This isn't a new lesson I learned - I learned it a couple of years ago. But since I didn't learn anything new today, I figured I'd share this!
I am a dedicated reader of a variety of types of authors. Mostly mystery, some science fiction. And I like books in matching sets. They don't have to be first editions - in fact I couldn't afford first editions of most books I want! Nor do they have to be hardback.
They just have to be matching sets, and crisp, clean copies.
So, I am a fan of the author Sarah Caudwell, whose detective is Hilary Tamar (never specified whether this is a man or a woman and in England Hilary can be a name for either sex).
Her books are:
Thus Was Adonis Murdered
The Shortest Way to Hades
The Sirens Sang of Murder
The Sibyl in Her Grave
She also wrote at least one short story, and contributed a couple of chapters to a mystery collaboration novel which I have.
And that's it. Sadly, she passed away of cancer in 2000, when she was only 60 years old.
As a matter of fact...now that I think about it...I think had she passed away before I ever discovered her first book, Thus Was Adonis Murdered...
Anyway, Thus Was Adonis Murdered was her very first book, and the very first book of hers I read.
I read it so many times that it began to be tattered, and I wanted a new, cleaner copy. There wasn't one in my local B&N. I could have bought a new copy on Amazon for $7.50 plus postage, but I decided to be cheap and look on ebay. I found a copy for a dollar, postage $4.00, so I saved a couple of bucks.
The paperback book arrived and it was the matching cover of three of the four remaining Caudwells that I had. (The fourth book came out after the other three had been published as part of a series. The center illustration was by Edward Gorey, as were all the others, but the spine of the book wasn't in the same style as the other 3). The cover was pristine.
I looked inside the book to read it...and it was not Thus Was Adonis Murdered. I still have the book, I kept it as a curiosity - obviously the printers had put the wrong cover on the wrong book. (Unfortunately, although I know I still have this book I don't know what I've done with it, so I can't tell you what the interior book is.)
Now, that's probably an extremely rare occurrence - it never would have occurred to me to ask the seller, "Hey, have you looked inside this book and are the pages in the book the same as the cover?" And, I have to say that this isn't a question I'd ask because I suppose it would seem too weird - and what are the odds of that happening again?
Anyway, I decided it was time to go to Amazon and buy a "new" copy. I typed in And Thus Was Adonis Murdered, but as is Amazon's way they gave me a list of all of Caudwell's works.
And I saw that a complete, matching set of books - so that the covers of all of them matched - had been released in England. They were black covers - or white covers - with an illustration done in the same manner, presumably by the same illustrator.
I preferred the black cover versions to the white cover versions, so I proceeded to order those via eBay, just because they were a little cheaper than I could get on Amazon.
I had to go to three different sellers to get the four books, and I didn't ask any questions. The covers in the descriptions looked good, and it never occurred to me to ask what the spines of the books looked like. (Also, some sellers use "representative" covers - they don't scan in the cover of the book they're selling, they take a cover jpg that already exists and use it.
So three of the four books were perfect - clean spines, covers with pointy corners.
The fourth book I ordered, The Sybil in Her Grave, had been well-read. There were all sorts of lines - whatever the term is - on the spine indicating the book had been read several times, and the outside corners were 'bumped.' More than that, there was a green dot on the spine, using glue that was very very good - aka I couldn't get it off without ruining the paper underneath it.
So from now on, whenever I order a used book from eBay, I read the descriptions very carefully, and then I also send a question directly to the seller, asking if there are any "dots' or other adhesive labels on the book front, spine or rear cover, or on the inside covers, and what are the conditions of the books corners.
If you ever buy any books via eBay, and care about the condition of those books, I suggest you ask those questions directly of the seller, just to be on the safe side, before you order the book.