Grading books is very similar to judging a beauty contest. As with the beauty contest, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Grading a book in no less difficult. I may say Fine you may say As New. Again, the judgment is in the eye of the beholder. With that said, many groups have come up with 'standards'. I use both the AABA and the IOBA standards as a ballpark view of how I judge books. The rules I use are as follows:
NEW - Off the store or right from the printer. No markings or writing or wrinkles. A pristine nice book.
AS NEW - A book without faults or defects, unread, in the same pristine condition in which it was published. As of late, some new dealers are calling this condition "Mint". That term is good for coins since you mint coins. You do not mint books. Books are made by printing and assembling either by machine or by hand.
FINE - This is a book that approaches the AS NEW condition but is not as crisp. For example it will be a book that has been read but very carefully. It will have no real defects or faults.
NEAR FINE - This condition would apply to a book or dust jacket approaching FINE but with a couple of very minor defects or faults, which should be noted. For example a very slight bumping to the spine ends or the front corners or a very minor rubbing to the edges of the Dust Jacket meaning enough to see a slightly wrinkled effect to it's edges.
VERY GOOD - A used book showing some small signs of wear on either binding or dust jacket. Any defects/faults must be noted. Some examples: noticeable rub to the top, side or bottom of book edges and/or small bumps to spine ends or corners and/or previous owner name present.
GOOD - The average used and worn book that has all pages or leaves present. Any defects must be noted. Examples: Obvious surface rub to the DJ or cover of the book, bumped corners or some 'dog earring' in the book pages signatures or notes and/or possible underlining of some text.
FAIR - A worn book that has complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title page, etc. (which must be noted). Binding, dust jacket, etc. may also be worn. All defects/faults must be noted.
POOR or READING COPY - A book sufficiently worn that its only merit is the complete text, which must be legible. Any missing maps or plates should still be noted. May be soiled, scuffed, stained, or spotted, and may have loose joints, hinges, pages, etc.
Class Exceptions that MUST be noted:
EX-LIBRARY - An Ex-Library book can be identified with all of the descriptions mentioned above - BUT - they MUST always be designated as Ex-Library no matter what the condition of the book.
BOOK CLUB - Same as Ex-Library in that they can be identified with all of the descriptions above - BUT - MUST always be noted as BOOK CLUB no matter what the condition of the book.
BINDING COPY - A book in which the text block, including illustrations, is complete but the binding is lacking, or in such poor condition it is beyond realistic restoration efforts.
REMAINDER - Is a book that has been pulled from the store shelves or are left over from the printers. They usually have marks such as red dots, black marks from markers etc on the top or bottom of the book. REMAINDER books MUST always be identified as such even though the only fault identifying it from a NEW book is the Remainder mark.
NOTE: Ex-Library, Book Club and Remainder books can be very valuable and in New to Poor condition. Many are very readable or collectable and should not be treated as trash.