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Protecting Your Inventory

A Few Suggestions for New Booksellers

by Craig Stark

#118, 7 April 2008

From the Don't-You-Just-Hate-It-When-This-Happens Dept.:

At long last you sell a three-figure book that's been sitting in your inventory for who knows how long. You merrily print out a packing slip, check the description to see that it matches - and then discover to your horror that the backstrip, once vividly colored, is now faded. Or the spine is cocked. Or the wraps are torn, or the dust jacket. Or something untoward happened to it between the time you listed it and now.

You're then faced with the unpleasant task of contacting your buyer, explaining the situation and hoping that something can be worked out that won't cost you the sale. And - when you stop to think about, it's likely that it could've been easily prevented.

Even if you don't have an open shop, books can suffer on your shelves if care isn't taken to prevent it. Something as simple as dusting the tops of your text blocks once a year is a good start, as is regularly using bookends on shelves that aren't full. Also, allowing your books to stand at an angle for a significant length of time, especially heavy books, isn't at all book friendly. Spine deformation is a likely outcome, but bindings will also loosen, and the bottom edges of dust jackets will curl or even tear.

Light is another problem. Sunlight, of course, is horrible, but steady fluorescent lighting is surprisingly detrimental. If you must use it, install UV filters. Though recommended, even incandescent light should be minimized. I'll discuss this in more detail in Part III of my "Storage Solutions for Booksellers" series, but one excellent strategy for minimizing light exposure is to orient bookcases perpendicular to walls and arrange them so that narrow aisles are created between them. This blocks a substantial percentage of light coming in, and you can mount small lamps on the wall of each aisle that can be turned on and off as needed.

Not much new here: Unless you're prepared to take extraordinary care of higher-dollar books with dust jackets, applying protective polyester sleeves before putting them away is a must. I take this one step further with signed hypermodern books, which absolutely must be babied to retain their value: After applying a sleeve, I make a bubble bag for the book with my impulse sealer and leave the top open. This both protects it from getting dinged and supplies another layer of protection against light. Also, the bag is handy for holding associated signing ephemera (which might stress the hinge if placed inside the book) - and of course it can be readily sealed before boxing.

Softcover books are just as vulnerable to damage - and sometimes just as valuable. If you haven't added sleeves to these before, I'd highly recommend purchasing your polyester in rolls (with a handy pre-folded edge). It's much more economical. Since hand cutting polyester to fit can be tricky, if not downright aggravating, I'd also recommend acquiring a rotary cutter (see images below). It's exceptionally fast, easy to use, and accurate. Here's a short tutorial.

Rough cut the polyester:

Insert the front cover under the pre-folded flap. With the book laying open, line up the back edge of the book parallel to the bar on the bed of the rotary cutter and, allowing for the opposite flap, make a cut.

Next fold the edge of the polyester to create a second flap. Make sure to crease it sharply. A bone folder is good for this purpose.

If the book is thin, you can simply turn it 90-degrees, line up the top edge of the book with the bar, and make another cut.

Finally, remove the book from the sleeve, measure its length, and cut the remaining edge of the sleeve to fit.


For more protection, you can over-cut the length an inch or so, cut a slit to line up with the spine, and fold over the bottom edge of the cover as well.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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