How to Keep Books in Good Condition

How to Preserve Books at Home

As passionate readers, one of our most pressing concerns is learning how to keep books in good condition. Whether we are collectors or simply book lovers, knowing how to preserve books at home is a very important piece of knowledge to have. The contents of books are timeless. Sadly, books are not. 

While the desire to pass down your book collection to your offspring is perfectly understandable, expectations may not become reality unless you learn how to take special care of your books. That can be a quite difficult process as we found out here at Basmo, but one that will surely pay off in the end if you are like us, in love with books and everything they stand for. 

Betting on the fact that you are indeed like us, we put together a comprehensive list of tips and tricks on how you should preserve your books if you are hoping to hold on to them for as long as possible.   

What does it mean to preserve books?

Preserving books is defined as the process of protecting books from damage, whether that means keeping them away from sunlight, insects, humidity, or sometimes even air. Preserving a book basically means keeping it away from all the things that could deteriorate it. 

Taking care of books can differ significantly depending on the type of book we are trying to preserve, how old it is, what it is made from, and how valuable it is. While for most books, a little care and just a couple of simple measures would be enough, very old and valuable books are often kept in special rooms with controlled temperature, ventilation, and humidity. 

For most of us though, the scenario where a specially dedicated room or any special equipment is needed is quite unlikely. For regular book collectors who don’t own any extremely valuable first editions, a couple of simple tips and tricks are sufficient. 

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How to preserve books at home?

Taking care of books can mean totally different things depending on who you ask. For some, preserving a book simply means paying attention to not folding the pages and covers and keeping it in a nice place on a bookshelf. Others are struggling to maintain the books in mint condition and that means taking care the pages don’t turn yellowish, that the covers don’t get discolored, and that the spine that holds the book together does its job.

Of course, there are several things that can go wrong while storing a book for a long time. Depending on whether it’s a paperback or hardcover book, the process can differ. The environment is also important, as humid places will require you to take extra action to protect your books. 

Let’s have a look at some of the most commonly asked questions regarding preserving books.

How to protect paperback books?

Paperback books are probably the most commonly found on everyone’s bookshelves. The reason is quite easy to understand: they are lighter and cheaper than hardcover books. Their small prices are a result of small production costs, and that usually means lower-quality materials. 

That can only mean that paperback books generally fail the test of time a little earlier than their hardcover counterparts. To preserve them in good condition for longer, there are a couple of things you should do:

  1. Hold the book properly while reading it. This prevents you from damaging the pages, covers, and spine of the book, which is a lot less flexible than the ones we find in hardcover books. 
  2. Keep them away from water and humidity. Water can significantly damage a book. From discoloring the covers, and making the pages stick together and bend, to allowing harmful mold and bacteria to thrive within the book, there is a lot that can go wrong if the book is not stored in a dry place. While water in liquid form is clearly worse, humidity can also damage your paperback books in a similar way but it will take a bit longer for the effects to appear.
  3. Laminate the covers. If the paperback book in question is one that is particularly valuable for you, you could go the extra mile and have its covers laminated. This will ensure that the covers are going to stay “like new” for a long time, it will add an extra layer of protection, and it will prevent any damage to the pages.
  4. Make sure to keep them perfectly closed. The most common issue with paperback books comes from the fact that the spine usually gives out. To extend its life, you should always make sure that your paperback books are under enough lateral pressure to keep them perfectly closed. This will reduce the tension in the spine and will allow them to stay in one piece for longer. 

How to protect books from insects?

Believe it or not, insects love books. For all the wrong reasons, but they do. Actually, the term “bookworm” was initially used to describe a category of insects that live in, or feed on books. Moths, termites, booklice, cockroaches (Yikes!), and beetles fall under this category, to name a few. 

On top of the fact that books can be hosts to a whole bunch of different pests that can affect your quality of life, many of them also damage the books to a certain extent. To prevent that from happening, here are a couple of things you should do:

  1. Keep your books as high off the floor as possible. Books that are lying on the floor or are placed on low-hanging shelves are most likely to become victims of insects. 
  2. Avoid humidity. Bugs love humid places. The dryer the air, the fewer bugs you will have in your home or, in this particular case, in your reading room. Managing the humidity in your home may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. These days, all you really need is a good quality air conditioning device or a dehumidifier. And the best part is that you are actually going to benefit tremendously from it, as high humidity can also have negative effects on your health.
  3. Avoid cardboard. If your book collection extends further than the bookshelves in your house and you end up storing books in boxes, you should always choose plastic boxes instead of cardboard. Insects love cardboard and keeping them away from your books won’t be easy.

How to protect books from humidity?

