throw them away, but they’re reeeeally inconvenient to read with.

    Like

    January 25, 2013
  22. Reblogged this on UnoRead's Blog and commented:
    I’ve gotta say… I agree! Anti-dust jacketite

    Like

    January 26, 2013
  23. Ha, great post! I have actually only owned two hardback books ever, I believe. I tend to read the older literary classics, and the paperback is always cheaper, and now I own a Kindle.

    The two books I did buy as hardbacks were the last two books in the “Wheel of Time” series. For the second-to-last, I took it off because it got in my way and annoyed. But the last one I actually kept on, because it never got in my way.

    So I guess I’m a man divided, and we’ll have to see if I can stand on my own vile hypocrisies.

    Sincerely,
    Julien Haller

    Like

    January 26, 2013
  24. Some may find a shelf of jacketless books classy looking, but I just find it boring. Besides, I always find taking the jacket off a bit of a thrill, and leaving it on just lets you do it again.

    By the way, cool blog!

    Like

    January 26, 2013
  25. I’m usually anti-dust jacket so much that I buy paperback books. However, if I do give in and buy a hardcover book, I take the dust jacket off while I’m reading it, but put it back on when it’s sitting on the shelf. If I have to have a dust jacket, I want it to look nice! You are right about dust jackets on larger books though: it’s annoying to have to deal with how loose they get.

    Like

    January 26, 2013
  26. I’m a pro-dust jacket, unless whoever designed the cover of the dust jacket did such a terrible job that it bothers me every time I look at it. Thus, it kinda depends for me.

    Like

    January 26, 2013
  27. I am anti-dust jacket. I find them terribly annoying. They get in my way when I’m trying to read my book. They slip and slide around and that bothers me. I even took the jacket off my dictionary. Also, I love the look of a hardback without the jacket. I generally remove the jacket and then cut off the flap that holds the synopsis of the book and tuck inside the front cover for future reference.

    Like

    January 27, 2013
  28. I take them off and use them as a Bookmark!

    Like

    January 27, 2013
  29. I take the dust jacket off while reading the book — they get battered so easily when being carted around in my bag or backpack — but I put it back on when I put the book on the shelf, mostly because I don’t know what I would do with all of the dust jackets if I kept them off the books.

    Like

    January 27, 2013
  30. They drive me batty.

    S. Thomas Summers
    Author of Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War

    Like

    January 27, 2013
  31. I keep the dust jacket on, even when i’m reading the book. I feel that a book without a dust jacket is like a flasher without his mack.

    Like

    January 28, 2013
  32. Pro jacket and any other accessory which comes with the book.

    Like

    January 28, 2013
  33. It depends on how big the book is. I can’t stand trying to balance a huge book and it’s jacket, too much effort. I like them for their aesthetic appeal… usually, so dust jacket it is!

    Like

    January 28, 2013
  34. Alex in Leeds #

    Only point of keepig the dust-jacket is in the hope the book might be collectible some day so take it off when reading and treat it very gently. I tend to buy lots of older hardback and I prefer them without usually, some of the 1930s jackets are eye-bleedingly vile. 🙂

    Like

    January 29, 2013
  35. Carey #

    I always leave them on when the book is shelved, but will sometimes take them off while reading.
    However, there is one dust jacket that will always haunt me! I borrowed Thackeray’s Vanity Fair from the library. It was an older edition from the 60s and the dust jacket kept making this crinkling noise like a chip bag. It was driving me nuts, so I did something I have never done before. I removed the reinforced library dust jacket, and then LOST the thing! I had to return it all naked and exposed!!

    Like

    January 29, 2013
  36. differentbeautifully #

    I leave the jacket on just because of the convenience of not having to put it on and take it off, lol. I’ve never really taken them off but maybe two or three times. Does anyone else have a problem with The Host by Stephanie Meyer just barely fitting on there bookshelf? I certainly do, so might try taking the jacket off of it to keep the edges from tattering.

    Like

    February 19, 2013

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