Good afternoon bookies! Already it’s Labor Day, the summer is virtually gone and my grass needs to be cut again. I suppose it goes without saying that book people are not drawn to landscaping as a hobby, but it’s doubly so for me. It’s not so much that I object to yard work, I kind of like the exercise and the way the yard looks when I’m done. It’s just that I have so much else to do that finding the time for yardwork is tough.
I know, poor me, right?
While setting up a new blog site for someone else who lives here, (hint: it is not one of the dogs. They’re too young to have internet access yet) it occurred to me that a third entry in the book descriptions was really necessary, to describe common types of wear that books endure. As always, this is based on my definitions of the wear, but I learned my definitions from people of the old school and I think they are a nice mixture of the old and the new, and therefore quite relevant.
One final caveat: as I said in the previous two entries about book descriptions, there are lots of bots out there masquerading as booksellers. They will have the same entry for every single book in their inventory, and it will have all sorts of disclaimers such as “may have shelfwear, may have edgewear, might be ex-library…”, yada-yada. These sellers do not look at the books they are selling and probably couldn’t read them even if they did. If you choose to deal with them, caveat emptor.
Now, without further pomposity, the description terms:
Shelfwear – When books are stacked or lined up next to each other, they tend to rub covers, wearing away some of the top layer. This is called shelfwear. By and large it is most easily seen when looking at the book at an angle with a bright light in the background, showing up as a duller area against the brighter parts that are not worn. Unless a book is protected by a jacket cover or a plastic bag of some sort, shelfwear is inevitable. (Also, if a book does have the jacket protector, it can be shelfworn, too. Don’t be confused by a shelfworn protector, as those are disposable and have no effect on the book.) By my terminology, sheflwear comes in three grades: light, moderate and heavy. These should be self-explanatory, although sometimes I’ll say ‘very light’ to indicate wear that I see but that another seller might overlook or ignore because it is so minimal. I’m not always right, but I always try to be right.
Edgewear – Usually this term applies to a book jacket, but not always. It can just as easily apply to the edges of the book itself, and this should be noted. ‘Light edgewear to the jacket’ or something similar. And the meaning of the term itself is fairly obvious; there is wear to the edge. maybe this is a crumpling or rubbing, maybe it has been bumped and straightened back out, but in essence it means wear along the edges of some sort. Exactly what sort should be noted. For example, shelfwear to a book often results in the cover itself being worn through to whatever is underneath, usually some type of cardboard. This must be noted.
Closed Tear– Jackets are often torn, you see it all the time. A closed tear is when that tear fits neatly back together, with no great visual damage except perhaps a white line when the two halves of the tear meet. This is a defect that must be noted, but how damaging it is to the grade and the value will depend on where the tear is and how large it might be. A tiny tear to the rear bottom edge is not nearly so bad as a four inch tear to the front cover. As to whether or not this prevents you from wanting the book is strictly up to you. For example, if the book is quite rare and the front cover illustration is intact but has tears all around it, you might want that copy regardless. But if the front illustration was largely missing with the rest of the jacket in nice shape, you might not. Once again this is up to your preference.
Shaken – A book that is shaken is one where the spine is not rigid, but has some give to it. Pages are not necessarily loose, but if they are that must be noted.
Scuffs – A scuff is something of an ambiguous term, meaning a scraped area, usually on the edge of a book due to extensive wear, or to a jacket because a price sticker had glue that took the surface of the jacket off when the sticker was incorrectly removed.