How to Care for Your Books

Be Kind to Your Books:

As Hippocrates cautioned, first do no harm. If you want to preserve the full value of a new book; DON”T clip the price and DON’T write in it. If circumstances are such that you want to, or feel you must do one of the above, then by all means do so, relax, and just enjoy the book for what it is.

Next, clean it up. Check it over for smudges, pencil marks and the like which can be erased, and remove any stickers other than those which indicate an award the book has received, or that the book has been signed. Most such stickers are “removable,” but that property deteriorates rapidly over time. “Goo-Gone” is the booklover’s best friend.

If you are truly concerned about preserving a book’s worth, protect the dust jacket; it may represent 80% of the book’s value. Don’t clip the price, write on it, use the interior flaps as bookmarks, or do anything that will crease or tear it. You can protect the jacket with a clear cover. That will prevent wearing and small tears along the bottom edge. It will not protect the spine from sunlight; books you really care about should not be exposed to constant direct sun.

While you read the book, use a bookmark, not the jacket flaps, or heaven forbid anything else. I’ve found paper clips (rusted), crayons, match books and countless other items in books, which obviously had served as book marks, were left in place, and permanently warped the affected pages. Remove the bookmark when you’ve finished the book. If you are the reading-in-bed-with-crackers type, brush out the crackers too. And PLEASE don’t mark your place by laying the book face-down and open.

When you’re through reading. shelve the book upright, as Gutenberg intended. Even short-term storage in any other position can distort the spine. Distortion also occurs when shelves are too tightly crowded, or when books lean. True book nuts have “dummy” books of wood or cardboard to insert in a shelf when a book is removed temporarily. You don’t have to do that; just remember that it’s bad for books to lean for long periods.

Real book nuts also know that metal shelves (and bookends) are best. Most of us won’t go that far, but you should understand the reason; organic materials (wood, shelving stain) react with paper. Those reactions are intensified by books’ worst enemy; dampness. If there’s a leak anywhere in your house, book collectors say, you’ll know it first when it finds your books. It costs nothing to run your hand along the wall behind the shelves from time to time… And while you’re at it, dust the books.

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