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April 12, 2008

A book by its cover
Posted by Avram Grumer at 01:32 AM *

Wow, this may be the most elaborate book cover treatment I’ve ever seen!

It’s Jordan Crane’s cover for Michael Chabon’s new book of essays, Maps and Legends. It’s got three bellybands, each illustrated, irregularly cut and overlapping, also with die-cut holes that line up to reveal the title on the main cover. Oh, and the main cover has debossing and foil.

I think I might be hesitant to buy this thing just for fear of tearing the cover as I read it. I suppose I could leave the bands at home while I carried it around for reading, then put them back on when it’s on the shelf.

(Via Drawn!)

Comments on A book by its cover:
#1 ::: Yatima ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 01:56 AM:

That's gorgeous.

#2 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 02:07 AM:

I've always been a bit confused by people leaving the dust jackets on when reading the book, as the dust jacket is the most easily damaged part of a book.
If you look at library practice, you tend to see one of two
alternatives -- university libraries tend to remove and store (or
discard) the dust jackets, leaving the books naked. Public libraries
tend to put mylar covers over the dust jackets and attach them to the
books. Either method protects the dust jacket.

Personally, I've always removed dust jackets when reading a book. I also tend to put mylar covers on them, but I still remove the protected dust jacket when reading the book.

Of course the annoying thing about fancy overlaid covers like this one is that they make putting mylar covers on the book a real challenge....

#3 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 02:16 AM:

A great counter-example to the proposition that an ebook reader can do anything a book can do. Let's see you do that on your Kindle!

#4 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 02:33 AM:

My 3.5 yr old has asked me why there are dust jackets.

I'm really at a loss for kids books, since many of them (or rather,
all but one on our shelves) are pretty much exactly what they have
printed on the hardcover, and they're just easier to damage.

My best guess is that they predate being able to do pictures on the cover of hardbacks, and umm, that's just the way that they are.

(now, I can see where this elaborate one would tend to attract
people in a bookstore, so for non-kid oriented books, I can certainly

#5 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 03:12 AM:

I take the dust jacket off when I read books. That's an awful lot of work for a cover, particularly as a lot of it is covered up.

#6 ::: Rich McAlister ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 03:15 AM:

Well, I've been stuck with the problem of a book too pretty to read before. The solution is to buy two copies.

#7 ::: Kathleen ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 04:09 AM:

I keep a folder in my filing cabinet labelled "dust jackets" so when I take them off the book, I don't lose them.

Of course, sometimes I lose the book and still have the dustjacket.

#8 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 04:15 AM:

Not bad at all, but a bit spartan. I think it needs a hologram to complete the picture.

#9 ::: AlyxL ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 04:47 AM:

This is amazingly pretty, but it's also why I usually wait until a book
comes out in paperback. In the past, I have bought hardcovers I was
especially interested in, then been afraid to read them for fear of
damage, so that I ended up not actually reading them until I got the
paperback. Mind you, since I am incapable of going anywhere without a book, I do tend to cram them randomly into my handbag and then pile stuff on top, which would destroy something this elaborate.

Unless you made a dust cover to protect the dust cover...

#10 ::: deathbird ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 05:15 AM:

I always remove the dust jacket when reading. I also remove it
before lending my books to others. It acts as a place marker on the
shelf and a reminder that the book is on loan.

The cover
is really nice and I hope it survives intact to my part of the globe,
but I must admit that I'm more excited about having something new from
Michael Chabon than how pretty the cover is.

#11 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 05:49 AM:

I have a box of mylar book covers. Books like that are one reason why -- though that's certainly the most spectacular example I can remember seeing.

#12 ::: Elayne Riggs ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 07:03 AM:

Oh, that would have totally won a NY Book Show award, it's the kind of thing the Bookbinders Guild really liked to see back when I was handling the entries...

#13 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 07:39 AM:

It's an attractive stunt, but I bet bookstores wind up hating it,
not so much for the three different bellybands as for the fact that
there's a die-cut through two of them. I've never seen a die-cut that
didn't result in a huge increase in the number of torn--and thus

Of course, this is a McSweeney's publication, and they have a rep for book
design that playfully pushes at the far reaches of the functional. It's
not like it's going to be sold in stacks at Costco. Bookstores and
readers know what they're getting into.

#14 ::: Matt Runquist ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 08:25 AM:

My wife always removes the dust jackets, but I take the view that the jacket is there to be destroyed. It's protecting the book, and therefore expendable. The dust jacket is a crush zone. I can see why not many book lovers feel that way, but leaving them on works for me.

#15 ::: R. N. Dominick ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 08:35 AM:

At the local bookstore (Carmichael's, in Louisville), Maps and Legends already has its belly-bands in a mylar cover. Until now I was unsure why, because I couldn't tell there was more than one band.

