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As the popularity of electronic books and ebook readers are on the rise, there are many readers who still love the feel of a physical book, and regard their personal collection as an indispensable manifestation of their tastes, personality, and individual history. No matter whether they are collecting fine antiques, cheap paperbacks, or the latest bestsellers, book-lovers want the best for their personal library. The bookcase is required. Although different book care challenges may present themselves depending on a collector's geographical location, climate, available storage space, and budget, there are several commonsense principles that anyone can follow to keep their collection in fine condition.
The Importance of Bookshelves
The purpose of bookshelves is not merely an aesthetic one. While books on a shelf or in a bookcase always look great, furnishing a touch of class to any room, the books themselves are also being stored in the way best suited to their preservation. Such books are in fact resting most comfortably in mutually-supportive ranks. This vertical bookshelf storage is the ideal for normal-sized books as it avoids the common deformities that come from storing books on their side. What many people do not realize is that books should not be simply stuffed or crammed into shelves in an attempt to fit in as many as possible, but that some care must also be taken in how they are actually arranged on the shelf.
Books should be placed in the center of a shelf, depth-wise, for two reasons. Firstly, space in front of a row of books protects the books spines from damage from passersby or movable furniture such as office chairs. But even more important -- and certainly less widely known -- is the act of leaving space behind a row of books. This is done simply by not pushing them all the way back against the wall of the bookcase. This gap is crucial because it allows air to circulate behind the books. This circulation greatly helps prevent water condensation that can lead to the growth of mold and mildew -- the number one enemies of books.
For rare or valuable books, bookshelves with glass doors are the best solution to maintain a dust free exterior. Mylar sleeves, such as those used in public libraries, are a good choice for protecting valuable or collectible dust jackets. For basic shelving methods, a periodic dusting is recommended -- particularly to blow the dust from the top page edge of books, as this is where foxing occurs most often.
Care should also be taken to ensure that books are not packed too tightly together on the shelf, and that they do not lean on one another at an angle. A straight up-and-down vertical placement in rows in which books may easily be slid out from between their neighbors (not pried out with a grunt and a wiggle) will place the least stress on the book over time. The opposite of the too-tight approach must also be avoided. Big gaps between books or between the books and the shelf wall causes books to lean against one another at an angle that warps the pages and spine, causing unattractive deformities. This can easily be avoided with the use of bookends or any other object heavy enough to keep the books aligned properly in vertical ranks.