If there was something called Book Abuse most of us would have been booked under it. Consciously or unconsciously most of us treat books with as much disrespect as we would our adversary. In the process, we send our books to the grave even before they reach adolescence. More often than not, books are subject to poor handling, harsh light, dust, insects, improper storage, food stains, water spillage, and even used as coasters, whenever convenient. Books are borrowed and lent in abandon, almost like shuffling from one adoptive home to another. Books hold valuable information and have immense antiquarian value. They are also the most treasured collectibles.
Take care of your books as you would yourself. With a little care, books can look a lot younger as they grow older. Here is how
Books are as sensitive as Homo sapiens
Maybe books can’t talk, but they are as affected, by humidity, temperature fluctuations, insects, harsh light, dust, and water damage. Its life depends upon a stable, cool, clean, and non-humid environment.
Temperature and Humidity
These are two sure causes for deterioration. High humidity promotes mold growth, dank smell of mildew, tiny brown spots called foxing, curled pages and attracts insects, whereas as extreme low humidity can dry out leather bindings. Books turn acidic over time, with higher temperature and moisture they turn acidic faster. Temperature fluctuations also take their toll on books.
Preventive Measure: The ideal temperature for your books would be 68 degrees Fahrenheit with about 50 percent relative humidity. An air-conditioner will do the job.
First Aid: Use a dehumidifier to increase or lower the humidity as required. Mold growth only in the early stages can be dusted off, in the advanced stage can cause irreparable damage. Allow air to circulate around the books and a little sun can take care of the smell of mildew.
With rising levels of temperature and humidity come house pests or insects. Silverfish, cockroaches and mice love books like their own.
Preventive Measure: Keep the storage area clean, free of food and garbage and air-conditioned.
First Aid: Sprinkle the boric acid powder around your books, not in or on them. In case of serious damage to your book collection, check with an entomologist.
Light and Dust
The ultraviolet rays of sun can permanently damage fading its leather or cloth jacket from blue to dull green and red to brown. Weakening and aging paper, brittleness and discoloration are the other side affects. Dirt and dust not only harm books, but also reduce their value.
Preventive Measure: Always keep the blinds closed and store books away from sunshine. Keep the room as dark as possible. Dust and wipe books regularly with a soft and dry cloth or a feather duster.
Books stored in garages and near plumbing systems suffer the most, developing mold and mildew.
Preventive Measures: Keep books in a dry area, away from dampness and windows during the monsoon months.
First Aid: Open the book into a fan shape and place paper towels between the pages to soak in the moisture. Replace these periodically with dry towels. Place the books open near fans to allow for free air circulation. When half dry use a hair dryer to complete the drying process.
Few people pay heed to the way they handle, store or photocopy pages from books. Even fewer are affected by scribbling in them, which is almost akin to graffiti.
Books are forced to lay unnaturally flat just to convenience the reader, pulled off the shelf from the top of its spine and interspersed with paper clips and folded page corners for future reference. Skin oil and perspiration stain paper and wet fingers weaken them.
Preventive Measure: Always use clean and dry hands to handle books. Tightly bound books are better laid on a book support. Acid-free paper strips can be used for marking and not colored ¡¥post-its.¡¦ Books should be free from rubber bands because they tend to curl and damage the paper. Rubber bands even melt slightly with heat sticking to paper. Never lay books face down.
Usually, either book is placed prettily in showcases for their aesthetic value or stored in boxes in a cramped attic or garage. Little regard is given to the right way of storing them. Overstuffing storage boxes cramp and crease, while under filling allows for sagging and bending of books and their covers.
Preventive Measure: While shelving maintains a space of 3/8 inch between each book for easy removal. Stand books vertically on their bottom edges and place books of even heights and thickness together. Do not place books horizontally on a vertically arranged shelf. If storing in boxes, choose small boxes for convenience and to cut down stress and strain on the books. Store snugly inboxes. Seal the boxes with tape.
Photocopying has become such a necessary part of our lives, that we do not give a second thought to the damage it might do to books. Photocopying loosens the book jacket, crushes the spine and in the case of delicate material even loosens the pages.
Preventive Measure: Never press down on the spine of books while photocopying, especially with large and heavy books. Do not lean your weight on the lid of the photocopying machine with the book beneath.
Few can resist writing their names in books and scribbling comments in the inside pages. This reduces its value significantly.
Preventive Measure: Write with a light and soft pencil and keep your comments to yourself. Use a bookplate to label your books.
Some tips for younger, healthier books ¡V
Keep fragile books in custom made boxes.
Avoid using adhesive and sticky tapes on books.
Do not use books as coasters.
To protect books from wear and tear use plastic dust jackets.
Do not eat or drink while you read.
Avoid loaning books out.