Could bookseller jargon be the key to bigger Amazon profits?

By Sharon Fussell, June 8, 2012

On occasion you may find words/letters/abbreviations in the comment box written by sellers describing the books they are selling. But you may not really know what these letters/abbreviations mean.

Looking at some of the terminology used, I would guess that some sellers have migrated to Internet selling after previously been used to selling used books in a bricks and mortar shop.

Personally, I do not abbreviate descriptions, I just write a simple description accordingly. Thus I would likely leave comments like: ‘Used paperback, with creasing, very good reading copy.’ I also mention other defects if applicable, such as names inscribed or page edge tanning.

To help you understand the listings of those that do employ these abbreviations and strange terms (and in case you’d like to try them out for yourself), I have put together a collection of the most common for you…

A useful list of bookseller jargon:

As issued – in original condition.

Association copy – a book of value or of interest on account of its provenance –its former ownership and associations.

Back strip – the paper spine covering of books. Often dictates the condition of the book.

Bookplate – also known as an ex-libris. An ownership label, often decorative, usually pasted to the endpaper.

c. or ca. – circa (Latin for about): giving an approximate date – as in c.1900, meaning about 1900.

Contemporary – dating from the exact period at which the book was published.

Dust-jacket (dj) or dust-wrapper (dw) – the publisher’s protective jacket,
Usually of paper. First introduced in the 19th century.

Edition – all the copies of a book produced, at any time, from the same setting of type. Also known as an impression.

Endpaper – paper lining to the inside binding. The free endpaper protects the text pages.

First edition – the first edition comprises all the copies of a book printed from the original setting of type.

Frontispiece – or simply frontis – the plate facing the title page.

Imprint – a statement of names of the persons (publishers, printers) responsible for the book, usually also including the date and place of publication.

ISBN – standard code used to identify a book.

Leaf – a page is one side of a leaf. The term leaf covers the whole leaf – both sides.

Limited edition – the size of the edition is limited to a set (usually small) number of copies.

Lithograph – or simply litho. A plate printed by lithography, a chemical method of printing using oil and water.

n.d. – no date (of publication).

Parts – a once popular method of publishing a book in instalments, the
individual parts or numbers intended to be bound together on completion.

Plate – (1) An image, picture, diagram, etc., printed separately from the text, often on quite different paper. (2) The printing plate from which the image is produced.

pp – pages.

Remainder – publisher’s surplus stock sold off cheaply.

Slip-case – an open-ended protective sleeve.

Unbound – has no binding (and has never been bound).

Variant – copies of the same impression showing unexplained variations are said to be variant copies and can be collectable.

Volume – a book may run to many volumes but remain a single book, a single volume may, however, contain several books bound together.

v.y. – various years.

w.a.f. – with all faults. Sold as seen, without any guarantee as to condition or completeness.

If you do decide to try out any of these terms, do let me know how it goes – it would definitely be interesting to find out in what way they affect buyer habits.


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