How to Protect Paperback Books: 6 Key Tips

Paperback books are convenient, portable, and often more affordable than their hardcover counterparts. However, their flexible covers and easily bendable pages make them more vulnerable to wear and tear over time.

If you have a treasured paperback that you want to keep in good condition for years to come, then learning how to properly care for it is important. With some simple protective measures, you can effectively preserve your paperbacks and ensure they stand the test of time.

In this guide, we’ll explore several easy methods for how to protect paperback books using materials you likely already have at home. From covering them to storing them properly on shelves, we will outline key techniques for keeping your paperbacks looking their best while still enjoying them for years of reading pleasure.

What Is a Paperback Book?

A paperback book is a type of book that is bound with a flexible cover, usually made from thick paper or cardstock. It’s in contrast to a hardcover book which has a rigid cover made from thicker and more durable materials such as cardboard or cloth.

Paperback books are known for their lightweight and portable nature, making them convenient for everyday reading and travel. They are typically smaller in size compared to hardcover books, fitting comfortably in one’s hands or a bag or purse. The flexible cover of a paperback book allows for easy handling and makes it easier to fold back the pages while reading.

One notable feature of paperback books is their affordability. They are generally cheaper to produce and purchase compared to hardcover books, making them more accessible to a wider audience. This affordability factor has contributed to the popularity of paperback books, particularly among avid readers who are constantly seeking new literary experiences without breaking the bank.

It’s important to note that while paperback books are generally more affordable and easier to handle, they may not have the same durability as hardcover books. The flexible cover is more prone to wear and tear over time, and the pages may become dog-eared or creased with repeated use. However, many readers consider these minor imperfections as signs of a well-loved and well-read book, adding a certain charm to their collection.

Tips for Protecting Paperback Books

Take a look at some of the best practices for protecting your paperback books! The tips below will help ensure you preserve your book and that it stays in mint condition for years to come!  

1. Utilize Protective Covers

Protective covers, such as plastic covers or sleeves, can help shield books from external elements, protect against water damage, and ultimately ensure they last a while. These covers offer a multitude of benefits and can significantly enhance the lifespan and condition of your books.

One of the primary advantages of utilizing plastic covers is their ability to prevent liquids from seeping into the pages of your books. Accidents happen, and having a protective cover can save your books from potential water damage caused by spills or rain. Additionally, plastic covers act as a barrier against other liquids, such as coffee or juice, ensuring that your beloved books remain pristine and unaffected.

Furthermore, protective covers are also effective in preventing the accumulation of dust on the surface and within the pages of your books. Dust particles are notorious for finding their way into every nook and cranny, and books are no exception. By using a plastic cover, you can significantly reduce the amount of dust that settles on your books, keeping them clean and allergen-free.

Lastly, plastic covers provide a layer of physical protection, safeguarding your books from everyday wear and tear. Whether it’s accidental drops, scratches, or other forms of physical damage, these covers act as a shield, minimizing the impact on the actual book and preserving its quality for years to come.

2. Handle Books With Care

Whether it’s a treasured paperback or a borrowed novel, gentle handling is crucial to maintaining the book’s condition, ensuring its longevity for future readers to enjoy.

When it comes to opening a book, one must be mindful to do so with care. Avoid forcefully pulling the pages apart, as this can lead to tearing. Instead, gently use your fingers to separate the pages or make use of a bookmark to gently pry the pages open. By doing so, you minimize the risk of damaging the book and ensure that it remains intact for repeated reading.

Another important aspect of handling books is avoiding folding the pages. Dog-earing, or folding down the corners of pages as bookmarks, may seem like a convenient shortcut, but it can result in permanent creases and damage. Instead, consider using a bookmark or a sticky note, or invest in decorative bookmarks to signify your progress and keep the pages pristine.

Preventing spine creasing is also a key aspect of proper book handling. When settling down to read, it’s tempting to fold the book’s cover backward, causing the spine to crease. However, this habit can weaken the book’s binding over time. To avoid this, try laying the book on a flat surface or using lightweight book holders that allow for comfortable reading without unnecessary strain on the spine.

