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How to Clean and Care for Your Books

17 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Keeping your books clean generally requires little more than patience and a few common household items. If you want to invest a small amount of time and money, you can protect your books and keep them in good repair.

What You Need

  • A soft clean cloth. I prefer soft cotton, such as flannel, or soft terry cloth.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Dry cleaning pad. Also called document cleaning pad. Library supply companies, such as Brodart, sell these.

Books with Laminated Covers

If the book has a laminated cover, pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the cloth. Do not pour the alcohol directly on the book. Then gently rub the cover until it is clean. Use this method to clean softcover books or dust jackets protected with a layer of laminate.

Hardcover Cloth Books

For books without dust jackets, or books consisting of cloth-covered boards, rub the dry cleaning pad over the boards. As long as the cloth hasn’t begun to fray, you don’t have to be particularly gentle. Some stains may require a bit of hard rubbing.

I do this outside because the dry cleaning substance breaks down during the rubbing process – as it should. You’ll have to brush it off the book when you are finished.

Books without Laminated Covers

Some old paperbacks or old dust jackets do not have a layer of laminate. You’ll also see books where the laminate is peeling away. In this case, do not use rubbing alcohol because it’ll eat the color. It may even destroy the cover.

For dust jackets, protect them from further dirt and wear with a plastic book cover. Library supply companies sell these.

Books that Smell of Smoke

Despite what you may read elsewhere, nothing absorbs the smell of smoke from a book. At best, you may cover up the odor with a stronger fragrance – perfume, for instance. But you’ll never rid the book entirely of the smell.

What You Need

  • Box with airtight lid.
  • Room air freshener.

If you prefer a strong odor of perfume to the smell of cigarette smoke, for instance, find a box with an airtight lid. You can buy a plastic box with an airtight lid at most department stores.

Stand the book up in the box so that the lower page edges are the only part of the book touching the box. Place the air freshener in the box with the book, but make sure it isn’t touching the book. Keep the book in the box for 2-3 days.

Cleaning Gunk from Pages

If you have ever opened a used book to find a dead fly, or worse, stuck to the pages, then you know what I mean by “gunk.” If the gunk is thoroughly dry, take a small piece of light-weight sandpaper and rub it gently over the gunk until it falls away. This is a fairly gross job. You may want to wear rubber gloves.

Protecting Your Books

If you want to protect your books from dust, dirt or just day-to-day handling, store them in a bookcase in an upright position. Never store hardcover books in piles or place them so that the spine is horizontal rather than vertical. Doing so may weaken the spine and may cause it to break.

Use a feather duster often to keep them free of dust. Protect book jackets with plastic covers.

One final thought: If you use Glu-B-Gone, or a similar oil-based product, to remove sticker residue, take care. Do not use it on a book you want as a collector’s item. Rubbing alcohol – assuming the surface is laminated – will work to remove glue eventually. These products leave an oily residue that can stain the book.

Do you have any book cleaning or repair tips? Please leave a comment.

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How To Find Used Books at a Good Price

10 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Often, the books I would like to read are out-of-print, so I have to look beyond the usual suspects (Borders, Barnes & Noble) to find them. Amazon, of course, sells out-of-print books through its marketplace (used booksellers), but is the lowest price the best deal?

Having sold books online for a time, I know that sources for readers (as opposed to collectors) are many and highly competitive. This means that if you’re willing to spend some time searching, you can probably find a good deal.

Tip: If the source (Amazon, eBay) rates sellers based on buyer feedback, pay attention to the numbers. Is that 1 cent book (with $3.99 shipping) the best deal if the seller has a 90 percent rating or lower? Review the feedback before you buy.

Under Find Books in the Fuzzy History menu, you will find many of the resources I use. My strategy for finding a used book typically goes like this:

  1. Search my county library system. Check with your local public library about online access to its catalog. Many libraries also provide access to the catalogs of other libraries. You may also try WorldCat, if libraries in your area participate.
  2. Search my online trading source, PaperBackSwap.
  3. Search BookFinder. I prefer this search engine because it returns the price with shipping included. If I find the book at a price I’m willing to pay, the search is over.
  4. If BookFinder fails to find the book, I search Amazon (and Google, if necessary) to verify that I have the correct spelling for the author and title.
  5. If BookFinder finds the book, but the price is too high, I search eBay and Half.com separately. If there are no copies, or if I want to try to find a better deal, I save the search in eBay. New results will be sent to my inbox. I’m patient because I have lots of other books to read while I wait for a good price.
  6. I set up a “want” at AbeBooks. AbeBooks is a consortium of used booksellers. Once you register (free) with the site, you may set up a want list. For each title, you may set the highest price you’re willing to pay. When a book matches your specifications, AbeBooks sends you an e-mail message. You’ll have to be fast, though, as someone else may have the same “want.” (One of my recent “wants” came in at $10, when my original search turned up $85 as the lowest available price.)
  7. Search for it at local book sales. Use Book Sale Finder to find the dates and locations for book sales in your area sponsored by non-profit entities, such as libraries and churches.

Finally, if the book you want to buy is a new book, use the resources in Find Books. (You may limit a BookFinder search to new books.) But before you buy, go to DealLocker and check out the book coupons. You will often find unannounced deals here.

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