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    Built to Last: Archival Quality Books

    When you set out to preserve your personal or family history there are a lot of ways to do it. Technology has provided a lot of tools that seem attractive: audio CDs, video on DVD, and numerous internet photo storage sites. But the Library of Congress warns that books remain the best method of preservation. Dag Spicer, curator of the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley advises, “…consider paper the archival medium.”

    In creating an archival quality book there are a number of things to consider to insure its longevity. Make sure that as you decide on a printer you review the features of the book they will produce for you.

    Courtesy of Jemimus under Creative Commons

    • If you want a book to last you will want a hard cover. The cover must have a protective covering such as a dust jacket, plasticized ImageWrap or custom leather. Any of these will protect the book against they oils on hands that handle it. Those oils are an important cause of deterioration of books.
    • Make sure that the binding process used to assemble your book is of high quality. Over-sewing or sewing through the fold are considered superior to double fan adhesive binding.
    • Your book should be printed on the highest quality paper to retain the ink well. The paper must also be of great enough weight that is opaque enough for two-sided printing of images.
    • Make sure that your printer provides four-color printing throughout the book. This is the technique used by commercial printers to print full-color images, such as color photographs. This is especially important if you have many images you want to preserve.

    The Hardcover Binders International is a trade group that advises printers on the highest standards in quality, longevity and durability in hardcover books. You might want to ask any printer about their adherence to HBI standards.

    If you are having a small number of copies of your book printed for distribution to family and friends you should also make sure that your printer will retain your files and guarantee that future prints of the book will be identical to the original print run.

    If you need a large number of copies of your book or are seeking to distribute it commercially the cost of some of these features can become prohibitive. It is possible to reduce cost with lesser weight paper and paperback covers. Several printers offer online stores through which copies of your book may be purchased. If cost is an issue, you may want to have family or friends purchase copies through the printer.

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    Reader Comments (2)

    I agree completely that books remain the best method of preservation! CDs, DVDs and Internet sites SEEM attractive, but they really are not our best friends when it comes to passing on stories and info for future generations. Technology changes so fast that we've already lost so much due to inability to access old audio and video tapes, floppy disks, etc. The only technology we need to read books printed on paper is OUR EYES!

    Jan 15, 2012 at 4:56PM | Unregistered CommenterLinda Thomas

    Absolutely, Linda. As Dag Spicer, curator of the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley told the NY Times, "If Moses had gotten the Ten Commandments on a floppy disk, it would never have made it to today."
    Biff Barnes

    Jan 15, 2012 at 5:53PM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

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