I always leave the dust jackets on. After all, they're there to protect the book. Anything that happens to the jacket while it's on the book while I'm reading it at, say, a restaurant or a park happens to the jacket and not the book underneath. That's good, right?

#16 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 10:35 AM:

The graphic designer in me wants to run out and buy. Just like I
wanted to buy the young adult novel that had the John Jude Palencar
poster that unwrapped from the belly band. And I admit I bought Rudy
Rucker's Mathematicians In Love, not because I'd read Rucker before,
but because I saw the cover
treatment on Irene Gallo's blog. (I read enough about the story to
convince myself that I would like it just as much as I liked the cover, and I was right.)

(This is one of the downsides to being a graphic designer. I KNOW
why and how, and yet, I can be swayed by fancy packaging, just because
I think it's awesome and I want to have it around. Sometimes to wave in
marketing's face when they go, well, we want something that looks
expensive but can you make this look more boring? I mean, that's never
their exact words--usually what they see is empty space that could be
filled with logos or more text. God forbid we have ART in the design.)

This is lovely. I covet muchly.

#17 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 10:39 AM:

#13 - Patrick makes a good point--unless it's shrink wrapped, it's
gonna be hard to keep in pristine condition on the shelf. (BTW, I
remember reading in Neil Gaiman's journal that when he released Fragile
Things with its white vellum cover that frosted over the butterfly, that it LOOKED really pretty, but sadly it got dirty on the display too easily.)

Still, it's awfully purty.

#18 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 10:41 AM:

I grant you gorgeous, for some value of gorgeous, but I'm unable to see the point as, you know, a book cover. The word that comes to mind is "gimmick" which I suppose is, indeed, a way to make it stand out on the shelf.

Somewhere in my youth I got the notion that dust covers were meant
to be used as bookmarks--I still use them that way (at least on books
of a reasonable thickness). But I, too, have developed the habit of
waiting for the paperback.

#19 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 11:06 AM:

There was a book
my husband read recently (the title is slipping my mind, but it's
current and fairly popular). When he requested it from the library, he
noticed that about 80% of their copies were listed as being "At
Bindery." The book itself had no dust jacket, but had a cut-out in the cover itself (star-shaped, IIRC). When his copy arrived, we took a look at how the cover
was put together and noted that it was funky looking but quite possibly
the most impractical design we'd ever seen for a hardcover book. The pointy bits of the cut-out had clearly gotten snagged on things several times, and the whole cover looked like it would be coming apart soon.

At least here the overlapping die-cut bits and pieces and be slipped
wholesale into the plastic wrapping libraries put on all their dust

#20 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 11:12 AM:

I mainly get advance galleys, so I'm lucky to see the cover art at all (though Tor and some of the smaller presses are good about printing them on the cardboard binding). This cover *is* interesting, but as a dust jacket it would make me very nervous!

#21 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 11:17 AM:

Naomi Kritzer (19): the overlapping die-cut bits and pieces [can]
be slipped wholesale into the plastic wrapping libraries put on all
their dust jackets.

Unfortunately for that, the clear plastic covers used by my library
have an opaque back. Normally this is hidden under the dust jacket, but
cutouts are always a problem.

#22 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 12:14 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden -

It's an attractive stunt, but I bet bookstores wind up hating it,
not so much for the three different bellybands as for the fact that
there's a die-cut through two of them. I've never seen a die-cut that
didn't result in a huge increase in the number of torn--and thus


Several books White Wolf published, Back In The Day (when I worked for Crazy Egor) inspired much ire -

The first edition of Wraith: The Oblivion which, cleverly,
had its title in glow-in-the-dark ink. Not so cleverly, said ink was
nearly impossible to read by daylight on the very convoluted cover,
leading to such statements as "Yeah, we've got Wraith, back on the New
Stuph display. Hang on, let me turn the lights out so you can see it."
and "Yeah, we've got Wraith. It's the one you can't see, cause ghosts
are, y'know, invisible."


several books in the Werewolf: The Apocalypse line, which had
a tendency to die-cut covers (including at least one hardcover with a
die-cut in it) which were all atrociously prone to mangling themselves
into the scratchy-denty bin.

Friends Don't Let Friends Die-Cut Covers Without Protecting the Die-Cuts... :-)

#23 ::: Kris ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 01:09 PM:

The solution that I have seen, especially for beautifully
illustrated kids books, is to remove the dust jacket and frame it in a
cheap store bought frame and hang it in the child's room.

#24 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 02:07 PM:

I read books with the dust jacket on, but then I'm the one who made
it through an entire semester of wheel-thrown ceramics with hardly any
clay on my cover-up.
I don't know why, I've just got an exaggeratedly careful way of
handling things. (That's actually decreased as I got older— you might
find me *gasp* get dirt on my clothes these days!)

