Friday, March 11, 2016

The Bear's Den Info Files: The Rise, Fall and New Arising of the Counter-Earth Counter-Culture: The Gorean Saga

What? I haven't been back since 2012??? That can't be!!

I'm going to post another installment in "The Bear's Den Info Files" because the question came to me: "Why are the Gor books so expensive to get?"

 (putting on the professorial researcher hat)

 The same question occurred to me some time ago so I had to do some digging. According to my research:

 In 1966, SF/Fantasy heavyweight Ballantine Books published "Tarnsman of Gor" by John Norman. The first novel in the Gor series introduced a kidnapped and displaced Terran; Tarl Cabot, and the world of Gor -- a world always on the opposite side of the sun from Earth -- a world of slaves and beautiful women, of human domination by the alien, secret Priest-Kings.

The early Gor books were moderate successes sales-wise but as the series progressed, the reading public as a whole started shying away from the obviously misogynistic content.However, it seems that DAW had a contract to print/publish them, so they compromised by doing smaller print runs. All of a sudden their die-hard fans held onto the few that were available and over the last decade a few more readers jumped on the bandwagon - especially among a 'counter-culture' following that has grown enough to create the demand for what is now (as of 2013) a 33-volume series:
Gorean Saga
1. Tarnsman of Gor (1966)                               2.  Outlaw of Gor  (1967)
3.  Priest-Kings of Gor  (1968)                           4.  Nomads of Gor (1969)
5.  Assassin of Gor (1970)                                6. Raiders of Gor  (1971)
7.  Captive of Gor (1972)                                  8. Hunters of Gor (1974)
9.  Marauders of Gor (1975)                            10. Tribesmen of Gor (1976)
11. Slave Girl of Gor (1977)                             12. Beasts of Gor (1978)
13. Explorers of Gor (1979)                             14. Fighting Slave of Gor (1980)
15. Rogue of Gor (1981)                                 16. Guardsman of Gor (1981)
17. Savages of Gor (1982)                              18. Blood Brothers of Gor (1982)
19. Kajira Of Gor (1983)                                 20. Players of Gor (1984)
21. Mercenaries of Gor (1985)                        22. Dancer of Gor (1985)
23. Renegades of Gor (1986)                          24. Vagabonds of Gor (1987)
25. Magicians of Gor (1988)                            26. Witness of Gor (2007)
27. Prize of Gor (2008)                                   28. Kur of Gor (2009)
29. Swordsmen of Gor (2010)                         30. Mariners of Gor (2011)
31. Conspirators of Gor (2012)                        32. Smugglers of Gor (2012)
33. Rebels of Gor (2013)

 So now there are fewer copies available, but wanted by a few more collectors- but not enough to encourage a lot of reprint runs. So getting them in VG+ or better condition becomes a pricey proposition. I got soo lucky when I purchased one guys' collection; he had some of the later Gor books in VG+ condition. He either didn't know what he had or didn't care. (And I think his wife wanted them gone after the birth of their wee daughter. No foolin')

End of lesson, pop quiz tomorrow...

Bonus Question; Are the volume 2 copies I picked up in a recycle bin of any value?  Given they were larger runs I'm guessing not. The two I have were volume 2 but two different covers. ( A later printing run of the early titles sported cover art by Boris Vallejo)
 Bonus Marks for a good Question, but...Because they'd already gone through a few reprint runs as DAW tried to boost sales (before they gave up) they'd only have any real value if they were in primo condition - and even then, maybe ~$10. Sorry. a #1 (Tarnsman of Gor, 1966) 1st/1st in primo condition could go for $75, mostly because it is the 1st, intro's the whole shebang etc

 As it happens I have about half of the series available in individual volumes of the harder-to-find original editions. These have been appraised by several paperback collector sources as VHTF (Very Hard To Find), and, in this condition, valued at around triple the listed price. My price is lower because I landed it at a lower price, so we all come ahead.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Setting Up For a Convention? Other Market?

