Books: The Gift You Open Again and Again

Choosing and Caring for Used Books

WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Czepiel

On the topic of books and gift giving, what are some opinions of re-gifting books? Books are something that do not necessarily need to be new to be given as gifts. Some true bibliophiles on your list might readily prefer to have a vintage copy of their favorite story. The classic look of hard bound books and the smell of aged paper can be quite stimulating for some. Okay, enough about what I like. What are some rules to go by when re-gifting or giving used books.

Online Shoppers Bewary!

When shopping for used or out of print books online, even on sites as reputable as Amazon or Alibris, be certain to read carefully. The description of the book should clearly state any issues the used copy may have. Some things to watch out for are foxing, and spine twisting. These may be minimal but if not then they can severely damage the overall look of the book. Even an old book should be in good shape if given as a gift. Also, look for notes about writing in the pages. Not everyone reads a book casually. Some make copious margin notes and highlight favored lines. While this can be interesting to a fan of the work, it can also seriously diminish the value.

A Book in the Hand

If you are fortunate to live in a place with at least one good book seller the chances are they will have older books as well as like new materials. When looking for a like new book keep in mind that many of the stories published as Mass Market Paperbacks were not really made to last. These are those paperbacks we take with us everywhere because they fit so nicely in backpacks, purses and suitcases. This also means they have seen some action. Heavily creased spines, dog-eared pages, and bent covers are some of the common ailments of Mass Market Paperbacks. Check if pages seem loose or even missing.

Classic and Modern

With older books there is a magic to some gentle wear and tear. A classic hard bound novel that has aged gracefully can be a beautiful piece of nostalgia to a bibliophile. Books post the mid 1900’s though, and especially paperbacks, should probably look far less faded and dusty than their aging counterparts. There are some ways to clean up and choose better when it comes to these. Look for books with dust jackets. Even if this paper cover looks ratty and worn it has likely done its job and protected the hardcover from fading. Remove the dust jacket and viola! You have a like new book.

It’s Alive!

One last thing to be very aware of is mold! While older books do have that wonderful aroma of aging, mold is something else entirely! Even if the book seems to be in otherwise good condition check for dark black or green spots near the spine, as well as more earthy odors. Even a small amount of mold can destroy not only the book in question, but an entire collection.

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