How to Collect Books Without Breaking the Bank

Editor’s note: this article was sponsored by AbeBooks.com.

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Not that there’s anything wrong with you just the way you are, but there are plenty of resolutions you could make for 2014. You could write more, you could drink less, you could even drink less while writing. And if you’re the type that likes to kill two birds with one stone, this guide to affordable book collecting can help you read more and be more responsible with your spending.

1. Why should you collect books?

Many are apprehensive for what the rise of eBooks means for the future of print. Fortunately, modern print books are experiencing a renaissance, focusing innovative design and craftsmanship; classic print books will continue to exist as cherished artifacts from earlier times. Beyond industry trends and historical relevance, print books are also markers of our own lives, showing us what we’ve read (and hauled from one apartment to the next) over the years. Plus, a collection is also an investment — you might not have the Bay Psalm Book on your hands, but that Harry Potter box set might one day fetch a nice price. Plus, what else are you going to put on your bookshelf?

2. Which books should you collect?

Think about the books you love.

Find a small focus, like your favorite children’s books, hardcovers from a beloved novelist, a compendium of a genre or movement (k-mart realism, for instance) or a series from a small press you admire. Choosing a specific theme will help you know what to look for and help you spend your money wisely.

3. What makes a book special?

Beyond personal value, some books can have qualities that make them especially distinct and worthy of your collection. Signed copies are an obvious start — and more reason to go to readings. First or rare editions and limited print runs are also something to look out for, as are interesting inscriptions or marginalia from the author.

4. Where can you buy the books?

If you’re looking for contemporary books, head to your local indie bookseller. Bookfairs are an excellent resource — and a great way to spend an afternoon — because they feature some incredible editions and knowledgeable collectors, but many of the books may be out of your price range. If you don’t mind sifting through junk, dropping by flea markets and estate sales can be an opportunity discover a diamond in the rough. And, if you have something specific in mind, you can always find a good deal on the internet.

4. How can you tell if it’s in good condition?

If you’re looking at a book in-person, the quality should be readily apparent. Does it have a dust jacket? Are the corners dented or is the spine cracked? Are there stains or dog-eared pages? Any sort of damage will decrease the value of the book, but that could work to your frugal needs.

If you’re ok with imperfections, finding a book with a few flaws can help bring it into your price range.

You can also order facsimile dust jackets online.

Booksellers have their own lexicon though, and this glossary can help you speak their language.

5. How do you know if the price is right?

Do your research, and see if your copy is priced in the range of other copies (don’t forget to take condition into account). Most importantly, consider your budget and whether it’s worth your investment.

6. How do you take care your books?

When you’re not reading your new acquisitions, you need to preserve them. The first thing is to get a good bookshelf — stacking your books on the floor like a bohemian just won’t do. A bookshelf with a glass door provides added protection from dust, but an Ikea bookshelf should suffice. Place your bookshelf in a cool and not-too-dry area, and keep your books out of direct sunlight. For particularly special books you may want some additional protection. The video below shows you how to make a mylar cover for your book dust jacket:

For more tips, resources, and a vast collection of collectible books, visit AbeBooks.com.

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