Aaron Wehner, publisher at Ten Speed Press, which recently released Paletas and quite a few other jacketless cookbooks, says, "It's mostly a subjective feel thing—a jacket can sometimes seem a little formal and traditional for a particular book. Whereas POB [paper over board] can feel more contemporary, and a little less fussy."
Food writer and author Amanda Hesser is not a fan of dust jackets: "For a cookbook, a dust jacket really doesn’t make that much sense because it can easily get soaked with whatever you're cooking with and get beat up," she told me.
"I really prefer books that have no dust jacket and have the text embossed into the covers. It’s handsome, it’s not clunky, and you don’t have to deal with this flapping paper that gets its corners turned. I understand the argument that some people like a cookbook to have a dust jacket to mark pages. But, you know, that’s why sticky notes were invented."
When it came to her most recent book, the jacketless The Essential New York Times Cookbook, she says she had another goal in mind in addition to matters of functionality: tapping into nostalgia. "This was a book that was really inspired by and drew a lot from the past, and when I think of old cookbooks I think of books whose dust jackets have been lost or worn off and you’re left with this linen-wrapped book cover and it’s a very lovely and tactile experience of holding an old book," she said. "I wanted people to have that when they held this, even though this was obviously a brand new book. I wanted it to feel of a different era." Hesser also polled her readers on Twitter before publication and got an overwhelming response in favor of jettisoning the dust cover, but mostly for environmental reasons (to eliminate waste of paper).
Whether it's the environment, kitchen functionality, or aesthetics that is driving this trend, the financial savings in eliminating the dust cover is not a major factor for publishers, says Wehner: "Cost is definitely not a driver. While getting rid of the jacket is a small savings, the case is printed 4 color (rather than the 1 color treatment a case on a jacketed book receives) which comes close to offsetting any savings. It might be a nickel or two less expensive in some cases, but it doesn’t factor into our decision making, and it does not affect the retail price of a book. The one downside to going POB is that if a copy is returned scuffed or dinged, we can’t put a new jacket on it and return it to inventory."
So, what do you think of this trend? Do you welcome the jacketless cookbook, or is something missing in these scantily-clad books?