How to Store Hardcover Books


As with all paper products, books succumb easily to the ravages of time. Handling, light, soiling, heat, pests and moisture are a book's natural enemies. In the wrong conditions, and surprisingly quickly, a pristine volume can become mildewed and warped or brittle and crumbling. Whether displayed on a bookcase or packed away in containers, it's important that you store your hardcover books properly to prolong their shelf life.

Things You'll Need

  • Book shelves
  • Acid-free storage containers
  • Archival bags (optional)
  • Stand hardcover books upright and grouped together comfortably with other books of the approximate same size. Avoid wedging books tightly or leaving so much space between them that they lean and become misshapen.

  • Leave enough space above books on a shelf so that your hand can reach all the way to the back.

  • Rest extremely large volumes, such as illustrated unabridged dictionaries, horizontally on their back cover with no more than one or two other books atop them. Square up the covers, so that the spine does not become slanted.

  • Keep books out of extreme heat and away from heat and light sources. Face bookshelves away from bright windows.

  • Do not expose books to moisture or high humidity. Basements, bathrooms, showers, sinks, plumbing, damp closets, concrete floors and uninsulated outside walls should all be avoided.

  • Pack hardcover books inside acid-free storage containers. Position them inside the containers as you would on a shelf, standing upright; position oversized volumes horizontally on their back covers, again lining up the spines. Set the containers off the floor and away from sunlight, moisture and pests, in an area where the temperature remains between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and the relative humidity at around 50 percent.

Tips & Warnings

  • Archival plastic bags prevent books from sticking together during long-term storage.
  • Use bookends to keep books upright in shelves and containers that are not completely full.
  • Barrister style bookcases offer greater protection than open shelving.
  • Never lay hardcover books horizontally across the tops of upright books on a shelf. An upright book should never support anything but its own weight.

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