Let me preface this by saying that I've attended every year of our local convention Keycon. That is coming up on 30 years in May 2013. I've also attended a fair number of conventions outside of Winnipeg, and they were of varying size, anywhere from a modest 200 people to a staggering 4000+. So the Dealer's Rooms, where various merchants hope to sell their various wares, were of varying size and variety. As suits the convention's demographics of course.

In the last 3 years, I've not only helped set up and run the Dealer's Room at Keycon, I've also set up a table for myself to sell some used books.

So over the course of a long life of reading, collecting, buying, selling,  and trading books, I have a few observations I'd like to pass on to anyone interested:

What size is the Dealer's Room? How many tables can you devote to booksellers? It's tough to get the 'right mix' of merch. Fans want a variety: books, costuming, games, collectibles, comics, jewellery, anime/manga now a big item. A chainmail artist? An 'armourer'?
If you only have room for 20-25 tables, and 4 tables are already new and used books...and if you have 2 or more New booksellers thinking of setting up, do you take them? Let them compete directly against each other, possibly to the detriment of both? And 2 used booksellers? The potential is there for up to a third of your available table space filled with books. And have the Convention Chairs (your bosses) set a limit ie only 1 table per vendor, or only 2 vendors of the same type allowed?

And then you have 4 jewellers asking for space, and 3 costumers, and your small press publishers selling their own books, and an artist or two wanting to sell directly rather than put a few pieces in the Art Show and maybe go to auction...I've certainly seen any number of fans ignore the book sellers entirely - they are looking for this costume piece or that bit of jewellery, this game/accessory or that collectible action figure. But that's what you get with a con; a mix of fans with a mix of particular interests looking for a mix of merchandise. Which can lead to a mixed up Dealer's room organizer. (Been there, still doing that)

Your major New books vendor will usually want 2 tables. And what about your used book dealers - they'll also want 2 tables - books need a lot of room if you want to display a reasonable selection to browse through.

Are the book vendors planning ahead and stocking up on the Author GoH works?  I for one, spend as much time as I can gathering used books by the Author Guest(s) so I can have them for sale at the 'con.  And I announce ahead of time through my sources that I am doing so, and if anyone wants a specific book(s), let me know and I'll try to find them. That way the fan gets his book(s) for the autograph line, and I get some for my own use. After they get signed, I can adjust the online listing and bump the price, hoping that the 'signed' aspect makes the sale.

Of course, the NEW book vendor in the Dealer Room might think of this as competition. But if he is only ordering in a few copies of the author's available works (are they in the warehouse or other stores, can he get them shipped in on time, is he anticipating enough sales from these titles - is the author 'hot' right now- to justify the extra costs, etc), hmmm...

I am considering, as a used book vendor, having a chat with the manager of the store who sets up their table for the convention about this.

We've been fortunate here in Winnipeg; our author GoHs have almost without fail made a point of getting through the Dealers room, knowing that the dealers manning the tables might not be able to leave the table to hit the autograph line. And as a used book vendor, I for one am so grateful for the authors to sign my stock of their books. It gives an edge to add that to my online listing that just might make the sale.

And there is also a question that arises lately: are fans reading?
And WHAT are they reading? SF fans are tech gadget crazy, and you just need to look at the proliferation of smart phones and tablets and all to realize this. And e-book readers. You can fit darn near an entire library on one. In general, ebook sales have been hitting the sales of paper books rather heavily.
Well, fans here do read. I've seen the autograph lines and they are usually well attended. Book sales in the dealer room for the GoH's works is usually reasonable; some want the latest release to get signed, some show up at the used book vendor "hey what do you have to get signed and then read?" or " I need a copy of (X), do you have one?"

