Basic Book Care Tips

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Girl reading a bookOne of most popular ways to buy books today is the internet. More books are sold on the internet than any other product. In 2007, polling company Nielsen Online surveyed 26,312 internet users in 48 countries and found that 41 percent of them had bought books online. Many have welcomed the introduction of electronic books, because they are cheaper, easier to carry around, and contribute to the protection of environment.

For true book lovers, however, the traditional, aesthetically pleasing tomes will never go out of fashion. People who love books will also go to great lengths to keep them in perfect condition, for few sights are as sad as a tome showing signs of neglect. Turning the leaves of a moldy, musty volume is a deeply unsatisfactory experience.

Books are a fragile commodity. They come from live sources: paper (which is made from wood, rags or grasses), cloth, glue, and other organic materials. Extra care should be taken to ensure that they stay looking as good as the day that you introduced them into your library, follow these steps:

  • When reading a book, be it a hardcover or a paperback, fit it out with a temporary book cover to keep its covers from staining.
  • Never read a book with its dust jacket on. Instead, store it in a safe place. A ripped dust jacket presents a most distressful sight.
  • To avoid spine wrinkles, “break in” your new book. Lay the volume on its back and leaf through it, a few pages at a time. Press lightly along the bound edge as you turn the pages. This will keep the cover in good condition.
  • Always use a bookmark for marking your reading progress. Never turn the corner of a page; this is very unsightly. Do not lay an open book face down either, because this will cause spine damage.
  • Make sure your hands are clean when handling a book. Do not eat or drink over a volume you are reading.
  • Store your books upright on shelves. Stack only large and heavy books on their side, because the sheer weight of heavy volumes can cause damage to the edges of the covers.
  • Design your shelves to suit the books. Each volume should have plenty of space above it. If a shelf is not filled, use bookends to prevent books from slumping.
  • Make sure that your books are not exposed to humidity, direct sunlight or heat.
  • Handle your books regularly. Dust the shelves once a month and dust each volume separately once a year.
  • Insects that bore through books are every human bookworm’s worst nightmare. These insects actually rarely infest modern books. Basic housecleaning and good storage procedures should be enough to keep them safe.
  • In case of infestation, your best option is to call an exterminator. Alternatively, use an insecticide, but do not spray or powder books directly. Some experts recommend placing behind the books (without touching them) pieces of linen soaked with essence of turpentine or camphor. 
  • Leather-bound books will benefit from occasional conditioning with petroleum jelly.
  • Never lend your prize books. Even if they do come back to you (and they rarely do), they will never be the same.
  • Teach children to handle books with care from an early age.
  • If you are a kind of person who leaves nothing to chance, buy double volumes: one for reading, the other for preserving in perfect condition.

Some book facts:

  • In many Indo-European languages, the words “book” or “letter” have common etymological origin with the word “beech”. Linguists think this is because earliest Indo-European writings were carved on blocks of wood, usually beech. 
  • The Arabs were the first to produce paper books in the 8th century, using paper-making technology developed in China in the 2nd century AD.
  • Although there is evidence of earlier inventions of movable types in the Far East, these were not widely used and Johannes Gutenberg is commonly credited with inventing a printing press around 1450 in Germany. Gutenberg’s invention revolutionised the printing industry and made books less expensive and more widely available.
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