Bookish Standards: What Do You Consider Acceptable Physical Conditions?

Posted March 7, 2016 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Discussions / 34 Comments

As a book blogger and lifelong voracious reader, I’ve always purchased a lot of books from various vendors. Many of my book purchases are made online, as they fit into my budget and the delivery method is convenient for my busy schedule. However, I find that more often than I’d like, my books come in semi-damaged condition that I cannot control since I am not picking them out myself (I am totally that person who checks every single copy at a bookstore to ensure I’m purchasing the most flawless one). I don’t crack spines, don’t dog ear pages, etc. so when a new book comes in less than perfect condition, it’s especially irritating since I take such good care of the books I own.

What sparked this recent post was a much awaited delivery of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Hearing nothing but incredible things about the book, I ordered the newly released paperback from Amazon, along with several other books that were gifts for my boyfriend’s upcoming birthday. The paperback came slightly ripped in the top corner of the spine, with black smudges all along the spine, some on the cover, and on the pages as well (especially noticeable since the cover is an off-white/cream color). Perhaps for most this wouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it irritates me that I pay money to receive a book that had been chosen and packaged so carelessly, especially one that I was eager to read. This isn’t the first time it’s happened either, as last May I pre-ordered 3 books that were all being released the same day, and all came with some minor tears on their beautiful dust jackets, especially The Heir which was torn along the spine. I didn’t want to deal with it at the time so I never took the time to mail and return it, but to this day it’s not one I want to display on my shelf when it looks as if it’s in such careless condition.

Black smudges and tears along the cover and spine…not the condition I anticipated this book arriving in.

It made me begin to wonder if I’m the only blogger who has started to move away from ordering books online and paying slightly higher in-store prices to ensure I receive a quality copy, or if I’m the only one who would return a book over these imperfections. I know that with books I’m really looking forward too I’ve started to head to the store to pick them up and swallow the expensive list prices to ensure I won’t receive a damaged copy, which is the method I took when Winter by Marissa Meyers was released, picking it up at Barnes & Noble the day of its release (B&N has actually proven to be a good vendor when it comes to lodging a complaint about the way a book was delivered, as they allowed me to swap out my slightly damaged copy of Red Queen with a copy of my choosing from the store).

So now, after I’ve waited nearly a week for A Darker Shade of Magic to arrive (I don’t have Prime anymore, since the price has gone up over the years, and the price for free shipping in general continues to climb and climb) I have to take time out of my day to return it due to careless shipping and handling. Yes, it’s a personal preference, but I am a staunch believer in taking care of the things that I own, and receiving a damaged book in the mail isn’t up to the standards I have for my personal library.

Let’s Discuss!

As a fellow blogger and reader, what bookish conditions do you find acceptable? Have you had issues with books arriving damaged in the mail in the past? Have you ever returned a book due to it arriving in less than perfect condition? Have the standards of the books you buy led to you only purchasing from certain methods and/or vendors? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue (trivial as it may be in the grand scheme of things) in the comments!


34 responses to “Bookish Standards: What Do You Consider Acceptable Physical Conditions?

  1. So sorry to hear your books got in such condition!

    Broken or torn books are always a pain, especially when you pay for a brand new copy!
    I now order all of my books online through bookdepository, I live in Argentina and it takes months for the translated versions to arrive, if they arrive at all (None of Victoria Schwab’s books have gotten here, sadly) and Amazon has super pricey international shipping so BD is what I use and so far I haven’t gotten a single broken/torn/stained book, which I appreciate!
    When it comes to new books I think it’s your right to demand they are in good condition, you are paying for them and you shouldn’t have to settle for anything less.

    I’m more forgiving when it comes from sites like Better World Books that are all used, when I bought a book from there I expected it would be a little torn or worn even with writings or stains (it’s a library book afterall) but it was in surprisingly good condition.

    The only time I settled for a book paid as brand new that was torn and stained was with Poison Study but because I couldn’t get it anywhere else and I didn’t know about BD then :/

    I’m curious though, were all of those books from Amazon?

    • Hi Mila! So sorry to hear about your limited access to some books, that must be so frustrating! Now that I think about it, I’ve only ordered from BD once or twice, but the books have always come to me in great condition! Most of my damaged books have been from Amazon, with a few from Barnes & Noble, but when that has happened I’ve taken them in store to exchange them. I completely agree, I think if you are paying for a brand new book it should be in pristine condition!

