I just read an interesting article on the web from The New York Observer about a new trend in book publishing to leave the book covers off hardback books. This month, three new books will come out with no jacket covers, they will be: No Impact Man by Colin Beavan, Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne, and The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott. The cover art will be stamped directly onto the hard book covers. Publishers feel the result will be a handsome, eye-catching look that is very attractive and will entice booksellers to display them prominently in their stores. Paul Buckley, the art director at Viking says "Being distinctive and unusual makes a book more of an object and ultimately more desirable".
The article quotes the managing editor of McSweeney Publishing, who have been printing books without jacket covers for years, saying that "even well-designed jackets often feel like advertisements, not actual parts of the object" and "jackets carry all the design, but they feel disposable and often are disposable, the first part of a book to get torn or creased or trampled. The people quoted in this article seem to think most people take the covers off of their personal books and the money expended on designing pretty jacket covers are in some sense wasted.
Quoting from http://theharperstudio.com/2009/08/will-books-get-cold-without-jackets/ "The way most books are printed, 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 ranges 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."
Of course, at the library, we need those jackets to protect the book. They take a lot of wear and tear so the actual book doesn't have to. If it gets worn and starts to look sad, we can recover the jacket with a new clear covering but once the actual cover of a book wears out, it is just going to sit on the shelf and look bad and no one will want to check it out.
What do you think about book jackets? Do you leave them on your books at home? Do you think they are attractive and useful, or needless?