As far as hobbies go, passionately collecting books is an affordable and intellectually rewarding one. Still, your collective personal library represents a sizable investment. Take care of your books and make them last for years with these tips for protecting your book collection.
Don’t Do the Paperback Fold-Over
Paperback books cost much less than their hardcover counterparts, so we may feel like we can take less care with them. However, with proper treatment, a paperback can still have quite a long lifespan, and there’s no reason to diminish it with careless practices. One of the worst things one can do is to fold the front cover back and behind the book block as one reads, putting enormous stress upon the binding. Avoid doing this, as well as leaving an open book upside-down as a temporary placeholder when a bookmark will do the job with no damage.
Don’t put a cover on a leather-bound book. The extra layer could trap moisture and degrade the leather over time.
Keep Hardcovers Covered
Most hardcover editions already come equipped with a dust jacket to protect the book from the namesake, dust, as well as ultraviolet light, water damage, and general wear and tear. However, when they don’t have one of these jackets, or if you damage or lose it, you should get to work putting down a new cover. Use mylar or acetate to wrap up your hardcover and protect it going forward. A word of caution, however: don’t put a cover on a leather-bound book. In this case, the extra layer could trap moisture and degrade the leather over time.
Rebind When Necessary
If you’ve turned the pages of your favorite book for years and years, you’ll inevitably notice that its binding is breaking down. Before the binding fails altogether and the book starts shedding pages, consider performing some preemptive literary surgery to rebind your book. Using a knife, binding tape, and a lot of care, you can restore your beloved book to like-new condition—and perhaps even include some personal design flourishes along the way, if you so choose. This practice is useful for books that have passed through your family for generations or a well-traveled Bible whose binding is finally giving out.
Wash Your Hands
If we weren’t already, we’ve all become quite accustomed to washing our hands regularly this year. Even if you hadn’t been out and about just before, wash your hands prior to reading the books in your library. Oils and residues on our fingertips are slow but steady nemeses of paper and will cause the fibers in the paper to break down before their time. Besides, you don’t want to revisit a book years later and find a chocolatey fingerprint from years ago.
Step Away From the Light
One of the most important tips for protecting your book collection is to beware of the sun’s effects on book covers. Years of sustained ultraviolet exposure can degrade binding and fade inks. Keep your books out of direct sunlight as best you can. Nonetheless, don’t let cautions about UV light dissuade you from bringing a book to the beach for a breezy read. Just don’t try to apply suntan lotion to your book, too.