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Document Recovery – Restoring Water Damaged Books

Museums, libraries, and schools across the United States are continually researching new and effective ways to prevent water damage to ensure the longevity of rare and precious books and documents. Rare book rooms are commonplace in many major libraries and some museums and organizations are home to the most valuable, important pieces of literary history. Places like the American Bible Society’s Rare Book and the Rare Book & Special Collections division of the Library of Congress house some of the most highly-valued first-edition books from throughout American history. It is vital for future generations that these collections are protected against water or mold damage.

Just as these rare books are important to posterity, each homeowner also keeps items they consider precious for their future family members. Things like family photo albums, family bibles and other books and documents could fall prey to water or mold damage if not properly stored or cleaned. There are things to consider when assessing the ability to salvage water damaged books as well as various methods for doing so.

The Extent of Water Damage

Water or mold damage, unfortunately can strike even the most prepared institutions. Broken plumbing pipes, natural disasters or broken ventilation systems can all lead to damaged books. Museums, libraries and schools try to understand the different types of drying techniques and how they affect certain composite materials in order to best save water damaged books when these problems happen. Water absorption depends on the age, condition, and material of the paper that has been damaged. Books published before 1840 will generally absorb much more water than currently printed books, therefore running a much higher risk of experiencing swelling or mold damage. Leather bound books of the 15 through 17 centuries can usually be restored using extremely controlled procedures. However, modern books typically use badly processed leather which makes water damage restoration nearly impossible.

Professional recovery service providers are the best at determining the precise extent of water damage your books have sustained and what drying technique is most appropriate. You can reduce the risk of permanent damage to a book collection, however, by taking a few steps immediately after the damage has been found.


Humidity is one of the main sources of book mold or water damage. It is important to keep your archives in a very cool, dry place to reduce the likelihood of mold outbreaks. If damage has already set in, open windows and doors and set up as many fans in the affected area as possible. This creates air flow in the area and reduces the amount of humidity. De-humidifiers are also a good option. Never open water-damaged books or separate individual sheets of paper as this may cause further damage that can be irreparable.

Consider Restoration Professionals

For most books, especially those of extreme importance, the salvaging and drying process should be done using a professional service. Book restoration specialists use technologies and drying techniques that are much more effective and far less damaging than basic do-it-yourself techniques. Two techniques are widely used and very effective. The desiccant air dry distribution systems lowers humidity in the drying area, allowing more of the water trapped in the book or document to evaporate. The vacuum-freeze drying system distribute pressure evenly around the drying book, reducing warp, maintaining the original look and feel of the books or documents, and ensuring that future damage does not set in.

Most attempts by individuals to dry damaged books themselves will result in warped or ruined products. By employing book restoration experts, books can be better handled and more closely be returned in nearly new conditions.

Water and mold damage can affect both prepared and unprepared institutions and home owners. Taking the time to understand how the damage has effected important materials, especially precious books, and incorporating the aid of professionals will ensure these items will be restored for future generations.

~Ben Anton, 2008

Are EBooks Taking Over Academic Print Books?

The experiences of university students now compared to university students ten years ago are very different and so far apart that some may argue how simple it has become for students to obtain information these days. Ten years ago the majority of university students did not have access to the internet at home and had spent most of their time researching at their nearest library. Academic books were only ever available at the library or at a local book shop.

These days nearly all university students in the UK have access to the internet and are able to download academic eBooks in just a matter of minutes. This then raises the all important question that the media has been concentrating on – are academic eBooks going to take over printed academic books? The debate has seen a lot of criticism of the use of eBooks and how technology has advanced so much that we can no longer live without it.

One example of how just how much technology has become a vital tool for general living is its ability to take over books. Students and academic professionals are the first to experience this change as they have access to a large number of resources, both in libraries and via the internet. Most students will begin researching for their dissertation proposal modules and essay topic via the internet, before sourcing what books they need to look though at their library.

Another popular method that students have adopted, which saves them time from taking a trip to the library, is to download eBooks at a fraction of the cost of what they would normally pay for a printed book. Academic books have now become much easier to source online, with the internet being the primary source for even the most obscure subjects. Some academic books can only be found in specific locations such as the British Library in London, however other more sought after subjects and titles are easily found on the internet, some of which are available for free.

Whilst people have made predictions as to whether the world of eBooks will actually take over print books, publishers and authors have actually proven that this may not be the case. Many publishers have opted not to take the dual path of print publishing and online publishing. Often the books that need to be transcribed onto the internet are far too complex and time consuming that some authors will not authorise this and prefer that the information is available in an exclusive medium.

With this in mind, some authors of academic books have made it their moral obligation to allow for their work to become freely available online. The aim was not to undermine print publishing, but to feel like they are doing the right thing in making it easier for students and academics to conduct their research. The idea that making eBooks free for all to use and download have people believing that print books will eventually lose sales and become obsolete. This is in fact not true.

Examples of how making free online books available for all to use has increased the sale of print books, can be seen in America. Many students have been able to read extracts or download the full version of a chosen book before deciding to go out and buy it. Studies have shown that people generally do not like to read an entire book on a screen, but they do like to have some idea of whether the book that they after is worth buying. The online resources are therefore stepping in as a kind of marketing or advertising tool for the books.

This is not the case for all publishers and authors, and only seems to be true for academic books. However, having book downloads can increase the impact of the print book and will increase the book’s reach to users. It further exposes academic authors to readers who may not have gravitated towards academic books in the past.

In conclusion, the question of whether eBooks will take over printed academic books seems highly unlikely at this stage. It is difficult for eBooks to completely replace print books altogether, but as mentioned above people prefer to get a ‘taster’ of the book rather than read the entire book online. It seems that eBooks are more useful for students and academic professionals, rather than for people looking for their favourite fiction book to read on a screen.