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How to Protect Paperback Books

While paperbacks were never intended to be as durable as hardback books, you can extend their lifespans with paperback book covers. 

Why not just get the hardback version? For one thing, paperbacks are much cheaper, and covering them with contact paper can preserve them without breaking the budget. A library could save money by opting for paperbacks. Or a reader might feel attached to a particular paperback and want to keep it looking nice. 

Whatever the case, learning how to protect paperback books is an excellent way to save money and prevent waste.

What Is a Paperback Book?

Also called softcover books, paperbacks are made by using glue to bind the pages to a flexible cardboard cover. They tend to be smaller than hardcovers. 

Paperbacks are portable and inexpensive, which is why they are often sold in places travelers frequent, such as airports. While some paperbacks are cheaper versions of hardcover books, others are made specifically for the medium. These might be sensational romance or adventure stories commonly called dime novels.

How Protecting Paperbacks Books Works

Before deciding how to cover a paperback book, think about why you’re covering it. If your goal is long-term preservation for archival purposes, you’ll need different materials and techniques than if you just want to extend the book’s life by a year or two. 

Learning how to cover books with contact paper means carefully matching cover material and type with the right book.

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. 

5 Steps for Protecting Paperback Books

The techniques for how to protect paperback books vary depending on your choice of materials and the cover type, but the process generally includes five steps.

Step 1: Decide on the Type of Book Cover Material

The three typical book cover materials serve different purposes.


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

At Print Bind Ship, We Can Create Books for You

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?

You can protect books from damage by applying a protective cover, whether adhesive or reusable. These covers can extend your books’ lifespans significantly.

Should I cover my paperback book with plastic?

Yes, but it depends on the type of plastic and the purpose of the book. Vinyl can’t be used for long-term archival purposes because it can emit acids over time, but polyester and polypropylene are acid-free and won’t harm books.

How do you keep a paperback book from turning yellow?

Keep books out of direct sunlight in moderate humidity in a space with good airflow. Don’t use acidic materials for covers, and always handle books carefully.