There’s a sense of permanence with a hardcover book that makes one want to care for it. We cover all our books in mylar or similar wrap upon receipt. We try to lay our books horizontally on shelf to limit any drag on the binding - very common with the large size tomes these days. Publishers use different bindings, end papers and produce limited or special editions in hardcovers. Unfortunately this all comes at a price, but if you can afford it, the book that has any chance of appreciating in value will be the hardcover edition. Of course this implies that it is the first print or impression of the edition - a subject which can be quite tricky, given that publishers tend to use their own system for indicating print status. There have been many instances of inflated prices for later prints on eBay, so in short - ask or do your research.
AB Bookman's Weekly first proposed in 1949, a set of terms that could serve as a standard for the antiquarian book trade. These terms have been widely adopted as industry standards since then. These are the standards that AB Bookman's Weekly now maintains and that the International Book Collectors Association endorses and supports. We follow the same.
As New is to be used only when the book is in the same immaculate condition in which it was published. There can be no defects, no missing pages, no library stamps, etc., and the dustjacket (if it was issued with one) must be perfect, without any tears. (The term As New is preferred over the alternative term Mint to describe a copy that is perfect in every respect, including jacket.)
Fine approaches the condition of As New, but without being crisp. For the use of the term Fine there must also be no defects, etc., and if the jacket has a small tear, or other defect, or looks worn, this should be noted.
Very Good can describe a used book that does show some small signs of wear - but no tears - on either binding or paper. Any defects must be noted.
Good describes the average used and worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects must be noted. Fair is a worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, jacket (if any), etc. may also be worn. All defects must be noted.
Poor describes a book that is sufficiently worn that its only merit is as a Reading Copy because it does have the complete text, which must be legible. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. This copy may be soiled, scuffed, stained or spotted and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc. Ex-library copies must always be designated as such no matter what the condition of the book. Book Club editions must always be noted as such no matter what the condition of the book.
Binding Copy describes a book in which the pages or leaves are perfect but the binding is very bad, loose, off, or nonexistent. Dustjacket in all cases, the lack of a dustjacket should be noted if the book was issued with one.
These terms may be arbitrary, but whatever terms are employed, they may be useless or misleading unless both buyer and seller agree on what they mean in actually describing the book.