 So, if you've researched your upcoming venue, know your target market, and plan ahead, you can make it work.
But a flea market? Whoa, that's a toughie. A flea market is usually considered to be a multi-family yard sale. Every stall having a wide variety of this, that, and everything..
So if you're a specialty or niche seller, with only one or two product types to move, is it the right venue for you?
I scoped out the flea market I'm in for the month of June. There are a few niche sellers. An anime dealer. A record collector. A comics collectibles dealer. An incense dealer.
Now, the incense dealer also sells a few VHS and DVD movies, and a few accessories for proper use of your incense (or, ahem, other products of the flammable/inhalable variety)
A lot of the vendors had a corner of their stall set aside for used books. Hmmm. Looking at the books I saw that for the most part they were yard sale refugees. Old, battered (with a few exceptions). High in production easy to find anywhere. And usually a tad overpriced.
So I am the only dedicated book vendor there this month. My books are SF/Fantasy, complete trilogies and longer sets, older editions and such. Signed copies, Advance Reading Copies and other more collectible editions.
So I took a chance, a tryout period. At just after the midway point, having finished 3 of the 5 weekends we agreed upon, I'm still about $125 in sales short of breaking even on the month's rental. But I've also interested a lot of people in my book hunting service, and in fact have already filled an order for a new customer who came back the next weekend to collect his book and pay me. (He asked about the book, I told him I'd have it next week. I had it in my storage locker already, but I didn't tell him that - gotta keep the Bear's mystique and reputation flourishing)

We'll see how the last 2 wknds go. The last weekend is our Canada Day long weekend, and on Sunday July 1st there is a HUGE Canada Day street party/festival just down the street a few blocks. We're expecting a lot of foot traffic.
I won't be back in July, however. I'm moving into a new apartment at the beginning of the month and I'll be kinda busy setting up, trying to keep a proper pace that I don't overstress my still-injured and still- recovering feet.

Now, this is NOT to say that a specialty/niche seller can't make it in a flea market setting. BUT, I think it needs some time to set up your clientele base; advertise, get the word out, and as your target clientele gets to know where you are, they should start coming to you. As long as you can hang in long enough to get that ball rolling, you should be able to enjoy modest success.
Again, thanks for sitting in for a spell.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Starsea Invaders Trilogy by G. Harry Stine PB

Here's a go at the weekly Ecrater Stores Network  Weekly Theme Blog. Apparently the theme is swimming, so...

What I find enjoyable and different about this series is that unlike the huge majority of science fiction tales, it does not take place in outer space. (hey there's tune there maybe "It does not take place in outer space"). The activity is all in the oceans' depths.
So many are familiar with the concept of space being the 'final frontier', but we still have our world covered 75% in water, and we've hardly explored any of it! Perhaps the Undersea Realms should be the "Next Frontier"?

So here we have our familiar humans, using our various means of surviving at depth, encountering an alien race that needs no such encumbrances as wet suts, O2 tanks, buoyancy regulators or submarines...

Combining undersea adventure, technothriller pacing and excitement, and cutting-edge science fiction, Stine has created an exciting trilogy set on 21st-century Earth.
1. First Action (1993): The crew of a new, technologically advanced submarine set out on a mission. What they encounter is an aquatic extraterrestrial species at the top of the food chain of their world, and they're omnivorous. Excitement turns to horror upon the realization that the aliens intend to become the top of Terra's food pyramid as well.
2. Second Contact (1994): Against the background of global-political turmoil, aliens are discovered below the seas, and the crew of an experimental sub sets out on an intercept course. The offworld invaders seem to come in two types: the "miners" who need Earth's technology and raw materials, and the "fishers" who feed on humans.
3. Third Encounter (1995): This is the explosive conclusion of the Starsea Invaders trilogy. Terra's naval forces must drive the marine aliens out of our oceans.

I personally enjoyed this during a stint at a beach cabin - it seemed appropriate. Of course, late in the evening while enjoying the fresh air I kept looking over at the dock to see what was making those sloshing and bumping noises...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Announcing A Major New Literary Award

Because I'm very proud to be involved on this project, I thought I'd help spread the word:

From the press release:

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – The Winnipeg Science Fiction Association Inc (WINSFA) is delighted to announce the creation of the A.E. VAN VOGT Award (The A.E.V.V.A.).


