Yes, there is such a system. Briefly it goes
as new/ fine/ very good/ good/ fair/ poor
With very good (VG) being about what you would hope to expect from a decent used book. Just plain good however does mean exactly "pretty lousy." Also, it's expected that the seller should say exactly why it merits any low rating. This system has existed more or less for two hundred years, since before the internet rare books were sold via catalog and still had to be described. Unfortunately, as in camera grading, one persons fine is another's ebay special, so seller reputation still counts for a lot. Often after the rating of a book you'll see a slash followed by a second rating; the second rating is for the dustjacket. This is all standard practice, and if you take a look at some of the more professional online venues like ABEbooks.com, you'll see it in much more common use. The more expensive the book, the more information you should expect.
foxing: rust colored mottling on paper caused by certain paper impurities combined with poor storage conditions. Etymology unknown, but possibly having something to do with the fact that foxes are orange. First documented use in 1848. You wouldn't toss out a fixed-lens Barnack just because it had a little rust on it, would you?
Just briefly getting back to your post - a proper analysis would reveil that the author has very cleverly constructed the title with three important words. "Leica", "Collectors" and "Guide". It will clearly appeal to shrewd invester who knows that Leica cameras seem to be expensive and often hold value over time. This book will show how to obtain a bargain sure to make their retirement financially secure. The fact that the book is now old (and tatty) adds to the appeal because it may be out of print and become increasingly rare, and they may obtain the advantage over other collectors.
Originally Posted by David H. Bebbington
I fear that my treasured "Essential Lomography" and "Insiders Reference to Tamron" will not have the same appeal.
Although I have accumulated a large library of photography books, the fact is that after the initial purchase I seldom refer to most of them again regularly. (There are many exceptions such as the real classics: Weston's "Daybooks," Strand's "Time in New England," etc.)
Since being retired and having a somewhat "soft" bank account I no longer run out to buy whatever I might want at the moment, but check them out of the local library, and if they don't have them I ask for them to get them for me on Inter Library Loan (ILL).
Most of the time I just read these and send them back, but occassionally they'll get me a book that I want to have in my library, then I'll start to look for it on Amazon, ebay, and the other usual sources (for example, Dr. Paul Wolff's "My First 10 Years with a Leica" in English).
It's got to be one hell of a used book for me to pay more the $100 for it!