3. Choose Appropriate Reading Positions

When it comes to choosing appropriate reading positions, it’s essential to avoid positions that strain the book’s spine or cause unnecessary pressure on the pages. This not only protects the integrity of the book but also prevents any discomfort or potential damage to your body.

One recommended option for maintaining a comfortable reading position is to use bookholders or reading stands. These accessories provide a secure and stable platform for the book, allowing you to sit or lie down in a position that doesn’t put strain on your neck or wrists. Book holders come in various designs, such as adjustable stands or mountable holders, catering to different preferences and needs.

Another recommendation is elevating the reading material to eye level, which reduces the need to hunch forward or strain your neck to read. Additionally, it can enable you to keep a relaxed posture without having to hold the book for extended periods, preventing any unnecessary strain on your wrists or arms.

4. Preserve Paperback Books During Travel

Protecting books during travel is essential for avid readers who want to keep their paperbacks safe and in pristine condition. One practical measure to safeguard books on the go is to use protective bags or pouches. These specially designed bags provide additional protection against external elements such as dust, moisture, and accidental spills. They come in various sizes and materials, making it easy to find the perfect fit for different book sizes. By enclosing your books in these bags, you can ensure that they remain untouched and undamaged during your journey.

Moreover, packing books in a way that minimizes movement is crucial to preventing potential damage. When placing books in your luggage or bag, it is important to make use of any available space to limit their mobility. One effective method is to use clothing or soft items such as scarves or socks as fillers around the books. This creates a cushioning effect, reducing the risk of books being jostled or bent during transit. Additionally, arranging the books vertically rather than horizontally can help distribute the weight evenly, further safeguarding them from any potential impact.

5. Store Books in Optimal Conditions

Extreme temperatures, whether it’s too hot or too cold, can cause damage to books. High temperatures can lead to the yellowing of pages, warped covers, and even the melting of adhesive bindings. On the other hand, extreme cold can make paper brittle and prone to tearing. Therefore, it is crucial to store your books in a cool and stable environment to ensure their preservation.

Another culprit is excessive moisture in the air which can be detrimental to the well-being of your books. High humidity levels can result in mold growth, warped pages, and a musty smell. Conversely, very dry conditions can cause pages to become brittle and prone to crumbling. To prevent these issues, it is recommended to store your books in a dry area with a humidity level of around 40-50 percent.

Lastly, direct exposure to sunlight can lead to the fading of book covers and spine, as well as the yellowing and deterioration of pages. To protect your books from these harmful effects, it is best to store them away from direct sunlight in a shaded area.

6. Additional Tips On How to Protect Paperback Books

One of the simplest yet often overlooked tips is to use bookmarks instead of dog-earing the pages. Dog-earing, though convenient at the moment, can lead to creases and folds in the pages that permanently damage the book. By using bookmarks, we can easily mark our place without causing harm.

Another important suggestion is to avoid writing or highlighting directly in the book. While it might seem tempting to underline a particularly captivating sentence or make notes in the margins, it can devalue the book in the long run. Instead, consider using sticky notes or a separate notebook to jot down your thoughts or important passages. This way, you can keep the book’s pages clean and intact.

Furthermore, it can be beneficial to create a dedicated bookshelf or storage area to provide additional protection for your paperback books. This ensures that they are not exposed to unnecessary wear and tear from being tossed in random places or stacked haphazardly. Having a designated space for your books not only adds a touch of organization but also minimizes the risk of accidental damage.

Using a Book Cover to Preserve Your Paperback Books

Another key way to protect paperback books is by covering them with a book cover. This can be wrapping paper, polyester, or any type of finish to protect your book. Here are the steps to get you started. 

