The Mass Market Paperback Lover's Guide To Packing Old Books


To the serious book lover, a well-read paperback is like an old soldier; bruised and battered, but still willing to serve. Although they don't get the respect of their more "literary" cousins, mass market paperbacks can be just as valuable to their owners as a rare first edition.

If it's time to pack up your old, printed friends for moving or storage, there are a few things you need to do. Old paperbacks do not line up neatly. They have grubby pages, slouching spines, and flimsy covers. It takes a little TLC to get them where they're going.

Preparing your collection

Before you begin packing, check each book for bookmarks, sticky notes, paperclips or other things that might have been tucked inside. Straighten any dog ears or bent covers.

Clean each volume with a dry cloth. Wipe from the binding toward the open edge of the book. You want to get rid of any dust, debris, or insects that might be caught in the pages.

What to use

Mass market books are usually printed on cheap, high acid paper. They weren't designed to last for centuries, so there's no need for expensive archival materials. Here are the basics.

  • White tissue paper. This is the sort of paper found in gift boxes. Colored paper can transfer dyes to your books. Don't use newspaper, as it is also highly acidic.
  • Plastic bags. While packing books in plastic isn't required, it can help keep them safe from moisture and pests. Use polyethylene or polyurethane bags, not recycled grocery bags. Those are made to degrade in landfills, and may damage your books. Zipper topped bags made for food storage are generally safe for storing books.
  • Bubble wrap or packing peanuts. Use these to fill any open spaces in the box. That keeps your books from sliding around in transit.
  • Sturdy, small cardboard boxes. One paperback is light. A box of paperbacks is heavy. Smaller boxes help keep the weight under control. If you use boxes from a grocery store, avoid the ones with wax or plastic inside; they can damage your books.
  • Packing tape. Get the kind that is at least two inches wide; this makes a stronger seal.

How to pack

  • Make an inventory. At some point, you'll want to read something.
  • If you stack your books, turn every other one 180 degrees to keep the stack from leaning. Paperbacks that have been read many times are often thicker on the open edge than at the binding. Books can also be safely packed on edge, with the spine down. Take care not to let anything press on the open edge.
  • Use sheets of tissue paper to keep the covers from rubbing together. This will prevent damage to the artwork.
  • If you use zipper bags, press out any excess air and make sure the bag is sealed.
  • When the box is full, fill any open spaces with packing peanuts and pad the top. This keeps the books from shifting and protects the box against being crushed. Seal the top and bottom flaps with packing tape to keep out moisture and pests.

For more packing information, talk to a company like Bekins Van Lines Inc.


10 August 2015

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