Exactly 100 years ago, on April 26, 1912, Alfred Elton Van Vogt was born on a farm in Edenburg, a Russian Mennonite community east of Gretna, Manitoba, Canada. By July 1939, he had written his first Science Fiction story and had it professionally published.. He continued to write in Winnipeg until 1944 and it was during this time that one of his major stories “SLAN” was written. By 1995 he was awarded the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) . He has been the ONLY Canadian Science Fiction Writer to be awarded this major title.
The Winnipeg Science Fiction Association (WINSFA) has taken advantage of this moment in time to create an award to honor this Manitoba born writer and his unique position as Canada’s only Grand Master and we extend our sincere gratitude to Van Vogt’s family for granting permission to honor his name & works.
This award will be called the A.E.Van Vogt Award or AEVVA.
We believe that this award, based on spotlighting the best in Canadian Science Fiction Writing over the past years, will:
  • Draw attention to Canadian Science Fiction
  • Demonstrate that Canada has been producing World class writers for some time.
  • Cause more people to talk about Science Fiction .
  • Promote better writing.
  • Discover more writers.
The actual award will consist of a presentation piece and monetary prize.
We will host the award ceremony here in Winnipeg in late Sept to continue our support of Canadian Science Fiction.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hey Book Dealers: Why Restrict Your Customer Base?

From time to time I've encountered an unusual phenomenon and it has me puzzled: A US-based dealer selling used books that refuses to ship outside of the US.

Why? I really wonder; USPS offers shipping rates that this ol' Canadian Bear is frankly envious of. I've found that it costs more to ship a typical paperback TO MYSELF than it does to send it to Miami FL. It costs even less to ship a book from Miami to my home here in Winnipeg. And now USPS advertises these nifty flat rate boxes (if it fits, it ships) with no indication of a similar system north of the border. (Aside from the very narrow restrictions on eBay's Flat Rate Box deal w/ Canada Post, and those aren't available anymore). Thanks a whole helluva lot, Canada Post!

This is also quite frustrating to me as a collector; finding that book I've been searching for forever and I can't get it for my personal library because the dealer won't ship outside the US. for example, they'll ship across Canada to Alaska or across the ocean to Hawaii, but why not into Canada?

Refusing to ship outside of the US just denies yourself a customer base that is literally right next door. If your customer is willing to pay the S&H because the total cost is still less than getting the product new and they can't find it in used shops locally, why not sell it & ship it to them? Customs really does not care about a used book or CD. And it is NOT forms-heavy! Especially when processing a shipping label thru PayPal; the customs bumf is done right then and there; it's SO easy compared to doing it at the postal outlet at the counter with grumblers waiting in line behind you!

So I wonder when I see some of these dealers who complain that they aren't getting any sales and 'how do I increase traffic and sales'. My answer? Ship any - darned - where the customer is. They might come back for more, and maybe like the old commercial "They'll tell two friends, and THEY'LL tell two friends..."

Case in point: in 2009 I had a sale to a customer in Germany and he told a friend in France. Who also bought from me. Also in 2009: A customer in England bought some hard-to-get Analog magazines from me and he bragged to a buddy who was also a collector. Said buddy turned to me and bought an even larger batch.

Me? I will ship to anywhere there is postal service. Worldwide. I get a kick out of keeping a map on Facebook showing where I've shipped to worldwide.

My only restriction? Residents of Atlantis must arrange a dry-land drop-off address - sealing a rainproof package with packing tape only goes so far...

Hey, thanks for visiting the Bear's Den, be welcome anytime...

John "The Bear" Speelman, Book Collector/Hobbyist
Jack of All Trades, Master of...well, a few...

Quantumvis cursum longum fessumque moratur sol, Sacro tandem carmine vesper adest.
No matter how the sun may linger on its long and weary journey,
at length evening comes, with its sacred song

Listings: and

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Bear's Den Info Files: Health Care For Books

Taking care of your books in the home sometimes requires a little more than just dusting them off from time to time. Here again are a few tips I've garnered over the years regarding 'Health Care'  

Use Plastic Dust Jackets

If your book has a paper dust jacket, use a plastic dust jacket protector to protect it. They can be found at almost any bookstore, are easy to put on, and will increase the value of your books. This is, in fact, my next major project to work on once I have some wee bit of finances available) However, do NOT use common transparent tape to hold them onto the book itself; Adhesive-backed cellophane tapes such as "Scotch" and "Magic Mending" tape are not generally appropriate for repairs to books which have any value. Both will cause staining and are difficult to remove without damaging the paper. Gummed paper tapes are not recommended. as the tape itself is often acidic, causing discolouration of the paper. If folding the plastic jacket into place is not secure enough for you, you can use the tape to seal the folds ON THE PLASTIC ITSELF, which will in turn hold itself in place over your cover and paper dust jacket.

