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Recently, I paged through a friend’s copy of a just-­released bestseller in political theory. I then ordered my own copy, exactly twenty days after the book’s release. When my copy arrived, I found that it sported the same dustjacket as my friend’s, but underneath the jacket it was different. In place of a sewn binding, the pages were glued to the spine, and the cover was cruder. It wasn’t a true hardback at all, but a paperback slapped between boards.

I had the same experience with another book, from a favorite established author whose new release was still riding the first wave of reviews. My purchased copy was substantially lower in quality than the one I had borrowed. I discussed it with friends, and on social media, and found that others were noticing the same thing: Respectable presses were issuing “fake” hardcovers. In some instances, fuzzy, pixelated text made matters worse.

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