Will Books Get Cold without Jackets?By Steffen • Aug 25th, 2009 • Category: 26th Story, Books
I read this article in The New York Observer yesterday about book jackets, and how some publishers are forgoing dust jackets in favor of stamping a design directly onto the cover boards. It got me thinking about how I read my books, and if I would actually prefer hardcovers without jackets. Sometimes I do remove the jackets before reading because they slip around when the book is opened, and they’re less likely to be torn or folded when set to the side. Other times though, I use the jacket as a bookmark, taking one of the flaps and inserting it between the pages. I tend to dog-ear paperbacks, but if I have a flap handy, I’ll use that. So, I personally value book jackets for the designs that I don’t want to ruin and the less obvious uses. The tell-tale designs also clue me in to what others are reading with a quick glance – if you’re on a Kindle or have removed the jacket, you’ve probably had people have to ask you what you’re reading before launching into a conversation.
The way most books are printed today, the actual boards are minimally designed with simpler fonts and two-toned material, with the understanding that there will be a jacket in place to please the eye. The jacket, which is easier and cheaper to produce, allows for range in the color, typeface, images, and even texture of the design. Printing or stamping directly onto the boards is limited, even if one were to design without a jacket in mind. Covers can still look attractive and appealing without jackets, but it’s more difficult to differentiate between books if manufacturers can only produce certain color boards and stamp certain typefaces. Since we all know that people do actually judge a book by its cover, jackets are still needed to make most books stand out.
This isn’t to throw out the idea of designing uncovered boards – in fact I really appreciate books that can offer an aesthetically pleasing and unique cover when the jacket is removed. (We added a little bit of flair to Who Is Mark Twain? by stamping Twain’s signature onto the board.) Maybe what we need is a happy medium, where books won’t be considered completely naked if stripped of their jackets.