Sued51's Blog

{February 15, 2013}   A Book Lover’s Care Guide?

Has anyone written such a thing?

The last blog about bookmarks lead me to thinking about book care. I figured bookmarks were created to keep people from folding back the corners of pages (as a tool for book care), but I had no idea of their history until I found this link. Interesting! (I should have used that link in the last blog.)

I then did a search for book care and found most of the information that came up was directed at children and was regarding library books. The exception was this humorous video created by the George Mason University library, which was directed toward college students. Wouldn’t we treat our own books at least as well as we would treat library books?

I guess not. I recently pulled some old poetry anthologies out of my bookcase, and I have a confession to make. Book lover that I am, I found dog-eared pages. Oh, the shame! The anthology was from college, I believe, so I can claim I was just young (like the young people in the video) and didn’t know better…do you buy that? The book was Contemporary American Poetry, edited by A. Poulin, Jr. (2nd edition). The cover is damaged with folds too. (I’m really dating myself here because from what I could find online, this book  is now up to the 8th edition. There was also a 4th edition in my bookshelf that could have been from graduate school.)

Poulin Poetry Anthologies

I could try to defend myself by saying that they are paperback books. Paperback books were created to be more “disposable” versions of hard cover books. They were also more “affordable” versions of hard cover books, although nowadays they are pretty expensive as well. I have saved a lot of my paperback books because it would be pricey and a lot of work to go back and replace them with hard cover versions. I made a big “book care” mistake with my paperbacks though: I had them in a bookcase that got direct sun! So I have…bleached out spines.

So..there’s two book care no-no’s: don’t dog-ear the pages (#5 on the video) and don’t keep them in the sun!

And how many of us can claim we don’t eat while we read (#4 on the video)? I love my tea and toast with a good book. Some of my books have a butter-grease thumbprint or two on a few pages. That can be a reason why some people don’t like to read library books or used books…you don’t know where the book has been! (Anyone remember the “Seinfeld” episode with George taking the book to the bathroom?)

Finally…I come to book covers. Anybody else out there old enough to remember covering your school books with paper bags or other paper book covers? The paper bag ones were wonderful to doodle all over and personalize. Book jackets were originally used to protect the covers of hard cover books and now are pretty much a marketing tool.

How about it book lovers…do you have any “rules” for taking care of your books? Any book care tips to pass on?

soonie2 says:

Interesting! Yup, I grew up with paperbag book covers! In fact, I think I covered a few of my son’s school books with paperbags!


sued51 says:

Those paper bag covers were so much fun artistically!


Peter S says:

I used to go to the Victor Hugo used book store in Boston to find old mystery and Sci-Fi books. Te first time I bought something, the owner would then give me a short lecture on making sure to keep it clean, maybe I’d like to get a ‘reading copy’ too?, don’t break that binding, and on and on….
Once I assured him that there was no need to worry, I had been looking for that book for a long time, he seemed to relax knowing it was going to a good home.


sued51 says:

Great story and interesting comment, Peter! Book lovers are a peculiar breed, no doubt! A lot of people who buy old books (from somewhere like Victor Hugo vs. Salvation Army) are buying them for investment as well as love, so that’s where I think he was coming from with the “reading copy” suggestion. It’s funny…one of my favorite paperbacks, an essay book by Joan Didion, is highlighted, dog-eared, and has a hurtin’ binding…I guess that’s my reading copy, because I went and bought another one at a used book store because the first one showed signs of falling apart.


Annina says:

The bookmark history was interesting. I had no idea that they were used as early as for papyrus scrolls. It makes sense though that they appeared early on since who would have dared to fold back corners of medieval manuscripts or something like that. Books were so valuable back in the days that it would probably be like scratching a mark in a painting to know where you left of looking at an exhibition 😉

I tend to avoid damaging books; mine or anyone else’s. I’ve never been much for folding corners, though mainly because I don’t see it as a very practical way to mark your place (once folded, they can easily fold back again even if you try to straighten the corner and then especially when re-reading you have no idea of which of all these is your current place. Or then it straightens when it’s not meant to). But I am guilty of eating and drinking while reading and a couple of mugs of tea have spilled over books. Some books also get a bit worse for wear when I carry them around in bags with a lot of other stuff. I however try to be more careful with really nice hardcover books. Though a couple of the big hardcover books have some marks from glue as they were good to dry some cards between… Though I’m always a bit sad when a book gets tea stained or something, later I see it as memories and the books history.


sued51 says:

Your thoughtful comment inspired me for another blog with your talk of memories and history! I have books in my bookcase with hidden “treasures” in them for someone to find someday that tell their story…definitely a blog!


Annina says:

That’s great! Glad I could inspire you. I’ve had a vague thought myself of writing sometime about my accidentally stained books. That idea though came mainly from that fact that I’m also blogging about my progress with Wreck This Journal and my other Keri Smith books, which is all about “damaging” the books on purpose. On another note I also remember the time I was getting home from Italy (years ago) and I talked about the stains on my backpack to my friend, like “This is chocolate ice cream, this here is strawberry and this is where I got the pigeon poo.” A man behind me said something like “Looks like you’ve got your whole trip’s memories recorded there”.


[…] reading a comment by Annina on my last blog on Book Care and a comment by Lingering Visions on another blog, I felt inspired to tell the […]


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