The Basics of Book Repair

As technology continues to advance, the methods we use to consume information are in constant flux. In the last decade have seen the standard printed encyclopedia and dictionary replaced by digital repositories of information, such as Wikipedia. Moreover, now that entire libraries of books are being digitized for access online and in ebook format, the printed book is running the risk of being labeled obsolete. 

What few people realize, however, is that digital files are far easier to lose or destroy than books. The danger that entire collections of electronic books can vanish with the blink of an eye makes it all the more important for original printed editions to retain their proper form. This becomes especially crucial when maintaining valuable printed editions for posterity. As the medium gradually fades from the mainstream world, simply knowing how to repair books has become a skill set we need to preserve.

The Value of Book Repair
Book owners should take special pride in the books that they own, particularly as new editions of existing literature becomes more scarce. Some books we own could have great value in several years, if not already, so ensuring your volumes are properly maintained and repaired is important. A quick search online can yield a number of trained bookbinders ready to bring your suffering books back to tip top shape.

A quick comparison of two book repair shops should give an idea as to what types of services are available for your book repair needs. The Book Doctor, based in Dallas, Quarto Conservation of Books and Paper of Silver Spring, Maryland, and Stanley Book Repair and Restoration of Nelson, Wisconsin are only a few of the several book repair companies that offer local and web-based resources for repairing your valuable tomes. These shops offer services such as book recovering, text rebinding, conservation treatment, leather restoration and much more. As books continue to age, it becomes necessary to work with professional book repairers such as these to ensure our books remain in pristine condition for generations to come.

The pricing for such services vary depending on the type of book that needs repairing, as well as the type of work that needs to be done. For example, Stanley Book Repair and Restoration charges a minimum of $65 for genuine leather book cover restoration. This starting price is reduced to $55 for standard material. Other services, such as rebinding and recovering, can cost from $80 to $120 depending on the size of the book.

Quarto Conservation of Books and Paper, on the other hand, works specifically with museums and extremely rare and valuable book collections. Pricing, as a result, is based on a consultation fee, which can be upwards of $150 per hour. Many of us don’t have a collection of books that would warrant consultation, however, if you find yourself with a larger collection of valuable and rare texts than most, working with a book conservation professionals might be your best bet.

Repairing Books on Your Own
One of the greatest benefits of having the world’s information easily accessible over the internet is our ability to discover and research. Book repair is a craft that one can find several manuals and lessons for online. While it is still recommended that you consult with a professional first before tackling major book repair projects on your own, there are several resources online to help you make basic repairs to your ailing texts.

Dartmouth College offers a robust manual for Simple Book Repair on their website that anyone with an internet connection can access. This manual goes over several key principles for the amateur book repairer to follow when attempting to make simple repairs to their books. The chapters are short and succinct, making it easy for anyone to read and make sense of the steps needed to improve the condition of their books.

If Dartmouth’s site appears a bit complex and dry for the first-time book repairer, try Three Basic Book Repair Procedures by Carole Dyal and Pete Merrill-Oldham. Not only does this site cover three of the most common book repair procedures in great and easy to read detail, there are also pictures to help guide the reader through each step of the process. Again, instructions offered by this site and the Dartmouth site are for simple repairs only. For more complicated repairs, and for books with significant damage, hiring a professional book repairer to do the work for you is highly recommended.

Considering a Career in Book Binding?
Now, more than ever, the craft of book repair is becoming one of significant importance as the world’s information becomes gradually digitized. The historical and cultural value of books cannot simply be transferred into a digital or electronic format. Therefore, as the publishing of new books shrinks, maintaining the books that already exist becomes necessary to ensure the printed legacy of human culture remains alive and well.

Like most trades, the craft of book repair is something that can be studied either in school or in an apprenticeship with an expert book repairer. Learning the craft will require much time and energy, as well as practice. So while the potential financial benefits of possessing an in-demand skill such as book repair might appear promising, one must always make sure that they possess a love for the craft itself, and particularly for the books they are tasked with repairing. If you feel like you have the drive and motivation to take on a skill that could quite possibly become one of the most important of the 21st century, practicing the art of book repair could be your ticket to a fulfilling, life-long career that stands to make a huge difference in keeping our cultural history from quite literally fading away.

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