How Light Damages Your Books

Exposure to the ultraviolet rays of sunlight and fluorescent light causes the rapid deterioration of paper, leather and fabrics; similar, but less severe deterioration will occur with exposure to visible light, the rays at the red end of the spectrum being less damaging than those at the blue end. The visible effects of light include: the bleaching or fading of paper; and the yellowing or browning such as rapidly occurs with newsprint. Not immediately visible is the breakdown of fibers into smaller units, causing the paper to disintegrate. Unfortunately, the reactions continue after the source of the problem is removed, although at a slower rate.

Other factors being equal, paper stored in complete darkness will last far longer than that which is subjected to light. However, as totally dark storage is not usually practical, other precautions must be taken. Books should never be stored in direct sunlight or under unshielded fluorescent tubes, place your shelves on walls at an angle to the windows or use shaded blinds. The tinted glass in many modern windows is very helpful.

Why Old Books are Stronger

Paper is an organic material composed of cellulose fibers from plants. Papers made from the Twelfth Century to the middle of the Nineteenth Century were strong and durable, as they were made by hand, generally from cotton or flax (linen) plant fibers, which are low-acid. Hand processing produced longer fibers and thicker, stronger paper. Many books and documents published prior to 1850 are still in excellent condition.

Modern paper is generally made from wood fibers which have been mechanically ground to a pulp for newsprint, and then chemically purified for books and writing papers. The fibers are very short. Alum-rosin compounds used as sizing agents generate sulfuric acid under humid conditions, further breaking down the cellulose fibers. Inexpensive modern papers, such as those used in paperback books, have an expected useful life of less than 30 years. Better quality modern papers may contain recycled cotton or linen fibers ("Rag Content"), making them more durable. Fortunately, the publishing industry has become aware the impermanency of modern papers, and quality books are now frequently printed on "acid-free" stock.

Preserve your bindings:

Use bookmarks! Don't lay a book face down to keep your place; doing so damages the spine.

Stack'em High, Stack'em Right!For the same reason, never store or shelve hardcover books on their spine or edge-down, with the spines facing upward. Because the covers extend beyond the page edges, gravity will pull on the pages and cause the spines to sag inward, and damage or, over a long period, ruin the binding.

\/ DON'T DO THIS!! \/


Umm, yeah, I've been harping on this matter a lot recently haven't I?    Heheheh Good! You know I mean it! ... What's that? ...  You see bookstores doing this?...(sigh)  Yes, they sometimes do this on their final sales table or clearance rack... they are counting on the book being sold before any damage is done.

Here is my preferred means of stacking hardcovers on the shelf: their own weight keeps them flat, the weight overall is not excessive so as to damage the bindings, and the bindings are visible for all to see the titles. It also maximizes the use of shelf space, using a volumetric approach vs. a standard linear approach. Place the side stacks  even with the front edge of the shelf, the middle stacks further back but not against the shelf backing. This distributes the weight nicely and leaves neat little gaps for you to place some soon-to-be-mentioned cloves (see below, under "Musty/Smelly Books):

And not leave out our paperbacks:

I give two big bearpaws up for this method.

In a box: Preferably, stack them flat, alternating which side the binding edge is on:

If space in the box permits, offset the binding edge so that it does not receive pressure
from the books above it: 

Get a Flower Press!:

Never use a book you want to keep to press flowers. Natural pigments and oils in the plant can stain the pages, moisture can wrinkle them, and most plants are naturally acidic, which will break down the paper fibers.


