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by Craig Stark

#57, 12 December 2005

The second most frequently asked question I get at BookThink is this: should I have this book repaired? It's usually in reference to an antique volume with detached boards, severe foxing, or some other seemingly fatal flaw. Inevitably my answer is that it depends. In some cases, especially if a book is both uncommon and highly sought after in sound condition, it might make sense to invest in professional book repair, but in most cases I advise against it. Why? It's expensive. It can all but swallow up potential resale profit.

Well, it seems now that I'm going to have to alter that advice. And fellow Floridian bookseller Gail Altman, who begins a new BookThink monthly column on book repair today - "Book Repair for BookThinkers: The Basics" - is entirely responsible. Gail, you see, repairs books as well as sells them; she's very good at it; and the best part is that her prices are so reasonable that suddenly I'm taking a second look at dozens of hapless books on my shelves that I'd formerly written off but which now are prime candidates for repair.

Take a look at this sweetie:

I bought this mess at an estate sale many, many years ago, thinking I might find be able to find somebody who could repair it for a price I could live with. Fat chance. Despite numerous inquiries, no estimate was low enough to justify having the work done. So it sat. And sat. Meanwhile, in the intervening years, I came across two other copies of the same book in much better condition. Both of them sold for well over $100 - but still, clearly not high enough to do anything with the third copy. Until Gail came along.

Look at what she did to it:

Thanks to her, I now have an intact, tightly bound, far more presentable copy that should also sell for over $100 - and this should still leave me with a profit of $75 or more. How so? Cost for reattaching the front board, reinforcing the back board, recasing with new endpapers, regluing the first three pages, and repairing four corners was a whopping $30. Intrigued? You should be. Visit her website for more details:


Gail, by the way, was trained by the Southern Library Information Network in Atlanta and is able to accomplish repairs to the advanced (full binding) level. And it runs in the family. Her husband Burt is an archivist with the Florida State University Special Collections Department. So - you now have my personal recommendation to give her a try, and the next time somebody asks me if a book should be repaired, I'll have an entirely different answer.

One more note: Issue #22 of the Gold Edition was delivered Monday evening, December 5 - Bob Schilling's Part II of "Secular Profits in Conservative Christian Books." Contact me if you didn't receive it, and another copy will be forwarded ASAP.

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