Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say. Well, we agree in a sense, but in practice we would like the cover to look as good as possible. And not only in the bookstore, but also throughout its entire lifetime.
So, which cover will withstand the hardships of intensive use better: light or dark? The answer is predictable: It depends…
It is common knowledge that dirt and flaws are less visible on dark covers. However it is not as simple as this. The end result depends on the texture and kind of finish we choose. Soft-touch film is the most popular type of lamination used to protect the cover. It is exceptionally nice to touch, so it makes you want to hold a book with such cover in your hand. Paradoxically, finger marks are clearly visible on this type of cover. The good news is you only need to wipe the cover with a damp cloth and the marks will disappear for good (or until somebody touches it with sweaty hands).
The soft-touch film is not the only available laminate. For dark covers, matte film can also be used, however it tends to emphasize any scuffmarks and scratches. While essentially invisible on light background colours, they stand out on dark ones. And it is not enough to handle the book with care to avoid scratching the cover, as even sliding the book across a table may result in tiny scratches. So, if you insist on dark matte finish it is a good idea to apply anti-scratch coating, too. This kind of laminate will not protect the cover from scratching completely, but it will greatly reduce the risk nonetheless.
What about other types of cases?
There are those resembling textiles. Dust can be clearly seen on some of them, but that depends on the way the books are stored: a book left lying flat on the shelf for months will surely gather dust on the cover. With textile cases blowing the dust away or wiping the cover with your hand will not help. But a soft brush will.
Dirt is the arch-enemy of light-coloured covers, but they can be efficiently protected by lamination. Then, if a cover gets soiled you only need to wipe it with a damp cloth. Mainly uncoated paper cases are vulnerable and for obvious reasons wiping them is not a good idea, as it can only make things worse. However, if you really care for a paper case without laminate coating, consider a dust wrapper.
Choosing a paper case with textile-like texture will make any blemishes more evident on light colours and getting rid of stains might prove impossible. You could try using a suede brush, but the success depends on the source of stain. In any case, do not do it too vigorously, especially if hot-stamping has been applied to the cover.
Light or dark cover - we have the best recipe for a cover with lasting beauty
Prevention is better than cure. Instead of wondering how to restore the condition of your book cover, why not make provident decisions at the design stage and avoid future problems? The book designer should think of the circumstances in which the prospective reader will pick up the book. If a potter’s planner is designed, with pages for sketches and drawings, forget white linen binding. It would surely look great but what about practicality? If the user wanted to consult their drawings while working with clay, there would be an unnecessary choice to make: to get the planner dirty or to get the job done well. By the way, it is a good idea to consider the aspect of openability, too. The potter’s planner should not need to have pages pressed down to keep it open, and particularly not with soiled hands. It is the designer’s responsibility to prevent such situations.
So, although functionality should be your priority, there are many different ways to develop an original and remarkable cover that is functional at the same time. And such a practical and beautiful cover will last for a long time.