You should dust your books at least annually. Do each book individually by removing it from the shelf and holding it tightly closed, brush the dust away from the top surface and edges with a soft brush, like a drafting brush or wide camel's hair brush. Wipe the covers with a soft, dry cloth.

Musty/smelly books?

Sometimes you will buy an older book, and find it has a musty odour. I have seen a number
of recommendations about putting the book in a bag with cat litter, activated charcoal or baking soda. This can work with books made of a fairly coarse paper, but not coated paper.

Light treatment:

Fabric Softeners Can Help Musty Book Odors!: A quick way to get rid of musty odors that linger in old books is to place a fabric softener sheet inside the middle of the books. This will rid the books of odor, as well as keep odors from settling into your books.

Medium treatment:

Place the book into a paper bag with a container of baking soda (which seems to work best) and close the bag; leave it alone for about 2 weeks. According to one source, this works "about half the time." DON'T dust the pages with the baking soda, it will absorb odour AND moisture from the air and turn into a paste which is even worse to get rid of than the odour was, and physically sticking to, and damaging to the paper to boot! Yes, I once caught a friend 'in the act' of doing this, but alas, too late to prevent damage to the book he was trying to preserve.

More intensive treatment:

Libraries sometimes place such books into a fume hood with a container holding Lysol-soaked cotton balls. After leaving the fume hood on 24 hours a day for a week, they report the odour is "greatly diminished." My personal favorite is the use of "One-Drop Deodorants": Look for a small bottle of liquid deodorant (maybe 6 inches high, including a drop dispensing lid) at the drugstore or grocery store. The pet food and car product aisles are good prospects. If the instructions say to place one drop of the deodorant on/in a glass container you've found the correct product. (There are many brand names; most of the liquids I've seen are green.) It's quite effective to build a small chamber for the books by putting a cardboard box into a plastic trash bag. Then stand the books open, put one drop of the deodorant onto a glass dish in the corner of the box, and tie up the plastic bag. Check the books daily, at which time another drop of deodorant can be added. Mild smells are gone in a couple of days, and nasty problems can take a week to cure.
Even better: If you have an empty small aquarium handy, use it as your chamber (clean and very dry of course) and seal the top with cellophane wrap, just unseal the corner to add your drops and reseal the top wrap.

To prevent mildew and musty odours from your bookshelves, wrap a few whole cloves in gauze or cheesecloth, and pin in the upper back corners of your bookshelves! (DO NOT allow the cloves to touch the books, they contain a powerful oil!)

Removing Oily Stains
It is possible to remove most oily or greasy stains from book pages. You will need some paper towels, a dry cleaning pad (available at drafting supply stores and most stationers) and a soft-bristled brush. First, place paper towels between the affected pages. Close the book and weight it with another book of similar size, then leave it alone for a few hours. Discard the paper towels and examine the pages. If there are still some stains, take the dry-cleaning pad and twist and squeeze it (or even cut a corner) to sprinkle the powder inside onto the stain. Cover the stain as completely as possible and leave the book lying open for a few hours. Brush the powder away with a soft brush. For very stubborn stains, rub the powder in VERY gently with a gauze pad, and let sit overnight. Residual powder can be removed with a small hand vac. Vacuum from gutter to edge.

Removing Pencil Marks:

Don't use the ubiquitous 'pink' elementary school pencil eraser, they usually smear the pencil mark and can rub it into the page even deeper. Use one of the drafting quality white vinyl erasers, available from any drafting, stationery or art supply store. Use the eraser's edge to rub in the direction of the page edge, away from the binding. When the mark is at the top corner, rub at an angle in short firm strokes towards the corner, again away from the binding. Rub carefully and firmly to erase the mark, but not so hard as to tear the paper. If the eraser's edge looks 'smudged', wipe it clean and continue as needed.