As I mentioned above, humidity is one of your books’ worst enemies. It can damage them, discolor the covers, turn the pages yellow, and it can lead to bug infestations or mold. To protect your books from humidity, here are our top tips:

  1. Use a bookcase with doors. While this is not always the best solution, it certainly is the simplest. Keeping your books in a closed environment is certainly going to keep moisture and temperature fluctuations to a minimum. Unfortunately, that goes both ways. If you close the bookcase doors when the humidity inside is high, that will remain high for an extended period of time.
  2. Use moisture absorbers. Bags of silica gel or charcoal work like a charm when placed between books. They are extremely efficient in absorbing moisture and decreasing humidity in small spaces and they are a very cost-effective solution, even though they will need to be constantly replaced.
  3. Use a dehumidifier or an air conditioning device. They can be a very efficient solution to maintaining a healthy level of humidity in your house, which can help you in more ways than one. Plus, they are usually not very expensive and you can even get USB-powered air conditioning devices that are quite effective, portable, and cheap to run. 

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How to protect books from dust?

While dust isn’t particularly dangerous to your books, it can cause some damage to paper and covers in time because of its acidic properties. Even more importantly, it can become a problem for your health if you store many books in your home. The fact that books are collecting dust is one of the reasons why so many people tend to make the switch to e-books these days. 

To be able to enjoy a dust-free home while also having your physical book collection and basically getting the best of both worlds, here are some of the most convenient solutions:

  1. Keep them in an enclosed bookcase. Again, the easiest solution is to simply keep them in a closed space where they are protected from outside elements. This will significantly reduce the number of dust particles that are going to be collected by your books.
  2. Use book sleeves. Plastic book sleeves are cheap and very effective when it comes to keeping your books dust-free. 
  3. Store books horizontally. Dust settles on surfaces by moving vertically. Currents lift the dust high in the air, and gravity slowly pulls it back down, making it rest on any surface that is in its way. Keeping your books in a horizontal position will prevent dust from getting in between the pages. 

How to protect books from sunlight?

Sunning is the most common negative effect sunlight has on your books: when the exposure to sunlight is prolonged, books can become discolored. To avoid this, you should protect your books from direct sunlight. Here’s how:

  1. Keep books in the darkest rooms in your house. If it is an option, keeping your books in the rooms of your house where sunlight doesn’t come in too much is the easiest solution.
  2. Use drapes. Drapes are a great way of keeping sunlight away from the room where your books are stored. They are a cheap and fashionable solution that can work wonders if your home is especially bright during the day. The great thing about drapes is the fact that you can actually adjust the amount of light you allow to enter the room. 
  3. Use UV-filtering glass doors on your bookshelves. Serious book collectors know that it is not the actual light that damages the books, but the UV component of sunlight. Therefore, if you want to keep the natural light in your reading room and still protect your books, you can fit your bookshelves with UV-filtering glass. This allows light to come into the bookcase while keeping the UV light, dust, and moisture away. 

How to preserve books from yellowing?

The way book pages become yellow in time is a result of a combination of factors, including exposure to sunlight, moisture, and other contaminants. Keeping your books from yellowing is probably the hardest thing to do. 

To prevent that from happening, you will need to keep your books in perfect environmental conditions and even though that may sound like an impossible task, it is actually quite feasible. You can use a vacuum sealing machine to keep all the moisture, dust, and other contaminants away from your books and then store the books away from direct sunlight. Granted, that is not easy to do if your book collection is quite extensive, but you can choose to apply this method only for your most valuable titles.

How to use Basmo to keep your books in mint condition

Basmo is the ultimate reading tracking app out there and it can be used as a very effective tool in pretty much every aspect of reading and book collecting. While its main purpose remains to make you a better-organized and more efficient reader, Basmo can be a great tool in your efforts to preserve your books.

Use Basmo to keep track of your books 

Managing your book collection is a lot easier with Basmo. You can create as many reading lists as you wish and you can easily make sure to add the location of each book as a note. Moreover, you can keep track of the last time you cleaned and dusted certain books so you make sure you do it often enough.

Basmo is great for annotating books 

Sometimes we can’t resist the temptation to jot down our thoughts or to highlight certain parts of the books we read. Doing this directly on their pages is less than ideal, especially if we want our books to look like new. With Basmo, you can easily write notes within the app while reading instead of doing it on the book’s pages. On top of this, you can also use the page scanner to save the important text as a picture or to extract the text as a note.

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Final thoughts on preserving books

Learning how to preserve books at home and how to keep books in good condition can be a lot easier than you might expect. Use Basmo to digitize your book collection and to keep track of the status of your favorite titles.

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