Dust jackets have been used in the printing and publishing world for a long time; they are familiar, well liked and universally applied. Although their main purpose is to protect the covers, there is a bit more to that.
What exactly is a dust jacket?
According to Wikipedia, it is a kind of protective cover, placed on the actual book covers. Its flaps extend into the inner sides of the covers. The Polish word for a dust jacket is obwoluta and it comes from obvolvo, a Latin verb meaning ‘to cover/wrap up’. So, the dust jacket (sometimes also called a ‘dust wrapper’) was invented to wrap up the cover and thus to protect it from damage. But that is not its only purpose…
Wrap, cover and hide?
Imagine you have designed the PERFECT book cover. When the thrill subsides, you have to think about the practical aspects. A light uncoated paper base case looks exceptionally good but can be a pain in the neck in handling: transportation, storage, exhibition in the bookshop and finally the reader’s usage will produce clearly visible marks and stains. You want to protect a cover like this. One option is to use lamination. However, if you wish to preserve the structure of the paper used, you need to look for other solutions. An extra dust jacket does seem like the easiest way out. And here we’re getting to the heart of the matter: how will the reader appreciate your perfect cover if you hide it under a dust jacket?
The virtues of a good dust jacket
So, the role of a dust jacket is not merely reduced to protecting the cover from dust. It is to protect the cover, but to some extent it is also to do what a movie trailer does to a movie. It has to sell the book: advertise it to a prospective reader and attract their attention. It would be good if it provided an indication of what to expect from the book and – at the same time – if it remained consistent with the book and cover design. Quite a lot, isn’t it? But it’s worthwhile to meet these tasks. A good dust jacket raises the prestige of the publication, and manifests care and attention to details.
What do they usually look like?
Dust jackets are normally made of high grammage paper, often structurally enhanced or laminated. In this way, it can effectively protect the cover from getting dirty or damaged (e.g. scratched). Sometimes various plastics are used for the production of dust jackets.
Speaking from our experience, the most common are two kinds of dust jackets. One basically reproduces the graphic design of the cover, sometimes with an added blurb or encouraging reviews, as dust jacket flaps are eagerly used for promotional purposes. The other one is a paper or cloth base case, often without any inscriptions, so it serves the functions of the book cover, except it only contains the title, the author, the publisher, and perhaps some graphics.
On the other hand, there are dust jackets which are integral parts of their books. This makes the book visually outstanding and unique. It mainly depends on the intended design: if you include the dust jacket in the graphic design in such a way as to integrate with rather than complement the book, added aesthetic value and extra interpretational dimensions can be achieved. There are a lot of possibilities. First of all, you can choose the jacket material, which can be an unusual kind of paper or a totally different, surprising wrapping.
Dust jackets can come with cutouts. Using the right choice of shapes and layout of cutouts you can enhance the cover design. A cutting die is needed to produce such dust jackets, as well as the relevant technology and equipment of our printing house. Considering a relatively low cost of production, dust jackets with cutouts give you the possibility of creating a unique effect. And the dust jacket can also be further enhanced. Your imagination is the limit!
Finally, to wrap it up (and stimulate imagination), let us share some dust jacket designs that have won our hearts. We hope they inspire successful book-binding ideas.