What exactly is the purpose of the dust jacket these days? Speaking personally, I can say the dustjacket, and the press flack, is what I use to calm the baby when he freaks out that I’m opening a package and there’s nothing in it from him. Later, when he’s finished, I collect the dustjacket back again, piece by piece a “dustpan”. Now you know where that term came from.
What is the point of dustjackets? The clue can’t be in the name: on the shelf, the most dust-prone part of a book is the top, which a jacket doesn’t cover (these days, anyway). Decoratively, too, they are a recipe for disappointment. Bring home your expensive new hardback, lift up its gorgeous plumage, and underneath – in the UK at least – you’re liable to find rough-textured and drably covered board, with the only graphic element a cruder reproduction of the lettering on the spine of the jacket. In America, land of the deckle edge, your chances of a pleasant surprise are greater; but the jacket remains an unnecessary and vulnerable encumbrance. That, at least, is how it has always seemed to me – and some in the book trade appear to be reaching the same conclusion.