Step 1: Decide on the Type of Book Cover Material

Listed below are the three typical book cover materials that serve different purposes:


Vinyl is the cheapest choice, is easy to apply, and maintains paperback flexibility. However, it is not suitable for archiving. Vinyl is not stable for long-term storage, and it slowly leaks acids that will destroy the books.


For a hardback-like rigidity, polyester is the material you want. It’s also acid-free, making it an excellent choice for archiving.


Polypropylene is acid-free, like polyester, but it is soft and flexible for a maintaining paperback feel.

Libraries and book archives should choose polyester or polypropylene. If the book just needs some extra protection to survive a semester or two, vinyl will work fine.

Step 2: Measure Your Book Cover

You will need to make sure that a reusable book cover allows the book to open and close before applying the attaching tape. Typically, this is 4 inches from the ends of the book’s sides. If you have to cut to shape, leave about 2 inches at the top and bottom.

Permanent book covers always need to be cut to shape. Start by laying your book on a sheet of laminate and measuring its size. To ensure proper fit, set the book an inch from the end of the sheet and draw a line along the book’s spine. Then, flip the book over this line and draw a line 2 inches from that end.

Step 3: Cut Out Your Book Cover

As any woodworker will tell you, measure twice and cut once. Before you cut, ensure your measurements are correct. If they are, cut out your book cover along the lines you’ve made.

Step 4: Wrap Your Book

For an adhesive cover, place it carefully on your book’s cover, trim the center tabs from the spine area, and begin the adhesion process. For a nonadhesive cover, fold the overlapping material over the edges of the book.

Step 5: Attach Your Book Cover

With your adhesive book cover, start pressing the adhesive down to attach. Use a credit card or a similar hard, flat object to remove air bubbles. Trim any excess with a pair of scissors. Because a nonadhesive cover doesn’t attach this way, you’ll have to make sure you have it folded to the right length and use the attaching tape to keep it together.

And there you have it! You’ve learned how to cover books with contact paper or other materials to preserve them for as long as possible.

Reusable Book Covers vs. Permanent Book Covers

Reusable book covers do not use adhesive to attach to books. Usually, these come in preset sizes and feature attaching tape that holds them together. The tape never comes into contact with the book. Reusable covers are excellent for schools or other institutions that need to protect books but will need to update or replace them at some point.

Permanent book covers contain an adhesive that is applied right to the book’s cover. Generally, they come in sheets of contact paper that can be cut to size. They have a slow-setting adhesive that allows them to be repositioned easily. These book covers might be rigid so that the book will stand upright on shelves or flexible to maintain paperback properties.

You may want to know how to protect paperback books because your attachment to them is a bit more personal than your average dime novel. What if the book is yours? Choose Print Bind Ship when you’re ready to create books worth preserving.

We work with authors around the world, providing our print-on-demand services that allow writers to provide readers with high-quality, durable books, whether they prefer hardback or paperback. With Print Bind Ship, you don’t just learn how to protect paperback books; you get to make them, too. Contact us today to get started.


How do I protect my books from damage?

One of the best ways to prevent damage to your paperback books is by using book covers or sleeves. These protective covers not only provide a barrier against spills, dirt, and tears, but they also give your books a stylish look. Additionally, you can store your paperback books in a secure and dry location away from direct sunlight and moisture to avoid long-term damage.

Is it necessary to clean my paperback books regularly?

Yes, it is advisable to clean your paperback books regularly to maintain their longevity. Dusting your books with a soft, dry cloth or a feather duster can help remove any debris that accumulates on the covers and pages. However, be cautious not to use cleaning agents as they may damage the book’s materials or leave unwanted residue.

How can I prevent the pages of my paperback books from turning yellow?

Exposure to sunlight and certain pollutants can cause the pages of paperback books to turn yellow over time. Likewise, water damage can also ruin your book and create mildew problems. To prevent this, it is crucial to store your books in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and excessive humidity. Using acid-free book paper, which is less prone to yellowing, can also be beneficial. Moreover, avoiding food or drinks near your books and handling them with clean hands can help maintain their pristine condition.