It’s my day off, but I’ve got get something off my chest, and I invite your response: Is it a sin to throw away dust covers (which may also be referred to as dustcovers—per Webster; I looked—or dust jackets)? Or does it at least represent a character deficiency? Some say yes (the legalists!). I say no! In fact, I say that keeping dust covers is probably indicative of an unhealthy carefulness that borders on OCD. Dust covers are burdens difficult to be borne. My two cents on dust covers:
- They’re unsightly. I’d much rather see the beautiful spine (preferably an earth tone) and gold lettering than a slick and colorful piece of paper. For example, the green and white covers that come with “The Works of John Owen” are just ugly; the books themselves, however are beautiful—a flat (to borrow a painter’s term) green which is far more attractive than the glossy green of, say, Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology set. So I threw the covers away.
- They’re unwieldy. They just get in the way, or fall off, or whatever. Sure, you can tape them in, but they’re still a nuisance, and they’re still ugly—now permanently so.
- They’re useless. What are they protecting the book from anyway? When dust gathers on the books on my shelves, it gathers on the pages, not the spines (per gravity) or the fronts and backs (per the books next to them). Find a way to keep dust off the place it naturally settles on and get back to me. (I realize that one could turn his books so that the dust covered spines are up and the books are thus protected. It just makes it, you know, hard to tell them apart).
- They’re redundant. They protect (or at least pretend to protect) the beautiful cover of the book—which no one will ever see!!! If all people will be able to view is the glossy and cheap cover, what we really need is a dust cover for the dust cover.
- They’re tacky. Ever go into someone’s home and see their sofa covered in plastic? Nice. Nothing says “make yourself at home” like a plastic sofa cover! Just to be sure I understand: In order to preserve the (supposedly) beautiful upholstery (a strange word, no?) which no one will ever see, you’ve placed a tarp on it? Are you sure you’re not just lying, and using the sofa cover to hide a hideous sofa? And if not, why not? You could have saved some serious cash! Anyway, that’s what dust covers are like. (Other illustrations abound: the coating that comes on spectacles, watches, and digital devices that is supposed to be removed; clear table cloths that permanently cover beautiful wood furniture, etc. You get the idea.)
Now, lest I be charged with sinning against my books, let me be clear that I’m not opposed to protecting books. In fact, my preference is to cover my paperback books (also called softback and softcover) with contact paper. (Aside: Aren’t paperbacks sad? Poor things.) It takes a while, but my 12-year-old is getting good at it. And lest I be accused of hypocrisy, this is different. The contact paper is not unsightly (it’s invisible), unwieldy (it sticks, like skin; you don’t even know it’s there), useless (ever get a paperback wet?), or redundant (providing protection without hiding the book itself). Tacky? Well, yeah, maybe. Probably, in fact.
But if you’re going to protect your books, protect the ones in serious danger! Paperbacks are the women and children of the library, and they deserve valiant protection. Hardbacks (also known as hardcovers or hardbound, though I think the latter can only be used as an adjective; “hardbounds” doesn’t sound right)? They’re the soldiers of your library, and they’ll be fine. Don’t make them wear a dress.
I urge you to liberate yourself and your books from the tyranny of dust covers. Stop treating your beautiful books like you’re ashamed of them or afraid for them. Yes, you can cut out and keep the blurbs on the inside of the covers if you’d like, but toss the rest of the covers. You’ll feel guilty at first, as if you’ve done something wicked. You’ll doubt whether you’ve done the right thing. But persevere. It gets easier, and your conscience will be reprogrammed over time. Keep tossing them. You’ll thank me later.
(Disclaimer: My Two Cents cannot be held responsible for the drop in value of books which may occur as a result of taking the author’s advice. Anyway, you’re supposed to be buying books, not selling them.)