Repair Materials to Avoid

To Start With, TAPE: (See Above)


Rubber cement, frequently used to repair damaged bindings, will also cause stains, and eventually will dry out and lose adhesion. Polyvinyl acetate glues such as "Elmer's Glue" are impossible to remove without damaging the paper. These emulsions are also usually acidic, and will discolour and deteriorate paper over time.
The majority of commercially available pastes are acidic in nature, due to the addition of alum as a drying agent; these become brittle and discoloured and will similarly damage the paper to which they are applied. Additionally, as most pastes are water-based, they can cause cockling of the paper, and even make certain inks and colours run or bleed.Adhesive residue from store labels can cause the dust jackets on adjacent books to stick together and may result in inadvertent damage. The residue can be easily and safely removed using any number of commercially available adhesive removers. However, do NOT spray the remover or apply it directly to the dust jacket; spray/apply it onto a corner of a small, clean washcloth/towel/rag. Then use that treated corner to rub onto the residue and remove the buildup. Then use the same treated part of the cloth and rub around the entire affected area in a circular motion to finish the cleaning. Use a dry portion of the cloth to 'dry off' the whole area.

Proper Boxing of Books:
I've covered this before but it 'bears' repeating... Never use ordinary cardboard boxes to store books-they are highly acidic, and the acid will migrate from the box to your books, discolouring, ageing, and degrading the pages. Store them in acid-neutral boxes, available from conservation suppliers. As an alternative, line the inside of your cardboard box with a decent heavy plastic. I use the clear plastic recycling bags, large size, and when the box is loaded I fold/close up the top before putting the lid on. Of course, my 'specials' (signed editions etc) I already keep individually in poly bags, so they are adequately protected even if I need to place them in an unlined cardboard box:


Friday, April 27, 2012

The Bear's Den Info Files: Packing And Storing Books

When space in the Bear's Den gets a little tight and I don't have room for a few essentials (bed, fridge, recliner chair....oh, and oxygen) I need to pack some of my beloved books away and get them into storage. Over the years I've collected a few tips on safely packing books.

Packing and storing books safely is primarily a matter of good housekeeping and handling. The kinds of damage commonly suffered by books in storage – due to mould, insects and poor packing – are largely preventable. These guidelines outline an effective preventative approach to the problems of book storage. Yes, there may be some additional costs involved but any savvy shopper can fit a budget and adjust their preparations to suit. And aren't your treasured books worth the extra effort?

Preparing books for packing

It is important that books are clean and dry before they are packed. Books that feel damp or have a musty odour should be aired and dried in a well ventilated room. Surface dirt and dust should be removed with a soft brush, outdoors if possible, using a disposable face mask. Seriously mouldy books should be treated by a conservator, as mould can cause serious damage to books, and there are health risks associated with inhaling mould spores.

Insects can do considerable damage to paper-based material in storage, and books should be carefully checked for evidence of infestation. Unhatched insect eggs resemble black poppy seeds and are often hidden in the gutters between the pages. Remove these with a soft brush and discard them before packing the books.

I will further address these and other maintenance issues in another post.

Leather-bound books packed side-by-side can stick together if subjected to sufficient moisture. As a precaution, they should be wrapped in a good-quality archival or 100 per cent rag paper, or at least separated by a sheet of same.

Leather bindings that are degraded and powdery will stain other items and should also be wrapped in archival paper.

Try not to use  ordinary cardboard boxes to store books … they are highly acidic, and the acid will migrate from the box to your books, discolouring, ageing, and degrading the pages. Store them in acid-neutral boxes, available from conservation suppliers. As an alternative, line the inside of your cardboard box with a decent heavy plastic. I use the clear plastic recycling bags, large size, and when the box is loaded I fold/close up the top before putting the lid on. Of course, my 'specials' (signed editions etc) I already keep individually in poly bags, so they are adequately protected if I need to place them in an unlined cardboard box.


Reminder: Paper is heavy! Storage boxes should not be too big. It is better to use several smaller boxes rather than one large unwieldy box which is difficult to move safely, and in which books risk being damaged. Boxes should be closed for storage. I myself use the standard copy paper boxes; to me they are the perfect size - they can be filled up without becoming too heavy. Their size allows 4 rows of paperbacks, standing up, about 10 books per row (depending on the thickness of the books, of course) and then on top you can lay 6 more paperbacks, flat.  The same size copy paper boxes can hold about 20 or so hardcovers.
and, they have a lid. They stack very well.

