Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Reading naked

This morning I stumbled over this at author/publisher Susan Hill's blog: "Intellectual snobs say things like...." Ms. Hill gives several examples, including: "I was always taught to discard the dust wrappers from books."

Excuse me? I'm a confirmed dust-jacket remover, but I certainly wasn't taught to do that, and I've never heard of the practice as an indicator of intellectualism. In fact, many dust jackets have lovely artwork, and most contain material you won't find printed in the book. Toss the dust jacket and those things are gone forever--so it hardly seems a "highbrow" thing to do.

But I do it. Partly because a dust jacket tends to slip off its book when I'm reading and it's just too annoying to keep realigning the thing. But also because I think naked books look more inviting on my bookcases. All those lovely red, brown and black leather- and cloth-covered spines just seem friendlier when they're not covered by glossy paper in attention-grabbing colors.

Is that nuts? Am I alone in preferring bare books?

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Anonymous said...

ditto...must be hereditary

For exactly the same reason, I also remove the dusk-jackets. The books seem to have so much more character to me, when I can really SEE them...even if the dusk-jacket is identical.


Katie Hart said...

I take the dust jacket off while i'm reading, usually, but that's to keep it all nice and neat for when I stick the book on the shelf. What drives me nuts is when I have some books in a series with djs and some without.

Perhaps the lack of the "attention grabbing" cover is what makes it so highbrow to leave the books bare.

Kristi said...

I like dust jackets. They're pretty. :) I do take them off when I'm leading out a copy or during the reading - otherwise the djs have a tendancy to get lost or torn. Like Katie, nothing makes me crazier than having some books in a series/by an author with and some sans djs...so if I'm missing one, I'll remove the others.

Chaser said...

I'm with everybody else; I take the dust covers off when I am reading because they are too easy to dip in the tub. :-). Then I put them back on. I have a spot on my bookshelf for the dust cover of the moment.

The collector in me says that dust jackets only really became available in the mid20th century, and they were originally meant to be thrown away (a little like book wrap is now). This is, along with how fragile they are, one of the reasons finding first editions with dust jackets of some authors, like Faulkner or Dos Passos, is difficult and why they are pricey if you do find them.

I don't know that there is anything intellectual to throwing dust jackets away other than that tradition--or the belief that you would never be so crass/hard up as to fret about a book's future value.

Don't know if that helped. I'd like to think you can be an intellectual--somebody who loves ideas, who loves to read a variety of things, etc etc, without it being a way of looking down on others or making other people feel bad about what they do or read.

Susan Kaye said...

Here I am, bereft of intellectual chops. I keep the dust jacket on even while reading; that way I don't have to search for a bookmark.

Anonymous said...

I am with you Brenda. I pefer my books bare too. The jackets might serve a valid purpose but they get on my nerves. I try to keep the jackets on some of my books like my John Grisham while others I throw away. :) Brittanie

Wendy Richards said...

I guess I'm with everyone else here. I take the dust jacket off the book while reading, but I put it back on when I'm done. Maybe it's my fear of throwing anything nice away, I don't know. Maybe when I actually have a place for all my books, I'll try taking them all off and seeing if it doesn't kill me!

Anonymous said...

Susan, I'm with you. Those dust jackets make handy, convenient bookmarks. Isn't that what they're for? LOL! However, I do admit that the slipping can get a little frustrating. :-)

Merry Christmas,

Marianne Arkins said...

I always keep the dust jackets -- both as a very handy bookmark (except on really thick books) and because I like to keep everything about my books in as close to mint condition as I can. I consider it a sign of respect, but then I don't dog ear them either - that's something that really makes me crazy!

Douglas Cootey said...

I keep them. I even pay extra to buy old books with them still intact. However, I think they need a redesign! None of these dust jackets actually keep dust off my books. The tops of all my books are buried in dust (I live in Utah). Maybe dust jackets need extra flaps to lay over the page tops. What do you think? Dust flaps would be perfect places for more misleading blurbs and synopsis hype! ;)

BTW, I much prefer slipcover editions whenever they are available. Slipcovers are much better at fending off dust than dust jackets.

christa said...

I'm a dust jacket remover, and I agree that the "naked" spines are so much more distinctive on my bookshelf. They're also a real pain when I'm schlepping the book around with me.

Brenda Coulter said...

Wow. I really thought I would shock people with my confession that I discard dust jackets. So do most book readers eschew book jackets, or is it simply that my blog has somehow attracted the anti-dust-jacket crowd?

Julana said...

Dust jackets make me feel rich, like I bought a new book, because when I was a child, the used ones never had them.

cantnever said...

"Maybe dust jackets need extra flaps to lay over the page tops." Interesting thought, Douglas Cootey. I like it! Extra flaps would also help keep the news articles I save, or 4 leaf clovers, or love notes inside the books as well. An excellent idea.

I think DJ's should be very thin newsprint - useful to protect the book, with little value. I must say though, as one who sells used books, DJs do protect and increase the value of used books.

For reading DJ's are a nuisance. If I had a library with lots of shelves, I'd put the DJ in the shelf when I was reading or loaning - it would hold the place and help the DJ to stay nice.

Ramblin Regina said...

Nawww....I keep 'em on and use 'em as bookmarks.