The questionable future of the book jacket


The future of book jackets is being discussed on NY Observer today, with special attention paid to such jacket-less books as No Impact Man by Colin Beavan, Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne, and The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott, a Chicago native, all due out in September.

It’s a small thing, the book jacket, but one I’ve thought about often, as I’ve always much prefered the engraved covers of older books to the glossy, slick wraps of newer hardback titles.
In the article, this quote from McSweeny’s managing editor, Eli Horowitz, really grabbed me:

“To some extent,” Mr. Horowitz said in an email, “it comes down to the
question of what purpose the book is designed for: to be sold in a
store, or to be a part of a reader’s life. Even well-designed jackets
often feel like advertisements, not actual parts of the object.”

It’s interesting, this recent return of the hand-bound and
artistan-crafted versions of things while smack in the middle of the
downloadable-in-an-instant e-book and digital everything. And, it’s interesting to hear old things called new when they’re really little more than a return to
an existing-yet-long-abandoned method.

The Observer article closes with:

“There’s something really exciting about seeing stamping directly on
the boards,” said Ms. Strick, of FSG. “I don’t know if I even
completely understand why that is. Maybe there’s something permanent
about it, that kind of makes it feel substantial and special and gives
it a certain integrity.” 

is it about? Is it simply a matter of an engraved book cover feeling
more substantial? Does it have greater artistic integrity? I mean, it
might feel more hand-crafted, more artistic, but it’s likely just as
mass-produced as the printed book jacket. But, it is a return to
a nearly-lost way, and that’s what’s got my ear more than anything. So
is this resurrection of the old ways of book cover printing indicative
of something weightier, culturally? Because I’d be remiss if I didn’t
mention that all this talk of a return to stamped bookcovers brings to
mind something I always say when I hear resistance to businesses
social media: “Using social media in business,” I begin, “is really a
return to doing business the person-to-person way.” I pause. I wait.
“Like in the old days.”


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  • Are you flirting with Amy?

  • In reply to GregMorelli:

    Are you calling Amy a slick jacket?

    Chad Post wrote an excellent editorial on the subject of paper-over-board and his set-backs:

    More from Dustin at McNally Jackson:

    This kind of binding can't get no respect. It is not only cooler, but, as magister might believe, MUCH cheaper. Losing a dj will knock a couple bucks off the price of the book and, more, reduce damages.

    Torn dust jacket?
    Not a problem if there are no damn dust jackets.

  • In reply to GregMorelli:

    For so long, I was a hardcover addict and I didn't mind the dust cover. But as I have gotten older and oh, so much wiser, I really can't stand them. They get in my way, they are indeed slick. And while they can hold your place in the book, invariably they slip off and there goes your place. They have just become a pain in the rear. I too love the small press books. A perfect size to carry around. So if we do away with the dust cover, we will maybe save a few trees, use less ink, and save some money. Sounds good to me.

  • In reply to GregMorelli:

    "It's interesting, this recent return of the hand-bound and artistan-crafted versions of things while smack in the middle of the downloadable-in-an-instant e-book and digital everything."

    I think it's extremely comparable to the resurgence of popularity of vinyl LPs. As digital downloads become increasingly easier to buy, and as their quality continues to improve, I think that consumers will look to increase the significance of their actual brick-and-mortar-bought, physical purchases. The difference between a CD and an enhanced iTunes download with PDF album art, etc. is not as obvious as the difference between a large two-sided LP and that same download.

    Likewise, with books, I think that as eReaders become more common and eBooks gain in quality, consumers will begin to eschew mass-market paperbacks for tomes with more physical significance.

  • I'm 99% sure that stamping the cover is cheaper than adding a dust jacket. Could likely be cost reduction.

  • ...I kinda hate holding, carrying, reading, shelving hardcovers, either way. They irritate me. One thing I like about reading a lot more indie/small press titles is they're usually soft. I do dig those flappy, jacketish things on soft covers though.

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