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As a book lover, nothing beats the feeling of getting my hands on a new book. Sure, e-books cost less and take up less space when they’re in your Kindle or smartphone, but the feeling of flipping the page and immersing yourself in a whole other universe is an entirely different feeling.
One of my pet peeves, though, is seeing many people mishandle their books. It’s not that people are actively destroying their books, but they’re unknowingly mishandling the books so much that it takes on damage. As a result, their books look damaged even though it’s only been a few months in their possession. If you’ve a tendency to mishandle your books, here are the Do’s and Don’ts you should be practicing.
Do: Choose What Type of Book You’re Buying
There’s a difference between paperback vs. hardcover books, and it’s not just price. In fact, its difference could affect how well you can protect your books. Hardcover books are more durable and have a sturdy cover and sometimes even a dust jacket that can protect your pages. On the other hand, paperbacks are more affordable but offer less protection against creasing, folding, and a glass of water accidentally spilling near your book.
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For the best protection against external elements, high-quality acid-free pages, and a spine that doesn’t crease no matter how wide you open the book, your best bet is to get the hardcover if you want the book that’s least likely to get damaged with everyday wear. I know this isn’t the most affordable answer, but if you’re looking for the most durable, this is your best bet. Otherwise, you’ll need extra protection and care when handling more vulnerable paperback books.
Don’t: Dog-Fold Your Pages
As much as I try not to judge other book lovers, one of my pet peeves is seeing someone fold a corner of a page of their book (or even half the page, the entire page, or any other fold that won’t get lost in the book) as a way to bookmark their progress when they stop reading. It’s not just the fact that it creates a semi-permanent crease on the page that irritates me; it’s the fact that they don’t understand what it can do with the binding of the book. To quote Harry Potter in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince:
Compared to hardcover books where the pages are glued and hand-sewn onto the spine (which in this case folding only has an aesthetically unpleasing problem for me), paperback books are only held together by glue. By folding a page – especially if you’re folding the corner down to the center – you risk damaging parts where the page is holding onto the binding, which makes it more likely for your pages to tear.
Instead of folding your pages, learn how to use a bookmark if you can’t easily remember what page you were on. If you don’t want to spend on a bookmark, you can easily make a corner bookmark by following this DIY video.
Do: Invest in a Good Bookshelf
Have you ever noticed that a newly found document hundreds of years old can still look brand new while a piece of paper you wrote on a year ago is now showing signs of fading? That has a lot to do with factors that promote paper deterioration, and when it comes to books, that means getting a good bookshelf to store your books away from elements that could deteriorate your books’ quality.
Leaving your books out in the open or in open bookshelves may look aesthetically pleasing, but what you’re doing is exposing your books to elements that can deteriorate it. As much as possible, books should be stored away from sunlight, with low humidity, low moisture, and stored in a cool location. Your bookshelf must be placed somewhere in your home where the temperature doesn’t change drastically, so avoid non-insulated garages and attics for storage space.
Do: Be Willing to Throw Away Paperback Books
You know how it takes one bad apple to spoil an entire barrel of apples? It’s not just a saying – over-ripe apples release more ethylene gas, triggering the rest of the apples to go bad faster than it normally would. It’s the same thing regarding a paperback book decaying in a bookshelf filled with high-quality books.
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Hardcover and trade paperback (a higher quality form of paperback book) are often made with acid-free paper. It won’t last forever, but its composition helps stop the acidity from paper materials from discoloring and breaking down. On the other hand, mass-market paperback books are often made with cheaper paper that tends to discolor after a few years. When you store both these types of books in the same enclosed space, you’re actually exposing more acid in the environment which could make hardcover and trade paperbacks’ acid-free features cancelled out.
The point of paperback books is that it’s cheaper to make and cheaper to buy. Often, publishers choose mass-market paperback for new authors whose profitability hasn’t been tested yet or content they feel isn’t going to profit financially. If your bookshelf is filled with paperback books that you know you aren’t going to read again, feel free to donate it or dispose of it. Leaving it in your shelf knowing very well you’re unlikely to pick up the book again is just wasting space and affecting the composition of the books around it – including the books you want to keep for the long run.
Keep your books safe in the long run by paying attention to how you handle it when reading and later on storing them away. It’s easy to be mesmerized by a good book and what it has to offer, but don’t forget that your book’s quality can be affected by how you handle it. After all, it wouldn’t be as fun to read for others or for you should you decide to read it again if the book looks damaged, would it?