Sunday, August 18, 2019

Selling Books with Pulp Paper

During World War I and World War II, Grosset and Dunlap used pulp paper in its books due to paper shortages.  Cupples and Leon also used pulp paper in its books during World War II.  Other publishers such as Goldsmith, Whitman, and World Publishing Company used pulp paper in all of their books. 

Pulp paper does not age well.  I have now collected books for 28 years.  Grosset and Dunlap books from World War II with pulp paper were not in good shape 28 years ago, and I have noticed a significant decrease in condition of those books since that time.  The condition will only get worse as more time passes.

I don't know how much longer the books can even last in usable condition.  By the time the books are 100 years old, they may begin disintegrating.  Some books are already at that point.  I have seen a few Kay Tracey Cupples and Leon books with pulp paper from World War II with what I call "binding rot."  The binding looks like it is turning into compost.  Pieces fall out, and the paper detaches from the binding.  Add another 25 to 50 years, and far more of the books will have binding rot.

Selling books with pulp paper is quite problematic.  I seldom have books that I have sold returned to me due to buyer dissatisfaction, but when books are returned, they are usually returned because of pulp paper.

I try to convey to buyers in such a way that they know that the books have pulp paper.  I can do this easier on eBay, since I can use different colors of font in my listings in order to draw attention to the pulp paper.  I show a photograph of the pulp paper to try to get the point across.

On Etsy, I show a photo of the pulp paper and mention it in the description, but I cannot use a different color of font.  The way the pictures display in Etsy listings may make it less likely that buyers will view all photos and see the pulp paper.  I recently had a Nancy Drew book with pulp paper that was purchased on Etsy returned for a refund due to buyer dissatisfaction.  I decided to pull all of my Nancy Drew books with pulp paper off of Etsy.  It's just not worth the potential trouble.

The first two photos show the books that I just pulled off of Etsy.  The Message in the Hollow Oak with dust jacket seen on the right is the book that sold and was returned to me.

These next books have dust jackets and pulp paper.  They are extras that have not been listed for sale yet.

These last books are primarily books with condition issues that make them undesirable to sell individually.  The first three books in this group have pulp paper.  The rest of the books have good quality paper, although the paper looks similar to pulp paper due to the rough condition of the books.

I am going to place the books with jackets in individual listings on eBay.  The rest of the books will go in bulk lots.  For books like these, I strive to be blunt and make the books sound not that great.  Sometimes I try to make the books sound absolutely awful.  In those cases, the books are also priced really cheap.  I have never had one of my cheap bulk lots returned for a refund, so my approach seems to work well.


Amanda said...

Kind of think people should anticipate pulp paper. If you are collecting books, a cursory bit of knowledge is useful. For example, buying any book printed during a war is probably pulp. Anything that is a second printing or later is probably pulp. Anything paperback is probably pulp. And only fairly recently in printing history has archival paper for first editions been a practice. Old books will have condition issues - smell, stains, folds, tears, acidity, binding issues. Not sure why you've had so many issues selling things, but unless it is a brand new first edition, first printing book, printed on archival and acid free paper and ink without glues, it will most likely have issues.

Jennifer White said...

Many of the people collecting Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books are not like regular book collectors. People who are educated about collecting old books understand issues with paper quality. Many of the people currently buying old Nancy Drew books just liked Nancy Drew as a child, and they want to get the older editions. They aren't really book collectors. They are readers who want the original text books and end up purchasing various older editions during their quest.

I have noticed that many of them fail to do anything to educate themselves about the books before making purchases. I get really basic questions from these people all the time, and these same people end up complaining about the pulp paper. While it should be the buyer's responsibility to self-educate, I have to try to educate them since they won't do it themselves.

From this fairly recent post, the people mentioned in #6 are the ones who don't understand much about collecting since they don't even seem to know how to use Google.

I only have problems with pulp paper for the major series like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys where more people from the general public end up buying the books. I don't have problems with the less common series.

Amanda said...

Maybe if people are collecting a bigger series like Nancy Drew they don't realize (even if perhaps they should). Sounds like it is more people wanting to relive their youth and expecting perfection, not realizing used items aren't perfect. The fact more obscure series don't generally cause the same problems probably indicates more book collectors are buying them as opposed to the general public. I guess I figure anything old will have issues when I buy old books. I didn't realize so many people didn't. You want the best quality you are willing to pay for, but they will never be perfect.

Jennifer White said...

I agree. I just thought of how picky some people are about names inside books. They want to purchase books that are 50 to 100 years old, yet they do not want a name inside the book. I have never minded names in old books. The names are part of the history of the book.

Amanda from Seattle said...

seriously, you have buyers who do not want names inside books that are 50-100 years old? That just cracks me up. Good luck with that, like you --I love to see the names and dates....Love from Grandma and Grandpa 1958 or whatever....that means so much to me, the history of the book

Tai said...

I love names in old books too! Sometimes I google them to see if the person is still alive.

I've only bought one book from Etsy. The seller included a bag of potpourri as a bonus "gift" without my consent. When I opened the package, I thought I was going to faint because the odor was overwhelming. Imagine getting hit with a lilac bush. I had to leave the book outside until the odor faded because I couldn't stand it.