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Collecting and Caring for Books

Updated on June 10, 2012

Contrary to what many thought, the internet didn’t make hard copy and book reading a thing of the past. It’s alive and well and maybe never more so for those into book collecting. For some it’s a hobby, others a passion. And it can be profitable.

If you’ve considered taking it up, it’s important to understand what you're getting into before you start. For the casual collector it’s simply buying and adding them to a collection. However, for an ardent, impassioned, die hard collector, it can involve logistics, research, organization and much more. It’s important to note here, since there are some quite valuable books on the market, caution is advised. Forgery, fraud and theft are real threats.

But even as we read more online, books beckon to us. Old books can be beautiful, rich with history and also an investment. Collectors often specialize in certain categories. For instance:

· Children’s books

· Mysteries

· Westerns

· Classics

· Magazines

· Paperbacks

· Favorite authors

· First editions and rare books of antiquity

These are but a few examples.The technical term for the field is bibliophilia, therefore someone who loves reading and collecting books is a bibliophile.

Where do collectors find their books? Antique/collectible stores, auction houses, thrift shops and second-hand stores are good places to start. Other places might be yard, garage, or rummage sales. There are literally millions of new and used books sold in untold numbers of book stores, not to mention those sold online at websites like Abebooks, Alibris, Amazon and

Book collecting can be inexpensive or very costly. Obviously, only the wealthy could afford to purchase such a great rarity as the Gutenberg Bible. However, collectors don’t need to be rich. Many collect works by favorite authors or books on a selected subject. The value usually depends on number of copies, demand and condition. Books can be damaged from handling, moving, storage, sunlight, moisture, insects and even acid from the papermaking process. There are many other things that can devalue a book such as:

· Dust jacket wear, scratches, and tears

· Soil, stains, dog eared pages

· Underlining, highlighting and writing in margins

· Water damage, torn hinges and missing bindings

A book in good condition would be a rectangular solid with covers at right angles to the spine. If a book is not square, it generally means its’ been sitting on a shelf crooked. Changes in humidity can also cause covers to bow or bend in or flare out.

Antiquarian book collecting is one popular collecting category. Most generally consider antiquarian books to be those printed prior to 1900. These collectors are usually interested in first editions and printings. Many are also interested in books made with fine bindings and high quality paper. Books formerly owned by famous personages, who often autographed them, are another example.

Collectable books don’t have to be printed in hard copy.Virtual E-books in digital format are rapidly gaining ground with collectors. However, care must be taken not to violate any copyrights.

But, for those concentrating only on hard copy print, learning how to care for them becomes a matter of prime importance.Damage is cumulative. Repeatedly handling and storing them incorrectly can diminish their usability and value. Books must be handled properly and stored in a cool, clean, non-humid environment.

Humidity and unacceptable temperature levels can quickly foster deterioration by promoting mold growth, attracting insects or drying leather bindings. Direct sun-light can fade leather, cloth, and paper bound books, especially along the spine. Handling books in dusty or dirty areas can also contribute adversely to wear. Therefore, it’s advisable to shelve books in a closed glass case. Books should always lay flat when being read. If it won’t, don’t use force. The covers should also be supported when open.

Many are in the habit of pulling books off the shelf by the top of the spine. That’s a no-no. They should be removed simply by pushing the two adjoining books inward and then it can be easily grasped by the spine. Of course, this becomes difficult when they have been packed too tightly together. Don’t do that. But, neither is it advisable to pack them too loosely. Placing a tall book next to a short one can contribute to warping. The best practice is to shelve books of similar size next to each other.

There are many don’ts when it comes to handling books properly. Here are a few:

· Don’t use paper clips to mark your spot. They can rust or crimp pages.

· Don’t use marking pens to make notations. The ink often bleeds through the pages.

· Don’t dog ear the pages. Over time the corners will eventually break off.

· Don’t use rubber bands or string to tie-up a book. Both can cut into brittle pages and damage fragile covers. A temporary solution is to use a flat, soft ribbon. Many have found a custom made box fitting the book’s dimensions, makes an ideal way of protecting them. Books with dry flaking leather covers can be wrapped in paper or polyester jackets.

· Don’t treat leather bound books with oils or other dressing. Studies have shown leather dressings can cause it to dry out over time. Polyester dust jackets have been found effective in preventing dry rotted leather from transferring to adjacent books and helps protect covers from further deterioration.

There are many organizations and book reading clubs that have sprung up catering to the avid book collector. Many sites about the hobby are also online. If all else fails to give you the information you seek…buy a book.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Hmmm, a book reading duck. Now that would make a good hub.

    • Daffy Duck profile image

      Daffy Duck 5 years ago from Cornelius, Oregon

      I have about 70 novels. I've read about 35 so far. I love reading books. :)