Dust jackets: love them or hate them?

Dust jackets: love them or hate them?

I’ve gone through many stages of book organization in my life: author and genre, rainbow-style, strictly alphabetical.

This weekend I started a new (and minor) organization project, with my one and only goal being to make the shelves look as pretty as possible. With that in mind, I pulled off all the book jackets and set to organizing the books loosely by color and size.

This is just one bookshelf, and it’s still very much in progress. But so far I’ve realized two things: I love the way this looks, and, were I to stick to this method, I might not be able to find anything ever again. I have a great memory for what a book cover looks like, but when the actual book color is across the color wheel from the jacket cover … I can’t keep up!

I have a longstanding love/hate relationship with dust jackets, and I appreciated this excuse to pull them off, at least temporarily. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

Cracking open each book for a minute has also been fun. I had no idea how many notes and cards were tucked into the books on my shelves!

And sometimes the endpapers themselves have surprised me. Isn’t the inside of Anna Kendrick’s book adorable?

And I have always loved the design of A Window Opens, even if my feelings about the book itself are decidedly more ambivalent.

I also discovered where all my book darts were hiding. At least a hundred were tucked into Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.

Back to dust jackets. When I was a kid, I used to pull them off and throw them away. Now, I prefer the look of my books without them, but only when they’re on my personal home bookshelves. I definitely don’t want publishers and booksellers to do away with them—I love that part of book design!

(I have some friends—who shall remain innocent—who use book jackets to disguise what they’re really reading in the waiting room, so they can cloak their embarrassing reads in respectability. Ha!)

Readers, I’d love to hear: how do you feel about dust jackets? Do you keep them on your books, or not? Why? And if you pull them off but don’t want to recycle them, how on earth do you store them? 

And if you have any tips for beautifying these shelves, please share those in comments as well. 

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108 comments

  1. Allison says:

    Agree, love/hate dust covers. Personally, I usually slide them off when I’m reading the book (I don’t like them sliding around on me), but have always put them back on to shelve them.
    To be honest, I have never even considered taking them all off and shelving without them! I am intrigued by this idea… I do have a mix of paperback and hardcovers however so that might drive me insane. I guess I could shelve them separately?
    As far as covering books go – in my library/school district, we laminate dust covers and tape them in place. I totally agree that a dust covered book would be checked out over one without… High school students definitely need a flash factor!

  2. Shay says:

    I like the look, but don’t enjoy how they slide off when reading. Of course, I borrow a lot of my books from the library, and those covers have been wrapped so they don’t slide. My preferred format for purchase tends to my trade paperback. I also love my hardcovers that come in slipcases.

  3. Ruth-Anne Hayes says:

    95% of my book jackets end up in the recycling bin. I agree with you though. I enjoy buying a book in its jacket. They go a long way in attracting me to a particular read.

  4. Jen Banks says:

    My husband and I fight over this, but reading that a serious bookie says it’s OK to ditch the dust cover just might make me agree with my husband! He hates them. I always thought if they come with the book (and books are sacred to me) then they should stay with the book. But I’m starting to understand that they are more of a marketing tool. Knowing that I carefully shelve my books I probably don’t need the dust covers, and I like the raw look of the books. You may have just converted me!

  5. Gina says:

    It’s fun reading through all of these comments! I had never thought much about dust jackets. For me, it’s just part of the book. The thought of separating them never crossed my mind. I just peeked underneath one of my BOTM picks and it had the month & Year stamped on the front of the book! Behind the cover of The Thirteenth Tale is the most beautiful spine! Who knew?!! Still, I could never part with dust jackets. I love the art, and when I was in design school we had to design book dust jackets. It was one of my favorite units, combining reading and art. There is so much that goes into it, marrying the art and ‘feel’ of the cover to the words contained on the pages. Practically, as far as asthetics and organization, I think dust jackets fit in better with paperbacks and the only time no dust jackets seems to produce the desired effect is if you have a whole dedicated bookshelf or library of only hardcovers.

  6. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    I don’t usually mind jacket covers on books I’m reading, but what I cannot understand is dust jackets for children’s picture books that are handled and read over and over. We have a stack on the shelf above our children’s book because they are beautiful and I hate to throw them away, but they fall off when young hands carry the book and then the children struggle to put them back on the book. That’s my dust jacket soapbox. 😉
    And admittedly, I read a lot of library books where the dust jacket is taped on, so it isn’t an option to remove it and it is basically a part of the book.

  7. Roan Johnson says:

    I take off the dust jackets while I am reading the book, but then I replace them before I store the book on a shelf. I agree with Hannah above–why do they put dust jackets on children’s picture books. Sadly, I have thrown most of them away! But some of them have been recycled by my children in various art projects.

    As far as your bookshelves….the colors look beautiful! And the books look so pretty without their dust jackets. However, I’m not sure how you will quickly locate a book with its identifying book jacket removed AND the books organized by color only. But it looks so petty!
    I reorganized most of the books in my house last summer by category. I have been really pleased with this system, but my shelves do not look as pretty as yours!

  8. I personally never buy hardcover books – too expensive – so the only hardcovers I have are from the library (laminated and taped covers).
    I do have a few non-fiction hardcovers I bought on sale but it never occurred to me to remove them. They seem to me to be part of the book.

  9. Lori Narlock says:

    This post arrived just as I am putting in new bookshelves. I love the look of books without jackets, but am a little reluctant to undress all of my books. I too love the design of a jacket but love the texture of the book itself.

  10. Kristian says:

    I tend to keep them, so as to protect the book for longer, but eventually they get tattered and then they are thrown out. I’m sort of torn about how they look aesthetically. They aren’t as visually appealing as the hardcover (there can be too much going on so it looks distracting), but like you, the cover art can help me find the right book, so….

  11. Christine says:

    I just read a really fun and interesting little book (actually an essay that was first presented as a speech) about book covers called “The Clothing of Books” by Jhumpa Lahiri. I can’t remember where I heard of this, but somehow it came to my attention just recently and I immediately thought of this article. It is basically all about the covers of books – how they come to be, what they mean, how the author feels about them (and their designs on her own works), the purpose of them, etc. There is even a “chapter” entitled “The Naked Book” ! It was such an intriguing (and very quick) read and perfect for book lovers.

  12. Jen R says:

    I sometimes will keep the dust jackets on while I’m reading them and I use it as a bookmark. When I’m done with the book though, I will usually remove it and throw it out. Unless it’s a book I don’t like/get through and I’m not going to keep, I won’t get rid of the jacket only because I don’t know if the person who will be getting the book will want it.

  13. I will sheepishly admit that I just thought of this idea of removing the dust jackets just over a year ago. I love it! I keep the dust jacket if I know it is going to be a loaner book, otherwise it’s in the recycle bin!

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