How To Keep Your Paperback Books In Good Condition

How To Keep Your Paperback Books In Good Condition

Even though ebook readers are popular, paperback books still have their place. They may be fragile, but you can keep them in great condition to read for years to come with the right tricks. Here’s how.

Pictures: Thomas Abbs, Ginny, woodleywonderworks, Johanna Billingskog, tanakawho, Morgan, Jayel Aheram.

Handle Your Books Hygienically

Hygiene goes a long way to preserving your paperbacks. Quora user Prakriti Gupta shares a few simple general principles for better handling your books in this thread:

  • Avoid eating while reading. If you must, keep a hand towel by your side.
  • Do not use your saliva to turn pages, get a wet sponge instead.

These changes may make reading less convenient, but it will help keep your books in pristine condition.

Preserve the Structure

Paperbacks are designed for affordability, so they can be particularly fragile. Paperbacks aren’t as durable as hardcovers, so they take more effort to keep intact. Gupta shares two more points in her thread about how to preserve the structure of paperbacks:

  • Use a bookmark and do not fold (dog-ear) the pages.
  • Never leave a book open when you are not reading it [doing so damages its spine].

Additionally, if you’re holding your paperbacks with one hand, don’t do it in a way that bends the front cover. It can be surprisingly difficult to flatten down again. Worse yet, you may damage the spine of the book.

Store Paperbacks in a Dry Place

As your book collection grows, you may need to store some of them somewhere other than a bookshelf. Try to avoid humid places, or plastic bags, wrap or foil, since they encourage mould growth.According to the Comic Book Collecting Association (since similar to paperbacks, many vintage comic books are made of paper and newsprint), books should be stored in a place where temperatures are as consistent as possible. The humidity should be 50 per cent Relative Humidity (RH),H +/- 10 per cent, and room temperature at 10C-18C.

If you really want to make sure each book stays in mint condition, put each book in a bubble wrap, or wrap them in acid free or non-bleached paper towels to keep dirt or residue from building up. When you put them in a box, paper edges should face inward, which decreases the likelihood of books warping and pages folding unexpectedly. If possible, place your boxes of books on a shelf to protect them from leaks or floods.

Protect Your Paperbacks in Transit with Another Bag

Even though books may seem safe in our backpacks and briefcases, paperbacks are frequently damaged as they clash against stationary, hardcovers and binders, among other things. Pages get bent, covers are scratched, or other things in our bags find their way between the pages and weaken the book’s spine.

To keep your book intact, put it in a Ziploc bag before putting into your backpack or briefcase. Alternatively, if you have enough room, you could also put the book in a rectangular-shaped lunch box or other plastic container.

Repair Broken Paperbacks (Before They’re Too Far Gone!)

Some of your books may be in bad shape. You can use some glue along the crack of the spine to re-attach missing pages or a separated cover. A commenter at MetaFilter suggests using tacky glue. If it’s a vintage book with the spine separating from the cover, you maybe able to use a warm iron to soften the glue and re-flatten it.

If your cover is broken off, or if you want to preserve it even longer, you could make it a hardcover yourself or laminate it. You probably don’t have enough time to do this for all your paperbacks, but it will help prolong the life of your favourites.

Remember, Frequent Reading Wears Out Your Books

Simple changes such as handling your books with better hygiene, keeping a close eye on its structure, protecting it in transit with another plastic bag, and storing it well will help keep your paperbacks in good condition for years to come. If you want to preserve your book for a collection — rather than for reading over and over — it may be worth buying another cheap copy, or getting the ebook version for actual reading. Otherwise, just know that reading it will wear it out over time. Even though the paperbacks may not stay as good as new, these ideas should help you preserve the longevity of your book for years to come.


  • Rubbish!

    When my father-in-law died we had to tidy out his house. There were hundreds of paperback books.

    We contacted a second-hand bookseller (Elizabeth’s) and asked them to come around to look at them.

    They took each book, opened it at the halfway point and folded it flat. Either the cover separated from the book or the spine split. Out of all the books only a few survived the test.

    They said that they almost never take any paperback books older than about 10 years because they start to fall apart after that time.

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