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Friday, 16 September 2011


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I recall being taught how to do this in grade one or two (end of the 60s). It was a brand new school with a bunch of brand new books in the library.

I wonder if they still teach such a thing in schools today?

Thanks for the interesting –and practical– post. I love learning tidbits of trade nomenclature like this.

Very useful - never knew that!
Here's something else which I highly recommend: always turn book pages from the top right hand corner and, as you turn the page, let your hand gently slide down so as to support the weight of the page as you turn it. This minimises the chance of an accidental crease or tear , particularly on large page sizes.
Some people seem to turn the page from the bottom right hand corner, keeping the page pinched there as they turn. Sooner or later that way will damage a page.
This description applies to going forward through a book using your right hand to turn pages. If you are going back through the book, use the same method with the left hand picking up the top left hand corner of the page.

Mike, this is fantastically valuable information.

It's also the kind of thing never seen on other photo sites, and a great example of why I read yours regularly.

I don't know where I first read this but the way I open a new book is to place it spine down on a flat surface and then to open the front and back covers and then a few pages at time alternating front and back pressing them down until the centre of the book is reached.

I too was taught this in grade school (but more likely in fourth or fifth grade), but the method taught to us was the one described by Phil Cook. I've always done this with new books, and many have survived 50+ years without compromised spines.

That's exactly what my mom taught me to do with a new book when I was a kid. And it works.

Phil Cook said it best. This technique "works" on all books including paperbacks and in my household is called Libraries 101 - the very first thing taught freshman students at college. No book enters the house until this is done, and when purchasing a new book, I always look for on deeper in the stack that has not been improperly "browsed into" by other customers. A few pages to me means 2 - 5 and pressing means very gently pressing and swiping down from top of page to bottom of page.

This might be a relevant posting after which to ask: How best to care for a good photo book?

Should the book always be returned to the shelf in an upright position (as though it were coming in for a landing)?
Or can it be shelved horizontally?

Should I try to buy dust covers for those photobooks having paper covers?
Where do you get those things anyway?

Is there anything that can be done to prevent deterioration of paper?
That happens very rarely with good printing, but I once had a favorite photo book get a lot of brown spots and discoloration. That stuff makes my hands itch, so I had to get rid of the book.

Good to know, and just in time for my initial inspection of Ernst Haas' "Color Correction" printed by Steidl which arrived today. The book is very beautiful and worthy of careful treatment. Thanks to you Mike for the advice, I wish I had learned it earlier.

Thanks for this! And here I always thought it was:

"You put your right hand in,
You put your right hand out,
You put your right hand in,
And you shake it all about"

Well, I tried to show this process to a friend of mine on his Kindle and now the thing won't work. Probably it's all cocked and shaken?

The "shaken hinges" phenomenon occurs most commonly with photo books whose designers (and it seems to be all of them) use a flat piece of coverboard on the spine. That practically guarantees shaken or torn hinges not far down the road.

I think they do it because a flat spine can become part of the design-space, which they see as a plus, despite the ruin it sets the binding up for. The fact that photo (and art) books are printed on coated paper just makes things worse because the block of pages are heavy and large. (Think of the typical coffee-table book.)

A book spine without the flat piece of cardboard can curve, deform, and flex as you open the book, thereby absorbing some of the strain. A stiff spine simply transfers that strain directly to the hinges, shortening their life. This process is worsened when the designer puts an image on the endpapers. That means the endpaper (which is also the hinge paper) will be coated stock, and that kind of paper has lowered flex strength and resistance to tearing.

Altogether, the designers of photo books (inadvertently) do a great job of shortening their books' lifetimes.

Practical suggestion: buy paperback editions of the book, especially if the page block is sewn, and then open and carefully flatten the pages when the book is new — as several people above have noted This flexes the spine glue while is young, helping it to last longer than if it's allowed to harden unopened and unflexed.

Very helpful information.

As a follow-up, I was taught that you should warm the spine of a paperback book before you open it for the first time . (Vigorously rubbing the spine with the palm of the hand will do it.) Once the glue loosens a bit, open the book with the methods described for the hardback books. This will help prevent the glue from cracking over long term use.

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