I bought a copy of Gene Wolfe's Endangered Species (hardcover, first edition) last week from a store on Biblio.com (a utopia for book lovers). When it arrived I found it to be in beautiful condition, and its dust jacket was protected by a Gaylord Book Jacket Cover. It then occurred to me that I had found the cure to my fear of touching my first edition books!
After some investigation, I found that there is an Australian manufacturer of such covers: The Book Cover Co. And even better, they sell discounted seconds at their factory outlet only 20 minutes drive from my house! My inner librarian was jumping for joy, so of course I had to go immediately to investigate. The extremely helpful gentleman at the showroom / outlet gave me enthusiastic demonstrations on how to cover dust jackets, hardcover books and paperbacks. I ended up buying masses of polypropylene archival film and polypropylene tape, and this afternoon I have had an awesome time protecting my Wolfe first editions. (Does this make me sad? or just very nerdy?) Not only does it protect the books, but it also makes it look and feel nicer too. Now I don't have to worry so much about actually reading my books!!