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Well loved paperback book splitting

 
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The spine of a well loved paperback book is starting to come apart at the ends of the spine.

Is there some way to reinforce the spine before it starts loosing pages?  

I was thinking duct tape, but it's not comfortable for the hands.  I want something that is pleasant to hold while reading.
 
master pollinator
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I volunteered at a local library and discovered there are people there that repair books regularly....I recommend you go and ask to speak your local library book repair person: it'll look hella better than duct tape :)
 
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When my mom used to volunteer for my school's library, she used to repair books a lot. I remember books where the pages were coming off the spine, she would get elmers glue (the all-purpose stuff is stronger than normal school glue, but both should work) and apply glue between the pages and the spine, and then put pencils on the outside of the book and rubberband the pencils to the book. This applied pressure to the binding to push it against the glue and papers so they'd stick together.

I'm thinking if the binding is rough paper, you could glue a strip of paper on top of the binding with Elmer's Glue, to reinforce the existing spine.

Or, you could also use paper tape. It should be less sticky and rough. Easier to apply, too!

I can attest that duct tape does hold books together, but it gets sticky and unpleasant. I've had a little bonded-leather bible since Jr High. I carried it to and from school from Jr High through College. As you can imagine, this did some damage to the binding! My dad first tried electrical tape. This didn't last long. Then we used Duct tape. The duct tape has held for 10+ years and since the leather was black and the duct tape was black, it wasn't too noticeable.

I can post pictures of how to do the glue + pencil + rubberband thing if you'd like!
 
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I just used "double sided duct tape" for a paperback that got doused with orange oil cleaner that disolved the glue holding the cover to the spine, it's completely unnoticeable.

It looks like regular duct tape, but instead of the "plasticy" top layer ther is a peel off layer of paper. So you are just left with the gooey, gluey webbed part.

Unfortunately, I've no idea where to get it, I bought it by accident from a clearance bin and there is no identification on it.
 
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Used bookstores use fabric glue. It has to be fabric glue because it is made to give and stretch, a requirement in the binding. If the issue can be solved with just a piece of tape, there’s bookbinders tape made for that. If you don’t want to buy something, use CLOTH adhesive tape and/or diluted white glue, applied in thin layers.

If the issue is that the cover is coming unglued, the fabric glue works. A small bottle of fabric glue can be found at fabric stores.

If you’re using glue, it’s easy to glue a paperback’s pages together so that it’s hard to read if you’re not careful. Take your time, it is not probably a five minute job. Use waxed paper to keep glue from seeping where you don’t want it. Clean up any oops glue immediately with a bbq skewer (qtips leave shreds of cotton) and maybe a scrap of thin cloth.

If you have to reinforce an area, again, there’s a product called document mending tape which is a very thin, strong, paper tape. It's also pricey. Regular white tissue paper can be used instead,if need be. Do NOT use colored tissue paper! The inks in the tissue can bleed in the glue!
 
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Double-sided tape, sometimes called D-tape, can be used, but I have never done it that way.

I am a print finisher and binderyperson by trade, which includes an unhealthy amount of bookbinding and book repair. In cases of one-off books whose spines split or that start to lose pages, we typically cut the spine off, clamp it such that the cut edges are all parallel in the book block, apply glue to the edges of the pages, ensuring that it seeps in, and apply a spine strip and folded endpapers.

The reason you want a liquid glue is so that it can seep into the pages from the binding edge before it dries. An adhesive on a material backing, really any tape used for the purpose, will stick to the edges of the cut pages, but won't penetrate enough to last; instead of being resecured with adhesive that has penetrated between 1/32" and 1/16" between the pages on the spine, those pages will be held only by their edges to the backing by the adhesive. Furthermore, as it dries, the adhesive will stick less, and as the book is used the stress will encourage pages to fall out. In this scenario, the book will start falling apart from the inside-out, losing pages from where they open, rather than from the outsides of the book block.

I like the pencils and rubberband clamp idea. Lacking a proper clamp, one can always use books on a table, the weight of the books acting to press the freshly reglued spine until it dries. I would probably use this method over pencils and rubberbands, but it would probably work just fine for some applications.

Bindery tape, which looks a lot like duct tape but is often more durable with a finer feel, is often applied to the outside of case-bound (hardcover) books to reinforce a wearing spine. Using a material like duct tape or bindery tape directly on the guts of a book, especially older ones, where the paper is losing its structural integrity, will likely just change the way the book falls apart.

