Quite a while ago, I blogged about how to find used books to fill your personal library on a budget. But used books have a major drawback compared to new books: they’re used. Well, yes, of course, but that means they may be in less than perfect state. They can be scratched, missing a few pages, have a damaged cover.
Fortunately, minor defects are rather easy to fix with a little creativity and surprisingly little material.
Let’s consider scratches first. The typical (modern) hardcover book has a cover made of cardboard, covered by some type of printed paper, on which is printed the title and design, often covered with a laminated film (a thin transparent plastic of some sort) that protects the paper from scratches. Of course, if the laminated film is scratch resistant, it’s not bullet-proof. Therefore, you end up with a used scratched book.
The thing with scratches, is that they show the white paper underneath. If the cover is of a dark color, the scratch is conspicuous. My trick to hide the scratch isn’t very sophisticated but it’s effective: a box of color ultra-fine felt-tip pens (Staedler has some interesting boxes). The larger the box the better as you will be able to match more of the book’s colors. Of course, you won’t be able to match the original printers’ colors, but it’s better to have a slightly different shade of indigo than an ugly white scratch.
If the area around the scratch is still covered by the film, you can draw in the scratch and move ink around with your finger to get a uniform spread and soak excess with a tissue. If you need to mix colors, wait until the first layer of ink dries completely; the ink will take its final color.
Soft- and hardcover books can also be grooved, for lack of a better word, for example, like this (from Brian Arnold’s blog). You know, just like you write on a notepad and press too hard with your pen. The grooves cannot be undone completely, but you can press them back into place from the inside out using a soft, round, pointy object like a knitting needle, or a real embossing tool.
The worst is a hole in the cover. That happens once in a while; some people think books are disposable objects and treat them accordingly—even booksellers. So you have book that comes into your hands like this:
After much careful stretching and unfolding, replacing tears in the right order (or layers, if you will), you can use a piece of strong paper as a base and glue everything in place with paper glue. Obviously, some damage is permanent, but you may be able to conceal most of it (and prevent further damage):
There are damages that cannot be repaired with a bit of paper glue and a sharp box of color pens, a long nose, for example to cloth-bound or leather-bound books. That, like me, you’ll have to go to a professional bookbinder.