Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Condition Disclosures

In a message forum, someone asked about what condition issues should be disclosed when a book is offered for sale.  The most popular response was "all of them."  More specifically, what most important?  As I answer this, I think about what is important to me.

Musty odor is a significant flaw and must be disclosed. As a book buyer, I cannot stand books that smell musty. Exposing the book to fresh air sometimes helps, but generally, musty odor does not go away.  I have bought books for my collection and had to immediately seek an upgrade due to a musty odor.

Cigarette odor should also be mentioned, although it is less of a problem. I find that cigarette odor tends to go away on its own after several months. While I dislike receiving books with undisclosed cigarette odor, I know that time will usually care of it.

Sellers sometimes try to be helpful by using a fragrance to cover the odor.  This is a bad idea. What will happen is that the book will still have the original odor and will also have an additional perfumed smell. Book buyers do not want their books to smell like Febreze, perfume, or dryer sheets.

If there is any kind of writing inside the book, it must be disclosed. Even a name written inside is important. I do not care if my books have a name inside, but I once had a buyer go off on me because I accidentally did not mention a name written inside. So, I always check for a name or inscription and mention it.  Sometimes, I do miss an inscription or signature, so buyers who need books with no writing should also make certain that the seller has not overlooked an inscription.

As a book buyer, I do mind if the name is written huge and in crayon, so as a seller, I make sure that I mention when a name is written rather large and in crayon. I also mention if a name is written in permanent marker that has bled through the page, since that is far worse than a neat penciled name.

If pages are ripped or creased, that needs to be mentioned. If pages are missing, that should be mentioned.  Missing pages usually make a book worthless, so those books should not be sold.

A flaw that is almost never mentioned by sellers is the problem of blurred images on dust jackets and book covers.  The blurring is caused by a printing flaw and can be easily missed.  Since sellers tend to avoid mentioning this flaw even when the blurring is obvious, buyers must always be on the lookout for blurring of the cover art.  I have seen sellers receive negative feedback from buyers for failure to disclose this flaw.  Nobody wants a collectible book with blurred cover art.

Most important, have a photograph of the actual book for sale that is in focus so that we can see the book. For collectible books such as the ones I buy and sell, the buyer needs to see the front cover and spine. We do care what our collectible books look like on the shelf. The spines are as important as the front covers, and in some cases, the spines are more important.

Stock photos are a big problem. I have sometimes found my own photos used in eBay auctions.  I have also found images from my website used in eBay auctions.  I recall a seller taking an image of one of the hardcover Goldencraft Trixie Belden books and using it as a stock photo for a softcover edition.  A buyer desiring the hardcover will be quite upset when a softcover book arrives.  I have also seen sellers lift a photo of a Nancy Drew book from the 1930s and use for a book from the 1960s that is up for sale, and the two books have hugely different values. Never use stock photos for collectible books.

A statement of overall condition is good, but make sure that a good photo of the book is present so that buyers can make a final determination.

What is most important to you when buying books?


beautifulshell said...

I like when sellers mention the presence or type of front illustration. I usually want to know and it saves me from asking. Listing the last titles on jackets is also nice, since I avoid wartime books like the plague.

Paula said...

I agree with everything you have mentioned, Jennifer. I can think of some other flaws that should always be mentioned: water/liquid damage, insect damage, stains, noticeable foxing of pages or cover, very loose or broken binding, heavy fading or bleeding of ink on the top of books that have a colored ink on the top page edges, discoloration/yellowing of pages or cover, faded spines (if not shown in picture), holes in pages or cover. In addition, I think heavy wear should be noted in the description, especially if it is not clear in the item's pictures. Finally, it should be mentioned if there is a bookplate or any kind of stickers in the book. I have received books in the past with all these types of flaws - unmentioned in the description and not shown in the pictures. Since there are so many different types of flaws that could occur, it's the seller's responsibility to mention these flaws - it's just not feasible for the buyer to ask every seller all these specific questions!

Jennifer said...

I notice that water damage is often not mentioned, and it is one of the worst flaws that can be present. Book buyers are guaranteed to be highly displeased when a book arrives with any type of undisclosed water damage. Even if the damage just consists of light stains, it should be mentioned.

Whenever I see a picture of a bunch of books which is from six feet away so that detail cannot easily be seen, I always look for telltale signs of water damage. A whitish area or stained area on a book or jacket is an obvious sign. Discoloration and foxing are also signs.

Often, jackets will have faint whitish areas from color lift. If someone is not looking carefully, that can be missed when a seller fails to point it out. I recall a certain seller who had a lot of Nancy Drew books described as in very good condition with no mention of water damage. I saw the whitish areas and knew what that meant. I happened to be looking at that seller's feedback a couple of weeks later, and the buyer complained that the books were worse than described. The books must have been water damaged as I suspected.

Michelle De said...

I agree with what you have listed. On of my biggest pet peeves as a buyer is when sellers do not list the amount of pages the book has. It got to be a lot of work constantly contacting sellers to ask if the book was a revised version or original, so lately I just avoid the seller's listing if I see it, and buy from someone who has taken the time to list everything.