You may think that your Uncle Blogsy has nothing better to do than whine about tiny little flaws in other people’s work. Well, come to think of it, now that all the half price Easter chocolate seems to be sold out, you’re probably correct.
I really wasn’t going to mention this at all, see, because the people who read it will just worry about it and the people who ought to be doing something about it won’t read the blog. But something must be said about the way you put books into boxes.
No, I’m not going to complain about all those of you who come to the dock, see the banana boxes I’ve left for recycling, and fill them with your books so you can take your GOOD boxes home with you. I’m not going to mention that at all, at all. If I did, I might accidentally mention the bear trap I’m hiding in the stack for next time.
There is a growing trend among people who box their books to pack them spine up, so I can read the titles. It used to be just the people who were sending me their garage sale leftovers, still lined up in the box lids. But now almost everybody is getting in on the act. Some of you are very good at it, selecting books so as to create a perfect row of even spines which you can then stack other books flat over. I like to see people concerned about doing a good job, even when it’s at something utterly wrong.
See, just recently, we had a storage locker load come in, The books had been waiting in storage for a quarter of a century and the family finally decided this was a good sign they’d never be read again. They gave us the books, whereupon we discovered the books had been boxed spine up, and then the boxes stacked on top of each other.
I don’t recall whether we covered “hinge” in one of our Vocab sessions, but I know we did “endpaper”. These are the pieces of paper between the cover and the start of a hardcover book. The one attached to the cover is the “pastedown” and the next page is the “front free endpaper” (unless you have the book upside-down.) The spot where they meet—that little bend—is the “hinge”. The cover also has a “hinge”, in the same place.
And these hardcover books which had been stored spine up for twenty-five years had, every one of them, bent and broken hinges, cutting way back on their resale value. Hardcovers are not designed to hold weight for long in that spine-up position. (Paperbacks, which have covers flush with the pages, do not have the same chance to sag when held up by their covers.)
It isn’t just of Book Fair donations I’m thinking. If you’re going to be storing your Proust first editions for a long period of time, you need to consider not just the heat and humidity of the storage area. You need to consider how long the books will be in that box in the position you’ve chosen. Yes, I KNOW you’re going to clean out that locker next fall, unless it rains. I also know you were going to clean it out every spring and fall since the Carter administration.
What you want to do is try to get as many books as possible lying on their backs. No, no, Pepperoni Peeps: this is not simply the other way round from spines up. On a book, the spine is around the corner from the back. No, it isn’t supposed to make sense. The back is the back cover, the end of the book. Yes, the back is the end but not the spine. Don’t THINK about it so much, jasmine jellybean.
Now, because books and boxes are alike ornery, you can seldom fill a box securely this way. There will be empty space. Yes, you may fill in those narrow spaces with books that are spine-up, PROVIDED the flat books are stacked higher than the spine. You want the weight to rest on the flat books. Now you can put the boxes into the locker and be reasonably sure that even if you have stacked your old Selectric II typewriters on top of them, the hinges will not get broken.
Unless they’re made of leather or vellum, and old enough that the covers…look, you were going to donate all those to the Book Fair anyhow, weren’t you? Why leave them in boxes so people can fight over them on Locker Wars someday?