Bookbinding used to be done with animal glues and flour-based paste for the cover assembly. Ideally, you want the glue you use for the spine to retain elasticity when it dries, like an animal glue, rather than becoming hard and brittle, as most pastes do.

But let us know how you decide to proceed. Restoring books is a laudable goal and worthwhile, especially if they're better than the fall-apart acid-pulp crap most stuff gets printed on nowadays. Keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
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For inquiring minds, fabric glue is indeed different than other glues. Once upon a time, I worked at a fabric store. Our drapery fabric rolls were displayed on a wall or fixture in a horizontal fashion.



We would make a permanently glued envelope shape out of fabric, to roll up onto the bolts of cloth. The result was a pretty cascade of fabric, with the envelope points all aligned. These points were repeatedly handled by customers throughout the day. Being a for-profit endeavor, we did not want to use, for this volume, expensive fabric glue. Within two days, the original test of using Elmer's glue, several came undone. When we switched to fabric glue, it took many months for them to wear out, and that, only on the most popular patterns.
 
r ranson
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I'll have to get a photo.  

It's a trade paperback that is perfect bound (so the spine inside is firmly attached to the paper cover outside).  The whole thing is splitting at the bottom of the spine where I hold it.  

I read the book about once every year or two, so it gets a lot of love.  It's made it all the way around the globe with me.  It's one of four that are perfect for travelling.  All of them are going the same way.
 
r ranson
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Here's the damage to the book I'm worried about
split-book-small.JPG
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Lorinne Anderson
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Clear packing tape is how I fixed that on several of mine. Initially down the spine, then folded excess smooth on each side. Liked it so much I ended up doing spine and both front and back covers on a bunch of my most used paperbacks.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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Oh, not the cheap stuff, the heavy duty clear packing tape! This is key, the flimsy stuff is too busy sticking to itself and not the book. The heavy stuff is also way easier to work with.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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Still retains the "worn, well loved" look!
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Nicole Alderman
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I've fixed many a well worn/half dead children's book with packaging tape and elmer's glue. I find the cellophane packaging tape works pretty well (not as well as heavy-duty normal packaging tape). With the cellophane, it's good to do two layers of it (each with the "grain" going opposite directions), to keep it from re-tearing.

If going with the packaging tape, I'd probably put glue on the spine of the papers to adhere it to the cover--I like Chris' suggestions on that. Then clamp it with the pencils and rubber bands, then pile books on top like one does when pressing flowers (Chris mentioned that, too, which jogged my memory of my mom doing the same thing).

Then, after everything has dried, I'd do a layer(s) of packaging tape. If you use the more tearable cellophane tape, I'd do at least two horizontal pieces at the bottom and top, and then a long strip all the way from the bottom to top. This will make it smoother on your hand, while still reinforcing the edges of the spine.

My parents' hazy memory of the book repair  
 
pollinator
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Another vote for clear packing tape, not the super thin cheapest sort.

Not great for books that are quite far gone, but if applied early enough makes them very tough. I buy all my books used, and if they aren't in good shape will tape before reading, using multiple layers on the spine and a single layer over the cover..
 
r ranson
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I'm not sure how comfortable I would find clear packing tape next to my skin.  I'm a slow reader so it would be many hours handling it.  I wish there was some sort of cloth tape I could put on it.

How about this tape?  
https://www.amazon.ca/inch-yards-Self-Adhesive-Cloth/dp/B01MFERK2W/
Self Adhesive Cloth Gum Tape for Book Binding

Can I just put this horizontally across the bottom of the spine where it's starting to split?  
 
Nicole Alderman
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r ranson wrote:I'm not sure how comfortable I would find clear packing tape next to my skin.  I'm a slow reader so it would be many hours handling it.  I wish there was some sort of cloth tape I could put on it.

How about this tape?  
https://www.amazon.ca/inch-yards-Self-Adhesive-Cloth/dp/B01MFERK2W/
Self Adhesive Cloth Gum Tape for Book Binding

Can I just put this horizontally across the bottom of the spine where it's starting to split?  



Hm. That tape says it is cloth. But the picture has it looking super shiny and plasticky...?

I have no idea if it would work as well by itself.. but if this is a process only needed for a few books, you could always put cloth tape over top of packing tape..
 
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Years ago the local libraries used clear, matte finish Con-Tact paper (or something like it) to cover paperbacks.  Probably better for a brand new book than a well-loved one, though.
 
r ranson
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I put some of the bookbinding cloth tape on it and it looks like it will stop the damage getting worse.  But looking at it closely, I think some glue first would have been better.
 
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