BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bookish Things I'm Wondering About


I was on Facebook earlier and several posts got me thinking, wondering really, and I decided I didn't want to be alone in my musings. Maybe you all will be able to offer enlightenment. If not, I'll happily accept coffee and chocolate in place of enlightenment. :P

The first was a comment that an author casually threw out in a FB group. She stated, as if it were obvious to anyone with half a brain, that putting the table of contents at the back of ebooks is aesthetically pleasing. I must have half a brain or less because I don't get that. At all. First of all, I utterly fail to see what is aesthetically pleasing about putting it in the back. I just don't see it.


Secondly, I've complained before the absurdity of putting it in the back. What friggin use is the table of contents after I've finished the book? Yes, using my Kindle's "go to" function, I can go to the end of the back to find it. But, depending on how the publisher or author has formatted the book, "end" may include acknowledgements, an excerpt, and other flotsam. It's rare to have "table of contents" as an option for the "go to" function, which is pretty damn annoying no matter where it's placed.

So, any thoughts on why placing the table of contents at the back of the book, when you're DONE READING THE BOOK AND NO LONGER NEED IT is aesthetically pleasing for some people? Are you one of those people? What do you find pleasing about it? And is there any practical reason for putting the table at the back? Or is it just for the dubious (to me) aesthetic quality?

My other musing has to do with book covers. A blogger posted that she was reading a hardcover that didn't have a dust jacket but instead the cover is printed on the cover, just like paperbacks. That got me thinking; why are hardcovers traditionally sold with dust covers? Why do paperbacks have the artwork printed directly on the cover? Actually, that may have to do with the nature of paperbacks, or pocket books as they're sometimes called. They were originally intended to be a cheaper and more portable, to fit into pockets, alternative to hardcovers. A dust jacket presumably adds expense and doesn't fare well in pockets or purses. But that still raises the question of dust jackets.

Now some hardcovers, reprints of classics or special editions of books or text books, will have some sort of design or artwork, printed on the cover and no dust jacket. But why not regular books? genre books? Is it cheaper to print individual dust jackets than to print directly on the cover? Is it perceived by the publishers to be an added value for the cost of the book? If I have to choose between a plain cover and a dust jacket, I'll choose the dust jacket but ideally I'd rather have the artwork printed directly on the cover. I can't lose it, I can't rip it, the cats won't chew on it (I'm looking at you Goof, Mister Paper Fetish!), just a better arrangement all around.

So, what do you think? Why do we have dust covers? Do you like them? Hate them? Talk to me! Or feed me chocolate. Either or both works for me. :D 

31 comments:

  1. A table of contents at the end drives me crazy. Especially if it's fantasy and I had a hard time keeping up. Can't for the life of me think how it's more pleasing at the end. I think it's redundant by then.
    And I'm not a fan of dust jackets. I always remove them and usually lose them. I prefer the look without them though. I'm assuming it's a lot more expensive to print directly on a hardback.

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    1. I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in my thoughts on the table of contents!! *passes out chocolate to all the commenters*

      As for dust jackets and why hard covers have them, that seems to be the consensus.

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  2. I don't understand the table of contents being at the end either. I mean, to be honest, I don't ever use the table of contents in novels since I'm just going to read from start to finish lol, but it still doesn't make sense to put it at the end.

    As for dust jackets, my guess is that it's probably cheaper/easier to print on a dust jacket than to do whatever it takes to get it onto the actual book? I do have one hard cover that has a dust jacket and printing on the actual book, and I was so excited about that!

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    1. I do use the table of contents sometimes, but not always. I'd use it more in ebooks if it was sensible placed. :P

      As for dust jackets, that's my guess too.

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  3. From what someone told me about table of contents it had to do with book previews for ebooks on places like amazon. I don't get having it at the back of the book when it comes to a reader pov. If you're going to have it put it at the front or just leave it out.

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    1. That actually makes sense,except for the people who actually read the whole book. But at least there's some sensible reason for it.

