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[Featured Discussion] - Book Condition

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     So I have been trying out different avenues of buying books. Half-Price Books, BookOutlet, and even the marketplaces on Barnes & Noble and Amazon (be careful with those because they aren't as reliable as the main place of business). So what I was surprised to find out is they all have a different form of rating the quality of books. BookOutlet is a simple Bargain and Scratch & Dent method which is fine I guess, but it doesn't tell me a lot about the book. I was looking for something that I thought would be useful to know as a universal method:

     A Guide to Book Conditions
     I found these on AbeBooks, now they use them for rare books. I know that my audience really isn't realistically going to buys some 100+ year old book anytime soon. Not so say that it's not possible, but I think their use of conditions and other book descriptions. It's one of the better lists that I have seen.

As New: The book is in the same immaculate condition as when it was published. This could be the description for a book that has been lost in a warehouse for years, never shelved, thumbed or even opened yet may still be some years old.

Fine (F or FN): A Fine book approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. The book may have been opened and read, but there are no defects to the book, jacket or pages.

Very Good (VG): Describes a book that shows some small signs of wear - but no tears - on either binding or paper. Any defects should be noted by the seller.

Good (G): Describes the average used worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects should be noted by the seller.

Fair: Worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc., may also be worn. All defects should be noted.

Poor: Describes a book that is sufficiently worn. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.

Binding Copy: describes a book in which the pages or leaves are perfect but the binding is very bad, loose, off, or nonexistent.

Reading Copy: A copy usually in poor to fair condition that includes all text presented in a legible fashion. The copy is fine to read but nothing more.


    Bowed - A condition of the covers or boards of a hard cover book. Bowed covers may turn inward toward the leaves or outward away from the leaves. The condition generally results from a rapid change in the level of moisture in the air and is caused by different rates of expansion or contraction of the paste-down and the outer material covering the board.

    Chipped - Used to describe where small pieces are missing from the edges of the boards or where fraying has occurred on a dust jacket or the edge of a paperback.

    Dampstained - A light stain on the cover or on the leaves of a book caused by moisture such as a piece of food or perspiration. Generally not as severe as waterstains.

    Darkening or Fading - When book covers are exposed to light, the color darkens or becomes more intense. See also tape shadow.

    Edgeworn - Wear along the edges of hardback book covers.

    Ex-library – the book was once owned by, and circulated in, a public library. This book could well be in any of the above general categories but more often than not has been well used. May have library stickers, stamps, or markings. Any former library book must be marked ex-library.

    Foxed / Foxing - Brown spotting of the paper caused by a chemical reaction, generally found in 19th century books, particularly in steel engravings of the period.

    Loose - The binding of a new book is very tight; that is, the book will not open easily and generally does not want to remain open to any given page. As the book is used, the binding becomes looser until a well-used book may lay flat and remain open to any page in the book.

    Made-up Copy - A copy of a book whose parts have been assembled from one or more defective copies.

    Price Clipped - The price has been clipped from the corner of the dust jacket.

    Re-backed - A book that has been repaired by replacing the spine and mending the hinges.

    Re-cased - A book that has been glued back into its covers after having been shaken loose.

    Re-jointed - Means the book has been repaired preserving the original covers, including the spine.

    Shaken - An adjective describing a book whose pages are beginning to come loose from the binding.

    Shelf Wear - The wear that occurs as a book is placed onto and removed from a shelf. It may be to the tail (bottom) edge of the covers as they rub against the shelf, to the dust jacket or exterior of the covers (when no dust jacket is present) as the book rubs against its neighbors, or to the head of the spine which some use to pull the book from the shelf.

    Sunned - Faded from exposure to light or direct sunlight.

    Tight - The binding of a new book is very tight; that is, the book will not open easily and generally does not want to remain open to any given page. As the book is used, the binding becomes looser until a well-used book may lay flat and remain open to any page in the book.

    Trimmed - An adjective indicating that the pages have been cut down to a size smaller than when originally issued.

    Unopened - The leaves of the book are still joined at the folds, not slit apart.

    Working copy - Even more damaged than a reading copy, the working copy will have multiple defects and may even need repair.

    Worming, Wormholes - Small holes resulting from bookworms (the larvae of various beetles.)

          I hate receiving a book that is not as described, and frankly my main choice in picking who I buy books from is the one who describes the book better. I find myself more often than not arguing with a seller on what the description of "Very Good" vs "Like New" more often than not you have to track down "whatever-site-your-on's own condition chart. If there was a general universal condition chart to go by, it would be helpful. Further if you ask for any further questions (Shaken, Made-Up Copy, etc.) I am met with confusion and chaos. Please, become familiar with some terminology while you're selling books.

         The biggest thing though is the lack of condition standardization. I am constantly checking charts on Barnes and Noble and Amazon trying to understand what the book I am thinking about buying will look like. Frankly the reason I would love to see some standards coming out would be the general lack of confusion there would be. I love getting a "Like New" book without the dust jacket. It pains me to complain to the seller and argue that there wasn't something clear with their description.

         The reason I chose this list was because of how firm and tight the difference between conditions are. I love how the "As New" book needs to be crisp and frankly perfect from the publisher. What blew my mind is that the "Fine" book is like the "As New," however, the condition isn't perfect but pretty close. Further I was blown away that the dust jacket is present and expected up until the "Fair" condition. In most cases its the Very Good or 3rd ranking that most sites will not mandate the dust jacket. In every case the jacket is major portion the value of the book, and what I weight my decisions on.

         Now I want you to go out and just take a look around. I guarantee you'll see what I mean with how the different condition listings differ (Amazon and Barnes and Noble). I hate the difference between the sites, it confuses me, and when I think I understand one site over another. Barnes and Noble's is just very vague and lets them get away with interpretation errors. The standardization would make sure all sites or a guide/common knowledge that all book sellers would use and make use of. It would be a great addition, to both sides of the book world.

         Let me know what you think, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I appreciate all feedback and discussion on these articles. Thanks in advance for the time and reading some of my views on the matter.
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