  2. That would upset me, as well. I order almost all of my books on Amazon, due to the lower prices, so I’m always worried about getting a book in less than perfect condition. I’ve already returned books and have had them replaced for free because of dings, pages being bent beyond repair, or the covers being torn. If I’m going to spend money on something, it isnt going to be on something that looks like that, unless I have purchased it off Book Outlet from their Scratch and Dent and got a discount on it. It’s ridiculous – you definitely aren’t alone!

    • I’m glad to know that others will demand replacements if their books come damaged, because sometimes I’ve wondered if I’m one of the only few that bothers! I can’t even bring myself to order Scratch and Dent books from Book Outlet because it pains me to own a book that’s in less than perfect condition (I’m one of those people who will read a book only halfway open if it means not creasing the spine!) I suppose I could have asked for a replacement, but I was so disappointed I didn’t even want to risk trying again, lest the second one be damaged!

  3. For me, it kind of depends on why I’m ordering and from whom. When buying used books (which are usually books I want to have on hand but don’t plan to read immediately), I won’t usually pay more than $3, so I expect the cover to be worn and even a little torn. It irritates me if there’s damage to the pages, though, like writing or tears. If I’m buying brand new, I try to order from a professional retailer, that way I can go to a brick-and-mortar store to return a crummy copy for a nice one if it gets damaged in delivery. If I’m ordering from a private seller on Amazon or something, I just cross my fingers and pray the seller defines “like new” the same way I do!

    • Oh the struggle of buying from the Amazon marketplace! That whole “like new” condition is a slippery slope! I used to order a lot of textbooks used through private sellers on Amazon and they always varied widely in quality! However whenever I buy books through Amazon they tend to be through Amazon directly, so I expect a certain level of quality! You’re right though, quality expectations definitely depend on the retailer!

  4. That is very frustrating! It sucks when things you order get damaged during delivery (I won’t even get into the Walmart grocery order I made one time :S).

    I mostly order books from Book Outlet and Indigo-Chapters and have always had fantastic luck with the condition they arrive in. Even the “slight” tear copies from Book Outlet that I have bought at a reduced price aren’t in awful shape. As long as it is disclosed, sure, send me that slightly torn book. But if I am pre-ordering a novel, it better be pristine.

    I think your reasoning is why 90% of book sales still take place in a “brick and mortar” store. There have been a lot of stats released online this week about how books are sold nowadays. People love their paper copies of books–humans like material things and there is nothing wrong with that–and I think for a lot of people, it’s going to the store to see what exactly you are buying. Especially when books are so pricey! You want to be satisfied with your purchase.

    • I didn’t know that “brick and mortar” book stores were doing so well! (We recently had one of my local Barnes and Noble stores shut down, and after the Borders closures years ago I am always terrified I’m slowly losing access to physical books). Books are definitely getting pricier, so I really have high expectations of the condition they should be in (Especially the books that generate a lot of hype that people tend to pre-order! I’ve noticed that a lot of YA books like that, such as Winter or the newest Shadowhunter book have really inflated prices, $24.99 for a US hardcover as opposed to $17.99 which is the usual range I see for YA hardcovers. If prices are going to raise, expectations are sure to as well!)

      • I didn’t know the actual stores were doing well either–lots of them have closed in my area. But the ones I go to on occasion always seem to have people in them. I suppose that is why Amazon is going to open actual bookstores in the future…there is a market for them to do so.

        • I heard about the new Amazon stores! If they actually sell the books at comparable prices to their website (which I’m not sure if they will because they will have overhead costs associated with a brick and mortar store, etc) then I will definitely be buying books there!

  5. I agree with you! I order a lot of my books from Amazon and just the other day Steelheart came with a rip in the dust jacket along the spine. I immediately returned it for another copy. If books don’t come in pristine condition I return them. I even hate it when they have stickers on them that are difficult to remove or leave a residue, but I can’t return those 🙁 Why can’t sellers ship them in better packaging? Mine just came in a large box being tossed around. 🙁

    Ashley recently posted: Sunday Showcase #1
    • Oh dear, I feel you on the sticker struggle! The same thing happened with my copy of ADSOM, it was in a box with some other books that was way too big and no doubt got smashed around during delivery. It’s so frustrating that I will just be returning mine for a refund, because I don’t want to risk it happening again. I left packaging feedback and everything too, because I just really think it’s unacceptable. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Amazon and have ordered hundreds of books from them over the years. Because of that though, I have certain quality expectations!

  6. I’m not going to lie, I get a little nervous every time I order books online because I too like my books in pristine condition. I prefer to check them over myself. (I always look at all the copies and pick the best one.) My husband just rolls his eyes and helps my search for the perfect copy. I still order books online because it is cheaper, but I will always still prefer to go to the store. If only I had all the money! lol Anyway, I just want you to know that you are not alone.

