By no means am I saying that appearance is everything. That's not true of anything, but it does make a statement. What you take care of in your life shows other people what is important to you. Your personal appearance, your dog's appearance, your muscle car.... For literary nerds, it's books.
I have worked in retail and used book stores and have plenty of book condition horror stories. There's the stuff we've all seen before. Multiple dog-earred pages, torn dust jackets, funky smells, highlighting and writing inside the book, etc. Then there are more serious offenses, like missing pages, covers that are taped back together, and spill stains that discolor and warp the books. But a book that I recently received in a swap topped all of that.
Granted, I'm probably an elitist when it comes to book condition. My "Good" could be your "Very good", and that's understandable. We're different people. We qualify things differently. And when you swap books there is always a risk that the item won't live up to your expectations. When I received this particular book I was dumfounded not only by it's condition but by the way it arrived.
A rather unassuming package arrived in the mailbox, wrapped in brown paper with a printed address label on it. Once I touched it I knew that it wasn't just books wrapped up. It was too sturdy. They had to be in some kind of box. I tore into the paper and this is what I found....
A Cheez-It box? Really?
There are a lot of things I will use to package books --canibalized publisher envelopes, brown paper, old computer part boxes from work --but I've never so much as considered a cracker box.
Yes, I realize that the crackers in all likelihood never touched the actual box but it's the principal. Did this person really not have anything else around? Could they not have just wrapped the book in paper? That would have sufficed. On the upside, the book did not smell like cheese crackers.
Inside was even more confusing. I was expecting a hardback book that I'd been told was in "Like New" condition. I received a book that, while pristine, had no dust jacket. I opened it only to find something more curious. The previous owner had cut the jacket blurb out of the dust jacket and taped it inside the the cover. Just the description of the book. No cover art or anything else. I wish I'd taken a picture of the book itself, but sadly I didn't.
I couldn't believe that anyone would list that book in "Like New" condition. I was so miffed that I sent a message to the sender to say that I was disappointed. The response blew my mind. She told me that I should refrain from requesting anymore of her books because they were all like that.
Translation: She did it on purpose! I was flabergasted. Deliberate mutilation of a book was beyond my comprehension.
So, all you ravenous readers out there, do you have any book condition horror stories? How important is book condition to you? What condition do you keep them in? Do you buy used books or do you avoid it entirely? Likewise, if you don't swap books is it for fear of how they've previously been treated? I'd love to hear your thoughts!