August 7, 2017

&%#*ing Dust Jackets

Although I do most of my reading on my Kindle, I still love the feel of a physical book. The smell of freshly printed paper, the weight of the knowledge held within, and the velvety smooth feel of the cover.

Something that most fiction hardcover books have in common is that they are adorned with attractive dust jackets. Wanting to follow the tradition of beautiful book making, I decided to order a hardcover copy of Quality DNA complete with dust jacket. Just a little extra formatting and adding flaps to the paperback cover, and everything was set. I went ahead and ordered a proof.

It wasn't pretty.

The first thing I noticed was how incredibly off center the spine text was. Had I really flubbed up the measurements that much? The front cover was horribly off center and the flaps didn't look right either. In fact, one of the flaps was much larger than the other. My dust jacket had been folded way off-center.

With the help of Google, I learned that misfolded dust jackets are incredibly common amongst print-on-demand hardcovers. I was able to remedy the situation by ironing to get the creases out then refolding the jacket over the book. However, I won't be able to do that for every book sold, so I had to go with a different solution to ensure readers get the highest quality product.

After chatting with some fellow writers, I learned that I wasn't the only one who thought dust jackets were a pain. The only reason I gave it a try was that I thought it would make my book look "classier." But those paper coverings are fragile and get annoying while reading. I usually tuck the covers away, only replacing them after I finish reading the book.

It made me wonder, why do books even have dust jackets in the first place? I kind of assumed it was to hide the ugly cloth that covered the book boards. It used to be quite the opposite: the bindings of books were beautiful and ornate which made wrapping them in paper necessary to keep them in top condition until purchased. Before adding a book to their collection, readers would tear off and discard these plain dust jackets. Over time, more and more information was printed on the jacket and the bindings got much simpler.

I am all for keeping with tradition, but in this case, I think utility takes precedence. I've already reformatted the cover of my next book so that the case is printed instead of requiring a dust jacket. In the end, it's easier for me and my readers.

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