People like to think that even the trashy romance from the 1960s that’s falling out of the binding and has first 6 pages are missing will still go to “good home” rather than being recycled as paper pulp. Old books all go off to the book retirement home and frolic in a meadow with the ghost of Beatrix Potter. There may be singing involved.
Booksellers know better. Most books don’t improve with age, anymore than clothing does. They get spots, holes, and go out of fashion. Nobody really wants that book on a fad diet from the 70s. Most books have only a limited period of desirability before no one wants them and are destined for recycling. Not every book is a winner.
But sometimes even the losers go on to a second act as art. People love books and love seeing them incorporated into other things. So books that are damaged but still have some charm might get to be turned into new treasures.
Rebound with new pages as a sketchbook:
From: Jaime Rose
From Biblio Bags
To decorate boxes
From Hocus Focus
As a base for prints
Turned into a sculpture
A carved relief sculpture
Or most delightfully, as a case for an e-reader.
I’ve also had a recent run at the store on “books as props”. They need a specific size or color book for a film or stage show as part of the background and I can generally provide something that fits the specs from the things that are otherwise destined for recycling.
The vast majority of old and damaged books will still eventually end up recycled, but they may get one last hurrah.