Repairing Your Paperback

September 26, 2014     erinbook     Discussion, Feature, Tips an Tricks

Repairing Your Paperback
We’ve talked about saving your books from water damage but how do you repair books that are damaged in other ways. Today I’m going to focus on paperbacks, since the methods for hardcover can be very different. I buy a lot of used books for ones that I’m not super concerned about their looks so sometimes I have to play book doctor. Here’s what you can do.
A Small Number of Missing Pages:
You’re going to need a plastic glue for this. Other glues will dry harder, making it difficult to turn pages as easily. Plastic glue is flexible and will handle the job better. Brodart is my favorite.
  • Spread a thin bead of your plastic glue along the cracked spine of your book and place your missing pages, making sure that they are aligned properly with the rest of the book.
  • If you’re worried about excess glue making the pages hard to open you can use wax paper or something similar to separate the loose pages from the fixed ones until it dries. Don’t use a paper towel like you would with a wet book, the glue will fix it to your book.
  • Close your book and wipe away the excess glue from the edges. Make sure you wipe towards the spine, not away, so you don’t glue the edges of the pages together.
  • You should weigh your book down with heavier ones so that the pages will dry firmly in place. Wait until fully dry before opening your repaired book.
The Entire Cover (Front, Spine, and Back) is Torn From the Book:
Get out that plastic glue I talked about earlier, you’re going to need it.
  • Cover the spine area of the cover with plastic glue.
  • Gently place the edge of the book back in the spine of its cover, making sure the alignment is correct with the pages. Make sure this is perfect before you make it final, you don’t want the cover to dry incorrectly.
  • Close your covers and wipe away the excess glue. As before, you only want to wipe towards the spine to avoid gluing your pages together.
  • Use rubber bands (I use the really thick ones) to clamp your cover to the book while it dries and weigh it with heavy books, as above.
Reinforcing a Tattered Paperback:
I learned how to do this when I worked for my university’s library. It’s a good way to protect already tattered paperbacks but not for rare books or collectables. Get yourself some plastic book film and follow these steps. Make sure your film is flexible, extra stiffness can cause your cover to separate from the text block.
  • Glue down tattered edges of the cover. You do not need plastic glue for this one. Let dry.
  • You want to make sure your plastic film is acid free before putting it on your book. Acidic film will eat away at the paper. Cut a piece of the film that will cover the book from the front to the pack covers with the addition of two inches on every side.
  • Fold the film exactly in half and crease it with the backing still intact, then cut the paper backing along the crease. DO NOT CUT THE PLASTIC FILM!
  • Pull back the paper backing on each side evenly, enough that the spine of the book can fit.
  • Lay the spine of the book on the exposed sticky film, making sure it is centered as much as possible.
  • Turn your book with the film attached so that you can press the bubbles out of the film on the spine. You can do this by pushing the bubbles out of the side of the spine with your fingers.
  • Press over the corner edges of the spine, towards the edges of the book to prevent bubbles, and make sure that the film is even and straight.
  • Uses your hand or a straight object ot flatten the film over the book as you slowly remove the paper backing to eliminate bubbling as you fix the film to the cover.
  • Cut the corners of the film as close to the book as possible, taking off that corner triangle and leaving edges that you can fold over inside the cover to reinforce the cover.
  • Fold excess film over onto the inside of the cover. Make sure that there is no space of air on the edge by creating tension while folding. Air pockets can cause your cover to de-laminate.
  • Repeat over the back cover. Take your time and do not rush. Any bubbles left can be fixed by pricking them with a needle and pressing to make sure that the bits adhere the book.
  • You will now only have excess film on the top and bottom edges of your book. Cut out the section of film that extends over the top of the spine, both on the top and bottom. this will allow you to fold the film over the edge of the top and bottom of the covers like you did with the side. Trim as close as possible and leave no tunnels of air.
I can clarify any of these instructions as necessary.
If Only The Front Cover is Torn From the Book:
You need book tape for this one. Broart is a good company for both this and the plastic glue.
  • Place the tape parallel to the spine so that half of the tape sticks to the first page of the book, the other half should be left free so that you can attach it to your loose cover.
  • Fold the tape backwards on itself so that the sticky bit is facing up and align the cover properly over it. Press down to adhere tape to the cover. Make sure the cover is aligned tightly along the spine to where it belongs.
  • Follow the above instructions on reinforcing your tattered paperback. You can also use clear book repair tape, NOT PACKING TAPE! Packing tape will last only a year or two before yellowing, pealing, or doing other nasty things to your book.

In another post I can teach you how to reinforce your paperback by making a hard cover for it if you would like.

What methods do you use to repair your paperback when you get a used book? Share in the comments.
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2 responses to “Repairing Your Paperback

  1. CS

    Thank you! I have seldom willingly removed a book from my library, so I now have any number — including some treasured paperbacks — that are quite fragile. They aren’t valuable enough to spend $100 or more for someone to rebind them, but I very much wish to keep them and continue reading them. Now, I might be able to do just that.

  2. John Lynch

    Some years ago I saw at my local lending library a librarian putting artificial plastic spines on a number of paperbacks. The spines which were solid at the back extended for perhaps 2-3 cm on the page and because they were ‘sprung’ had no chance of sliding or slipping off. I’ve never seen them since. Do they still exist?

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