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  4. Yes, Anna is right. As a writer I did read suggestions to put it at the back of the e-book, so people who check the look inside option or get a sample would have more of the actual story to read, rather than the table of contents and other things (like dedications, links to author's pages, etc), although I agree logically it makes no sense, and indeed, for some genres it would make life difficult. I'm also intrigued by the dust covers, although some of the old hardbacks had covers in other materials that might not have been easy to print images on, and some might have been part of series where all the books would look the same apart from the dust cover but... this is a guess. The wikipedia article has some explanation as to past uses...
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_jacket

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    1. Oh, I didn't think about the preview and sample options. Okay, putting the table of contents at the back makes sense then. But, as a someone actually reading the whole book, I want the table where it's useful ie the front.

      As for dust covers, I assume it's related to cost and ease of printing. I'll check out that wiki article, thanks.

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  5. The table of contents at the back ( & books with a glossary at the back) drive me nuts, especially in e-books. I don't know it's even back there until I'm done.

    I just want to start the book - not have to go to the menu and go back and forth first.

    I never thought of it aesthetically but who cares if it's not practical.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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  6. Well, so far no one seems to find placing the table of contents at the back to be aesthetically pleasing. Interesting. A few commenters have offered explanations as to why it gets placed there and those actually have some sense to them. I still prefer it at the front. As you said, at the back is just not practical.

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  7. I definitely don't find it aesthetically pleasing to have it in the back. I've always thought it was a little strange when I've come across that. Also can a table of contents be all that aesthetically pleasing in the first place? I mean it's practical and often useful (though more in print books than ebooks) but I've never thought it added that much balance or attractiveness to the book itself. I like a dust jacket on my hard cover books but only because I'm kind of rough on books and if I have a dust jacket I can put it back on the book after I'm done reading it and it looks good as new!

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    1. Yeah, I don't think a ToC can be all that aesthetically pleasing unless you really fancy it up and honestly, why bother? It's practical, at least for some readers. That's a good point about dust jackets; they do provide some protection.

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  8. I'll go with tradition and do the ToC at the beginning of the books.

    Dust covers are pretty but it's not practical and it is an extra expense. I take those out when I read Coz I don't want to tear it plus it can be a nuisance

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    1. Pretty much how I feel Supie. :)

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  9. I would imagine that table of contents is necessary mostly for non-fiction, right? I don't need it for fiction, but maybe it's important for some folks. I grew up with ToC in the front of the book and that's where you can effectively use it and plan your reading. In the back doesn't help the reader. I once read a fantasy book, where the author gave a detailed chart of pronunciation for the "foreign" names-- however it was at the back and I discovered it after finishing the whole story.

    I dislike dust covers and pull them off until I'm done reading. I think it's cheaper and quicker to make hardcover books have the same generic look, then personalize it with an inexpensive paper cover.

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    1. Rita, you're probably right about fiction not really needing a ToC but I do like even my fiction to have it. I like knowing how many chapters there are, how long they are, and is the book broken up into different parts. All that information helps me plan my reading and gives me an idea of the book before I even start. But, those are the benefits for me. Other readers will have different needs, including not needing a ToC at all.

      As for the dust jackets, I think you're right, and publishers probably won't be changing anytime soon.

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  10. ToC at the end, well I did read the argument that because you can with each eReader, if the eBook is set up correct, access an ToC via the options menue, it is essentially superfluous.

    Dust jackets got invented, to protect books (when there still where only hardbound books) until they are sold, then they got most often thrown away by the owner, why original dust jackets for the classics have high value.
    Later it was found out that they also provided an easy way to add more fancy/colourful covers and so they are used still today. I too would guess that the reason why we hold on to them is that mass printing those is a lot more cheaper.

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    1. Hi Old Folkie, nice to see you again!

      I have to disagree with the idea that a ToC is superfluous but I think I've established that a traditionalist when it comes to ToCs. :D I can see the validity, I just don't agree. Plus, for me, the key phrase there is 'if the eBook is set up correct'. My experience shows that it frequently isn't.

      Until you abd Rita brought it up, I'd forgotten that dust jackets do provide some protection for the cover.

      We all seem to agree that printing dust jackets is likely easier and cheaper than directly onto the book cover. I still want it, but it's probably not going to happen.

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  11. I'm pretty sure that dust jackets owe their origins to the difficulty and expense of putting pretty pictures onto leather or cloth before binding the book. With a dust jacket, publishers could bind the book more cheaply and more quickly (and also use cloth instead of leather) and still have something pleasing to the eye. Plus, a dust jacket serves to protect the cloth binding from fading in sunlight or getting dusty (hence "dust" jacket, one presumes.) And you can put a synopsis or other marketing copy on the inside flaps. Now, as you point out, dust jackets are less necessary, but I still prefer having them. In fact, when I read a hardcover, I usually remove the dust jacket for safekeeping!

