In the part of your day involving your physical inventory of books, you’ll come across a lot of small tears, rips, and worn cover edges. About this time, as you pick up a well worn book, you might be muttering to yourself ‘glad this is a library book because the customers won’t expect me to fix it up.’ Sometimes it makes sense not to change a book’s appearance and sell the used book in as is condition. I, personally, have no objection to the plastic wraps which libraries put over the dust jackets of books. Having removed quite a few of these plastic covers – what happens is – the original dust jackets only become ripped without that plastic cover for protection.
A few years ago, one of my local libraries gave me a good deal on a bunch of old library books. When I got the boxed books home I discovered that the first and last pages were cut out removing traces of the library’s stamps and markings. Essentially these books besides being badly outdated are all books I cannot seem to sell. The stigma of pages cut out of the book is all but unbearable for a customer. Cutting pages out of a book even if only the blank pages inside the covers is simply taboo in the book world. No one wants a book with missing pages.
On the other hand, the biggest pain of a used book seller’s normal daily routine in dealing with used books is usually found on their covers. The stickers located on the covers of used books are a bane of my existence as a used book seller. I often find myself in a quagmire over whether or not to remove these stickers. Largely this frustration is due to having trouble finding a good product at the local hardware store which will cross over to the book industry.
Two remover products which I have tried are Oops, and Goo Gone. There are good and bad points to both of these products. I had a nice bottle of Goo Gone with a spray nozzle that I used for a couple of years. For the most part, the product did its job as advertised and I finished the whole bottle in a few years’ time. It really lasted quite a while. One concern while using any remover product is that removers are liquid and you are essentially spraying or pouring liquid onto a paper book cover. The book cover could soak up the liquid and leave a large blotch permanently altering the condition of the book. Worse yet, it could soak into the pages and make a terrible whole book stain.
For the most part Goo Gone did a great job. I sprayed some of the product onto the stickers on the cover of a book, and let it soak in. Then later I would return to easily remove the stuck sticker. There were attempts made in which the Goo Gone liquid soaked into the book and left a blotch. Later I learned to put a rag under the cover to absorb any extra liquid and this often prevented any soak through. I wanted to try something a little different the next time around for a comparison with attempts to avoid the extra liquid during the sticker soak removal process.
I found Oops. This product is packaged in a giant container and the large size did not seem necessary for my purposes. Instead, I located the little sample can with the flip up soaker. This size container was good enough for a trial run of the product. Wouldn’t you know it, but my first used sticker on a paperback text, and I had damaged the title and author names printed on the binding of this paperback book. The printed text on the book’s binding rubbed half off. Even though that happened to me – I was lucky in that I plan to keep that copy of the book for my own collection. I was not completely deterred from using Oops as a sticker remover.
Oops is advertised as an office product. I don’t know the formula, but I believe it must contain some rubbing alcohol because it has an alcohol scent. The positive for the product is book covers stay in a drier state than with Goo Gone. There is less chance of the book getting wet with Oops even though Oops is also a liquid. I have removed several other stubborn stickers with the Oops product and it works fast. Often with Goo Gone, I had to leave the sticker soaking overnight before I could remove it – increasing the chances of the book cover getting wet. Both products in the right situation give stickers an easy lift off without any tearing of books or stickers. This may reflect more on the type of sticker than the products though. You have to become a good judge of sticker stuckness.
These removers are not the only solution to this sticker dilemma. I have books sitting around with half of a sticker removed and those books’ back covers look terrible. This is the reason that I hesitate to even begin the sticker removal process. You have to gauge a sticker – whether or not you are sure you can remove it. However, from a matter of principal and considering that book selling is my work, I feel obligated to dress up a book as much as I can.
I also clean my used books as well – I wipe off their covers because I don’t know where they’ve been. Any suggestions for cleaning book covers would be appreciated as an addendum to this article.