How to fix a warped book?
August 21, 2008 12:52 AM   Subscribe

I've just laid out money on a very expensive book, and to my chagrin it arrived with its pages warped and wavy from humidity (I live in a very humid city in the southeastern US), even though it was shrinkwrapped. How should I go about fixing this?
posted by Merzbau to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hardcover or paperback? That matters, a bit. Sometimes these things just fix themselves, though.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:55 AM on August 21, 2008

Response by poster: Hardcover, with a fairly heavy paper stock (it's one of Marvel Comics' "Omnibus" reprint books).
posted by Merzbau at 12:57 AM on August 21, 2008

Can you return it?
posted by grouse at 1:10 AM on August 21, 2008

Response by poster: I ordered from Amazon, so it's still returnable; I'm just seeing if there's anything I can do to fix it myself before going through the hassle (both for me and Amazon) of sending it back.
posted by Merzbau at 1:14 AM on August 21, 2008

Those sorts of things are collectible, so perfection matters. I'd return it, and in fairness to Amazon, they do make it pretty easy.

If you do want to try to fix it and it's not already dried out, you can try to put it under tremendous weight, which may work. But the hard cover may absorb some of the pressure and make it work a little less well, which is why I asked. If the paper stock tends towards the glossy, it's much more difficult as it absorbs moisture differently and doesn't diffuse it as well - so when it dries out, it tends to do so unevenly. My father was a printer / bookseller and restored rare books, which is why I know this.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:48 AM on August 21, 2008

You can try to iron it at a very low temperature. Be careful not to burn the pages, though!
posted by Mitsuko at 2:19 AM on August 21, 2008

I used to work in a preservation unit in a library so can give you some guidance but I think you should try to get a new one.

In most cases, especially with art paper or heavy paper, it will never be quite the same again. Once you get moisture into the paper it can change the shape and size of the page.

You could put it in a book press for a week or so if you want, or do what Dee Xtrovert recommends which is rig your own press at home (betweeen two boards that are laminated so as to decrease the risk of leaving an impression on the cover, with lead bricks or other weights carefully and evenly distributed on top, 5-10kgs will do it)

I strongly recommend you return it.

Oh and ironing your books is a silly idea.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 3:09 AM on August 21, 2008

I've seen this happen with books printed in China. The publisher I work for has had three titles printed in China arrive in our warehouse with this problem. I really doubt this has to do with the humidity where you live. I think this is a production issue. We had our books reprinted when we ran into this.

This is the publisher's responsibility to fix. Return it to Amazon, but I suspect it is a problem with the whole run. Even if Amazon replaces it, in all likelihood the replacement will have the same problem.

No, don't iron it. A press might help. But I'd return it to Amazon and I would try ordering it directly from the publisher. If the replacement shows up with the problem, at least then you can deal directly with the book's producer about getting a good copy.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:17 AM on August 21, 2008

Nthing book press. I'm a librarian, for what that's worth.
posted by box at 5:02 AM on August 21, 2008

Another conservator here - also recommending returning it. Especially if the pages are glossy - these kinds of pages are usually coated with a combo of clay and gelatin, so humidifying and pressing would just leave you with a big mess.

I also strongly discourage ironing it.
posted by ikahime at 7:21 AM on August 21, 2008

Are you sure it was the humidity? Seems to me if it was shrink-wrapped, that's unlikely. There are a few printers who use a cross-grain press, And when the books are new, you may notice a wave along the front of the book. It's supposed to work itself out over time. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Most publishers avoid the cross-grain press for that reason, unless they're really trying to save money.
posted by rikschell at 8:00 AM on August 21, 2008

I'd return it. Any attempt to fix it is a waste of your time and not going to fix the problem 100%. You may even end up damaging the book more. The publisher got a bad run. It's not your fault. Get what you paid for. Return it.
posted by spakto at 10:18 AM on August 21, 2008

If you manage to damage the book more in attempts to fix it, don't be surprised if Amazon refuses to exchange it for you.
posted by grouse at 10:30 AM on August 21, 2008

If it's collectible, return it. It's worthless in the state you received it.

If you just want to read it that's another story.
posted by Justinian at 11:34 AM on August 21, 2008

Shrink wrap cannot be airtight. There have to be holes in the plastic for the air to escape from as the plastic shrinks. Humidity can then enter those holes.
posted by jamjam at 1:41 PM on August 21, 2008

Response by poster: If it's collectible, return it. It's worthless in the state you received it.

If you just want to read it that's another story.

It's for reading, but the warping is pretty bad and it's a bit annoying on a big, expensive showcase of a book.

Thanks for the feedback- it seems like returning it is my best bet. I tried drying it out overnight by leaving it propped up and open in front of a fan, but there's been no improvement.
posted by Merzbau at 1:44 PM on August 21, 2008

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