    As for ebook TOCs, the only reason I can see for putting them in the back is the excerpt issue, and that could be gotten around in other ways. Other than that, they are pretty much useless in the back, while they serve some purpose in the front -- particularly in nonfiction books. So I'm not in favor of putting them in the back; I find it annoying.

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    1. Dust jackets do have uses but I for one could do without them. That said, I keep the dust jackets because I like the pretty covers. :D Like you, I tend to take them off when I read.

      I'm with you on the ToCs!

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  12. I agree completely about the Table of Contents...it should be in the front. Regarding dust jackets...eh...I think it's neater and cleaner without them and would love it if they were printed on the hardcovers but I don't see how they could ever do that. All the images etc would have to be really simplified. I keep my dust jackets but it is a huge hassle as they always get nicked and torn and worn. and the shelves look messier.

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    1. Yeah, most of us seem to be of a similar mind on dust jackets and ToC.

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  13. Oh Bea...I love these topics and your thoughts on them. I personally see no reason for the table of contents in the back of the book. I have read books where they are both in the front and in the back. OCD Editor maybe..balance and all that...but I will always look for it in the front! Dust Jackets -GAh! I worry if they get buggered, and take them off to read. It might be nice to see the cover on the actual hardcover itself.

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    1. Thanks Kimberly! Yeah, the ToC at the back just doesn't make sense. Dust jackets do get banged up pretty easily but they do have the artwork. It's a nuisance that you have to take care of them, that they're so fragile.

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  14. huh I don't get it either, what's aesthetically pleasing about having the table of contents at the back of the book. Also I don't think I have ever seen a book that did that. I don't personally use the table of contents, except maybe to see how many chapters a book has, but putting it at the front of the book seems more handy for those that do use it.

    Good question concenrign dust covers. I hardly ever buy hardcopies as I prefer paperbacks, but if I do buy a hardcopy I always remove the dust cover before reading so i can't accidentally damage it, but I never thought about what's the actual purpose of printing the cover on the dust jacket instead of on the actual book. Maybe it's just that it's so normal now that no one ever thinks about it. Maybe it's cheaper or the hardcopy covers are less easy to print covers on, I am not sure. It would be interesting to hear if someone actually knew why hardcopies have dust jackets.

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    1. "Maybe it's just that it's so normal now that no one ever thinks about it." - good point, I'm sure that's true. Lark and a few others earlier in the comments gave a little history on dust jackets, it's interesting.

      No one seems to find having the Toc at the back to be aesthetically pleasing except for that author who commented on Facebook. It's interesting how many people don't use the ToC. I just assumed most people did.

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  15. I love dust jackets because I can take them off while reading the book and then put them on again to hide the wear and tear. OF course, I mostly purchase paperbacks because broke.

    I didn't even know having a TOC in the back was an option. Isn't that more like an index, then. :shrug:

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    1. LOL I hear you on buying the paperbacks. Hiding wear and tear does seem to be one reason for having dust jackets.

      Indexes and ToCcs are two different things. Indexes are page listings of topics, people, etc. and are typically found in reference works. But yes, indexes are typically at the back.

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  16. Huh, I go back and forth on dust jackets. I mean I like them sometimes, but on the few books where a design or art has been directly on the hardcover I've liked that a lot, and would like to see it more. But to be honest I hadn't thought much about it until you mentioned it. :) And now I'll be thinking about if the next time I look at a hardcover lol.

    I guess on a ToC having it anywhere but the front would irritate the crap out of me, even if there are good ebook reasons.

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    1. LOL Glad I gave you a new perspective. And yes on the ToC!

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  17. I have never used the table of contents for a novel, unless it was something I read for a class (meaning classics, etc) so I think it doesn't matter either way. Not having to flip through the pages of the table of contents at the beginning might be what they mean. And I think the texture of hardcover books would make it hard for them to print most designs directly onto it, I would assume. Not sure lol, but it would be cool to have some hardcovers without the dust jacket. Interesting post! :)

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Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing from my readers. Let's talk!