    • I TOTALLY do the same thing when I am at a bookstore, I inspect EVERY. SINGLE. COPY. to find the best one (and enlist the help of my boyfriend!) For me, books aren’t things I’m going to “use” once, they’re items that I very thoughtfully add to a collection and that definitely have a huge aesthetic presence in my life, so they should be as near to perfect as I can find them!)

  7. I’ve never had problems buying new books. Usually they are in better shape when I order them online, as the bookstores here often only carry one copy, that a LOT of people have looked through. I would also send new books back that do not look new though. However, when ordering second hand books I’ve asked for my money back before. They were supposed to be in good condition and NOT old library books. When I got them… old library books.

    Myrthe recently posted: February 2016 – book statistics
    • Oh that’s terrible when a used book is described as “like new” by the seller, only for it to be very, very poor in quality. I agree that if I knew everyone was paging through the one copy my bookstore carried, I would definitely be opting to order online as well!

  8. I most definitely would take it back if it was supposed to be new and looked anything but.
    To me it would be the same as if you ordered a shirt online and it came with a stain on it. It shouldn’t come like that, so I refuse to accept it like that.

    Especially if you plan on sitting it proudly on your bookcase, you don’t want to have that little voice of regret in the back of your head.

    • I like your comparison to a shirt with a stain. I worked in clothing retail all through high school and college part time, and I know we would never have sold a customer a product with a stain/tear/etc. I think sometimes people don’t get as indignant over damaged books as they would clothes because they may be cheaper and you’re not “wearing” them, but I don’t think that lessens the expectations we should have for their quality!

  9. Oh my gosh, how terrible! I happen to believe if you pay for a new book it should come to you looking new and it’s completely unacceptable for books to be torn or dirty. I mostly buy books online, but I admit there’s nothing quite like selecting a book in person. I will go through piles of books looking for a prestine copy. No, I suppose what’s inside isn’t affected by how it looks on the outside, but I just like my books to look pretty. There’s only been a couple of instances where I’ve been disappointed in the condition of a book purchase, but at the time I didn’t consider returning them. I might think differently today. Great discussion post, Cristina!

    Alicia @ A Kernel of Nonsense recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Characters I’m Supposed to Hate But Don’t
    • In the past I usually haven’t gone through the trouble of returning books that arrive slightly damaged, especially if I’ve ordered online, because of the extra hassle. However I find that I always have this nagging feeling of regret in the back of my mind when I purposely don’t put that copy on a prominent place on my shelf due to a rip/tear/etc that I chose to “ignore.” I feel like the stains on this copy though are really hard to overlook, so it’s worth the extra errand to ship it back (especially since I hear the book is SO good, and therefore it would make me even more upset to have it become one of my favorites and to then have a damaged copy!)

  10. When it comes to buying new releases, I’m definitely picky about the condition my book is in when it arrives in the mail! I’ve had a couple of issues where I’ve received books with damaged corners or bent pages or slight folds/tears in the covers, and I’ve simply returned them and had them exchanged. However, I’ve definitely had more experiences that were good, so I’m still using my online book retailers (especially B&N and Amazon) to get my pre-orders. It’s definitely much more convenient for me 🙂

    • This instance is definitely the worst it’s ever been, which is why I’m so disappointed, as I’ve used B&N and Amazon to pre-order for years and years. I completely agree, the convenience of pre-ordering from online retailers is impossible to beat, and especially when you’re balancing new releases and work and many other commitments. I definitely won’t be ceasing to use Amazon (I currently have 3 pre-orders with them I’m waiting on at the moment) but it’s making me rethink if I should try to make more of an effort to buy in-store when I get the chance, especially for books that I’m really coveting.

  11. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. well, for my standards anyway. i think worn edges or creases are usually fine, but that’s when i expect them to be or when i made them that way myself (from carrying it in my book bag or something). but when i get a NEW book, i expect it to be NEW. which is why this amazon order would be really disappointing. 🙁 when i usually order from amazon it’s fine, but if i’ve realized that if it takes longer to ship (ie when i order from B&N or when amazon prime misplaces my package), the book ends up being worn out like this. *sigh*

    • I actually was comparing my B&N online books to my Amazon orders and I’ve found I have less denting/damage with B&N, but that might also be because I tend to only order one book at a time through them, which usually comes with better packaging (like a padded envelope). When I order from Amazon I’m usually ordering multiple books, so they all bang against each other while they are in transit!

