Now, I hate to tell you what to do with your books, but, after all, somebody has to, and I’m sitting right here at the keyboard.
Like anything else in our world of overpackaged goods, books come with a confusion of wrappings. Some of these are essential to a book’s future value, and some are not. Now, you may be one of these rapscallions who do not consider the future value of your book. You bought it to read, and you will read it in any form that happens to be comfortable, be that in a thick leather binding or on a Kindle. This is your right as a book owner. It is only when you make the transition from book owner to book donor that your decision becomes my problem. So in case you don’t want to be known as a rapscallion, here are a few gentle guidelines. (Besides, you know what we do to rapscallions? We hit ‘em with green onions. You have been warned.)
Nowadays, many books come wrapped in shrinkwrap, either by the publisher or by the company that sold ‘em to you. Leaving the shrinkwrap on the book has no particular power to enhance its value. Some shrinkwrap is of low quality, and will crack and yellow as it gets older; in addition, if the shrinkwrap should get a little broken, it may start to shrink again, bending your book. But the basic fact is that a book in shrinkwrap is a closed book, and not a lot of use. (I will, on rare occasions, leave the shrinkwrap oin a book at the Book Fair just to show how new it is, but customers like to look inside the book, and generally rip it away.)
The dust jacket, however, is considered a part of the book, and you should make heroic efforts to keep it with the book. If it’s moldy, or has had rhubarb jam spilled on it, of course, you can discard it, but if it isn’t downright disgusting (I’m talking condition, not the picture on the cover) you should hang onto it. With rare books, the dust jacket can provide ninety percent of the resale price. In fact, as I have mentioned before, it used to be the custom for book dealers to clip the price off the inside flap, but nowadays people are so jacket conscious that a jacket which is “unclipped” can fetch a premium.
In some countries, it is the custom to tell you something special about a book by saying it on a thin ribbon of paper which fits over the dust jacket—not all the way, which would seal the book shut, but a ribbon-wide second jacket. These are a pain to deal with, as they are easily torn or lost. Yeah, you betcha: losing one can drop a few bucks from the value of your volume. (Just got a book, in fact, which had a bookmark attached to the dust jacket, the problem being that if you used the bookmark to mark your place, it always ripped free of the jacket. A copy with the jacket and the bookmark attached is worth so much that it would have been cheaper to use a fifty dollar bill as a bookmark.)
Having said what I said about dust jackets, I must add a note about glassine. Glassine is a transparent substance rather like waxed paper (only not so waxy) once used to add a cachet of elegance to a book. I heard a book designer tell a customer at the Book Fair, “Dealers ask extra for a ‘glassine jacket intact’ when, really, you’re better off without it.” I know what he means. Glassine jackets are worse than those wraparound bands: it’s as if someone deliberately chose something to add to a book which would be almost impossible to preserve. If you want to READ the book, this glassine is expendable (but you’re right: if you’re thinking of selling it someday, guard that hopeless mothwinglike substance.)
Every year, as we clean up after the Book Fair, I find slipcase after slipcase on the floor. I am going to give the clean-up volunteers a break and blame this on the customers, who have taken the book out of its little cardboard case, looked at it, and then decided they were too busy to put it all back together. This slipcase is like an extra dust jacket, often just as important to the resale value of the book. And in any case, it can be extra protection for the inner book jacket. So stop throwing slipcases on the floor. I’ll grab the green onions and come after you.
This covers most of the USUAL accessories found with a book. Some rare book publishers, when they publish a limited edition, actually number the shipping box the book comes in, the box having the same number as the book. Keep the box if you feel like it; hardly anyone else will, and that may make a difference some day. Review copies of books will have review sheets and/or a picture of the author inside: these prove you have a pre-publication copy of the book, and add something to the saleability of the volume. Some review copies nowadays come with an appalling number of things: I have one rare volume about tennis which came to reviewers with an attached tennis ball (no sales on that thing so far.)
Of course, there IS an alternative, if you just want to read the book and don’t care about all these things. The accessories are so important to some people that there is actually a lively trade online in dust jackets, slipcases, and review pages for people who want to dress up their copies at home. If you play your cards right, you might be able to make back the purchase price of the book by selling off its clothes. (Oh, and if no one buys them, please don’t donate ‘em to me. Just confuses matters.)