A Few of My Favorite Things
By Renee Magriel Roberts
Despite the frustrations of engaging in bookselling, I do love the business. I'm able to find pleasure not only in the successful searching, prepping and selling of the fascinating and the not-so-interesting, but oddly in the small things -- the things that work well, improve the quality of the service we provide, and just make things go easier. In the spirit of sharing, I'd like to tell you about my favorite things (things being technologies high and low, people, services and such). This is not a scientific survey; I'm sure you will have your own favorites, and if you'd like to email me, I will put together another article soon with more suggestions.
One highly useful low-tech item is the German Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser for paper and film, made in Nürnberg. This little white marvel, readily available in most large office supply stores or in specialty architectural supply stores, erases the ubiquitous pencil markings in books without destroying the integrity of the paper. A nice, circular rub and the pencil is gone, except for those marks which are gouged, and which only a conservationist could eliminate. The erasers do not tug at the paper, and they don't shed into little gummy balls. I destroyed more than one free front endpaper before discovering them. At $2.65 for a 4-pack, these erasers make a wonderful (and economical) gift for the book collector and bookseller in your life.
In a similar vein, working with dust jackets would not be the same without several items from Brodart (www.brodart.com), besides the well-known archival-quality mylar covers (I use both the Just-A-Fold III Archival Quality rolls in sizes from 9" to 18", and the Fold-On Archival Quality book covers, also in varying size rolls). Brodart not only has top quality material (not necessarily the least expensive), but the brains to offer a slew of free how-to guides on their site which can be readily downloaded whether you are a customer or not. I particularly recommend "Archival Preservation," "Applying Book Jacket Covers," and "Book Repair".
Unless you deal exclusively with new books -- and few of us do -- who can compete with Amazon? -- you are going to have to engage in at least simple repairs. The dust jacket, when there is one, is usually the neediest of the book parts; at the minimum it might have unwanted stickers, like the kind the friends of the libraries use when they're selling books at a sale, or just plain dirt from being handed around. Brodart sells two of my favorite chemicals: E-Z Sticker Removal which comes in what seems an endless 8 oz. plastic bottle for $4.25 and Magic Book Cleaner, 16 oz. for $13.60, which removes dirt from book covers. Both of these last a long, long time.