They can of course be placed in the box as they would stand on the shelf. Books stored upright should be packed securely enough to prevent them leaning at an angle – which can twist or damage the binding - but not crammed together in a way that subjects them to excessive pressure and makes unpacking difficult. This can easily also damage the dustjackets. Hardcovers stored upright should not have items stacked on top of them. Don't jam them in too tightly, alternating which side the binding is on.  (see below)
Preferably, stack them flat, alternating which side the binding edge is on:


If space in the box permits, offset the binding edge so that it does not receive pressure from the books above it: 

Small or medium-sized books can be packed either lying flat or standing upright. Large heavy books should be stored lying flat. Where heavy books are packed flat, one on top of the other, they should be arranged with spines and fore-edges alternating:
Never store hardcover books on their spine or edge-down, with the spines facing upward. Because the covers extend beyond the page edges, gravity will pull on the pages and cause the spines to sag inward, and damage or, over a long period, ruin the binding:


 Pack larger, heavier books at the bottom of the box, with smaller, lighter ones on top. Do not over-pack so that books are crushed. Allow space for air to circulate.
Reminder: Paper is heavy! Storage boxes should not be too big. It is better to use several smaller boxes rather than one large unwieldy box which is difficult to move safely, and in which books risk being damaged. Boxes should be closed for storage.

Controlling The Storage Environment

The storage area must be dry, with a stable environment. Stored material should not be subjected to extremes in temperature and relative humidity. This is why attics, garages, basements and outhouses (Eewwww! Ick!) are unsuitable for book storage.
Avoid attics or basements unless you have extraordinary climate control installed. High temperature and high humidity enable the acidic reactions which contribute to paper deterioration. Do not place boxes directly on the floor. They should be stored on palettes or planks or blocks to aid air circulation and as a precaution in case of flooding. Do not stack them against exterior walls, as moisture can be transferred and absorbed from outside. Any building maintenance issues affecting the storage space should be dealt with quickly and effectively. The key here is to allow some air circulation around all sides of the stacks.

Storing books at lower temperatures can significantly extend their lifespan; one authority states that the lifespan of paper materials is almost doubled at each 10-degree (F) reduction in temperature. A constant storage temperature of 68 degrees (F) is considered ideal, but the constancy is as important as the temperature. Wide fluctuations in temperature can be extremely damaging.

Humidity also must be controlled; humidity below 40% can cause paper to become dry and brittle, whereas more than 60% humidity can soften paper and increase acidic decay. 50% humidity is deemed acceptable by preservationists; again, it is as important to avoid variation as it is to avoid extremes. Humidity levels in an enclosed storage area can be maintained with a small air conditioning unit, a dehumidifier and/or a humidifier.

The most common causes of damage to stored books are mould and insects, due to damp and unmonitored storage conditions. Moisture causes mould spores to germinate and bloom and encourages insect eggs to hatch. If the storage area, containers and the books themselves are dry, there is little likelihood of mould growth. The storage area should also be monitored for the presence of insects. Insecticides and mothballs are not recommended, as they can have harmful effects on human health as well as on stored material. Placing the typical enclosed insect baited traps in a corner away from the stacks should suffice, but please remember to handle them with care.

With all that in mind, I've found that many commercial storage locker facilities offer protected and reasonably environment-controlled lockers that are quite suitable for storing your books and other treasures. The temperature and humidity are kept fairly constant, the floors are clean, and the space you rent is YOURS to modify: if you need to place palettes or planks to raise the boxes off the floor, you can do so. Install metal frame shelves? Certainly.

So, I hope this has not been too dry - or too moist, remember the environment control ;) - and will help you extend your enjoyment of your books for a long happy time.

Thanks for sitting in, feel free to drop some change in the empty honey jar by the door

John "The Bear" Speelman,
 Book Collector/Hobbyist
Jack of All Trades, Master of...well, a few...

Quantumvis cursum longum fessumque moratur sol, Sacro tandem carmine vesper adest.
No matter how the sun may linger on its long and weary journey,
at length evening comes, with its sacred song

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