  12. I’m OCD about my books too, and I have generally stopped ordering physical books online for a couple of reasons: 1) I’m not reading enough to need to buy new books particularly frequently anyway, so I’ve been resisting the urge to buy more; 2) They’ve semi-consistently come with some sort of flaw (most typically I’ve had small chunks taken out of the page edges or have pages folded in) — I’ve had better luck from B&N than Amazon, but still not perfect; 3) when I DO need to get a new book, I like using it as an excuse for bookstore therapy — it always makes me feel better 🙂

    I WILL accept a book that’s banged up / “well-loved” if I’m buying from a used bookstore. I normally don’t do this in general, because I like my books looking mostly pristine, but there are times that I just can’t pass up a ridiculously good deal for a book. That largely depends on what mood I’m in and how much I’ve recently been reading physical books (which comes and goes in waves).

    Liza Barrett recently posted: Sunday Post: March 27
    • I love bookstore therapy too, but the list prices tend to be so high that I can’t always buy my books from brick and mortar stores (especially with hard covers). I just pre-ordered “The Winner’s Kiss” and though it arrived late (which was due to an error made by the USPS rather than Amazon) it seems to be in perfect condition, so all hope is not yet lost! 😀

  13. I have received far too many damaged and even incorrect editions from Amazon that I would rather just do my book shopping in person. It really bothers me because I used to do the majority of my book shopping on Amazon, but it seems like the prices are so cheap because they are so careless with how they package things. I had a book delivered once, and the entire jacket was ripped. It was worse than anything I’ve bought from the scratch and dent section on BookOutlet. If I do any online ordering, I try Barnes & Noble first. I have had better luck with their packaging.

    Now I find myself doing a lot of book shopping at Target. They don’t have all the titles, but they have a lot of the ones that I enjoy reading, and their prices are comparable to Amazon’s, if not cheaper. If I can’t find what I want at Target, I drive up the street to my local Half Price Books because they actually get a lot of new books. If I still can’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll take a monthly or bi-monthly trip to the Barnes & Noble. Although there are some days when I know that Target and HPB won’t have the book I want, so I’ll make the half hour drive to B&N. It’s not the best, but I like pristine books, and I try to keep them that way.

    • I’ve actually noticed that Target has really started to up their game with their book selection! However I find they don’t offer too significant of a discount in my area, so I usually don’t specifically go there to buy books, but if I happen across a book while I’m there I’ll purchase it. It’s nice that you have a local Half Price Books in your area! Most of the discount bookstores around me don’t have much in terms of a YA section, so they’re not viable options for me for the most part.

  14. I’ve never bought books online and always buy them myself on bookstores. It’s always a very nice feeling for me when I walk around the store surrounded with books and choosing my next read. 🙂 Plus, online shops that sell brand new books usually ship internationally in my country, so it costs more.

    Then again, if I ever receive a damaged book (or any kind of product, actually), I’ll make sure to report it to the place I bought it from. I mean, I properly paid for it, so I’m pretty sure I deserve to receive the item in good condition. 😉

    Great post, Cristina!

    • Thank you, Mara! I’m definitely right there with you in the fact that I always complain about and/or return a book that’s damaged, as I really am not the type of person to be satisfied when I pay for something and it comes in less than perfect condition. That being said, sometimes with ordering books online it can be a pain to remember to ship it back (finding a store to ship it, buying an envelope, etc.) that sometimes I forget to send it back before the deadline. I’m trying to be more proactive about that, though!

  15. It sucks when new books arrive damaged. There is nothing more frustrating because you know if you were willing to spend a little more you could get a good quality book of your choosing.

    I am a big fan of used book buying, so poor conditions of books is not a deal breaker for me. When I spend a bit more to get a new copy I do get annoyed when I get a damaged copy, though. It’s not that I’m bothered about having a damaged copy on my shelf as a loved book can get damaged on the journey out of the house, but I like for it to come in pristeen condition and to know I’m the one who has damaged it.

    • I definitely agree that used book buying can be great, and it’s more acceptable to have a level of damage or being worn since it’s being purchased second hand (although I do prefer choosing the book in person to assess the amount of damage). It definitely makes a difference know a book is “damaged” by everyday wear and tear caused by yourself rather than due to careless packaging and shipping! Thanks for stopping by and for the lovely comment 🙂

  16. This so often happens to me on AMAZON. The worst part is you have noone to pin point. If you register a complaint they copy paste the same old “We are sorry” etc sentences. Not to mntion the waste of time in trying to return the book.

    • So true! When it happens I leave packaging feedback, but I feel like I’m never really reached out to about it in any meaningful way. I just send it back and am irritated that I had to spend the time to mail it back, and the expense for the mailing supplies too. I have moved toward buying more of my books in store now, even though it’s a little more expensive!

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