#25 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 08:05 PM:

I don't need the dust jacket to protect the book -- I read in bed and the cats know they may sniff but not bite books. The dust jackets have the pictures and cover text, and I don't need those when I read the book.

#26 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2008, 10:34 PM:

Claire @2: Mylar is horrible for books. Especially the type used
back in the seventies, that are often still n some of the books. Mylar
prevents the paper form breathing, causing the books to self catalyze
and start to yellow faster.

Whenever I have to do repair on a book with mylar, i strip it off, along with the decrepit strip of dust jacket clinging to the boards.

It may seem counter intuitive, but removing the Dust jacket will help prolong the book's useful shelf life.

Professionally, I find dust jackets mostly useless and an
unnecessary expense, even if some of them I personally find beautiful.

When publishing my book, I decided to compromise and go with a casewrap for the hardback (how's that for some subtle marketing, eh?)


As for this cover...
wow! McSweeney's makes some beautiful books*, but this one is just
spectacular. if we get a copy for the library, I might just have to
stick it in the special collection. I don't think I could bare to
discard such a work of art.


* It's unfortunate the writing isn't as good. I don't think I've ever
enjoyed reading any of the McSweeney's books I've bought but they sure
look purty on my shelf.

#27 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 12:58 AM:

I don't remember who told me this, so I don't know how reliable it
is, but supposedly dust jackets were originally supposed to protect the
books until the buyer got them home, at which point they were supposed
to be discarded. Which is why old used books rarely have jackets.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 01:46 AM:

The covers that Chris Ware did for the McSweeny's comic edition and for his own Jimmy Corrigan are simpler in terms of physical structure (they're one piece, but a very large one piece, folded and then wrapped around the book), but have a mind-boggling amount of information on them.

There are some important clues to Jimmy Corrigan's ancestry on the cover.

They also seem to be a cruel joke by Ware. The details and print are
so small that I have to take off my glasses and use a magnifying glass
to take them in.

#29 ::: Laurie ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 02:05 AM:

That's gorgeous!

As to dust jackets in general, I always leave them on the book to protect the book. The pages are what matter! And I like my books to have a little character. I don't live in a bookstore; my book
jackets don't need to be in saleable condition. I am looking at a few
books from my father's collection right now, and they're charming
because the tops of the dust jackets are a little worn, a little torn.
You can tell the books have been read over and over.

That said, I can't imagine what this jacket would look like in 60 years...

#30 ::: Paul Hood ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 03:48 AM:

Is the book any good?

#31 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 01:33 PM:

What's the term for a glossy cover on a hardback, where the illustration or photograph is printed directly on the hardcover?

The last trade book (I remember, anyway) this was done on was Lisey's Story, but it's common on children's hardovers.

#32 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 02:11 PM:

Steve C @31: That's called a casewrap.

For my money, the Edward Gorey books have the best use of these. I especially like the cover he did for the New York Review of Books edition of War of the Worlds.

#33 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2008, 08:08 PM:

Thanks, Keith.

I'm also curious as to what plastic was used to make the shiny
covers on old Avon paperbacks from the 40's and 50's...I remember being
bored and peeling long strips of it off the cover. Of course, it may not have been plastic at all.

#34 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 09:01 AM:

Since we're on the topic of dust jackets:

Where can one get the mylar covers for hardcover dust jackets that libraries use?

#35 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2008, 02:24 PM:

Ursula L (34): We get ours from Brodart.

#36 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 11:25 PM:

@15 & 16 It is shrink-wrapped. I sent McSweeney's a
bunch of money a year or so ago when they were hit hard by the
Publishers West (?) bankruptcy, which included a bunch of
subscriptions, including the next some number of books. Since then I've
received an awful lot of books, all of which have been very
attractively bound. (Alas, I haven't actually gotten around to reading
most of them.) Anyway, to my surprise I got another package from
McSweeney's, opened it, and found the Chabon book!

Now, of course, I'm going to have to figure out how to cover it....

(Note another issue -- different words from the title are printed on the different bands, so if a cover band slips around, the words don't line up properly. It is still a handsome book, though.)

#37 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2008, 11:34 PM:

@26 Turns out I misspoke -- the covers I buy are actually 1.5 mil
polyester (from Gaylord). The oldest covers I have date back to the
80s. I will definitely check to make sure they're not Mylar, though --
thanks for the warning!

Also, I have to agree on the McSweeney's fiction, although I'm not
sure I have a particular quibble with the quality so much as it's not
quite my cup of tea. But they do produce some really beautiful

#38 ::: fidelio intuits spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2010, 12:10 PM:

Both because that's a really dumb net-nym otherwise, and because the comment follows such a well-established pattern of vapidness.

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