Manga Answerman - How Can I Preserve My Aging Manga Collection?

by Deb Aoki,

Hey Deb, I have a very expansive manga collection and lately when I browse through some of my older volumes, I've noticed the pages are starting to yellow - in many cases it's much worse than I thought. I've bagged up some of my rarer volumes in the hopes of staving this off, but do you have any tips for preserving manga - particularly a collection with over 500 volumes - over a long period of time?

Well, you've discovered what comic and book collectors have known for a while – that books age, and their pages will eventually decay over time. If you want to keep your manga pristine and readable for quite a while, you will need to take some preventive measures.

Why do the pages turn yellow? It helps to understand what paper is, and how it's affected by air and light. Paper is usually made out of plant fibers, such as cotton, linen, or wood. Paper made of wood fibers is cheaper than cotton fiber paper (and most books are printed on paper that is mostly wood fiber-based), but is largely comprised of two compounds: cellulose and lignin. Lignin in particular is especially susceptible to color changes and degradation when it's exposed to light and oxygen over time.

Newsprint paper has more lignin, so it turns yellow/brown relatively quickly. Books are printed on higher quality paper than newspapers or those telephone book-sized weekly manga magazines, but unless it is 100% acid-free paper (paper made with cotton fibers, or wood fibers that have been treated to remove lignin and/or neutralize the natural acids in wood fiber), it too will eventually turn yellow and degrade if it's left exposed to light, excessive heat, and/or oxygen.

One way comics collectors protect their books is by shielding them from oxygen / oxidizing in acid-free plastic sleeves or bags, and in archival boxes, that are also acid-free.

Make sure to keep your books in a cool place, and avoid rooms (like basements) that have a lot of humidity. Humidity can lead to mold or infestation of book-destroying insects like silverfish, or just that overall musty smell that old books can get. If you live in a humid climate, consider investing in a dehumidifier or using moisture absorbing products like silica gel or DampRid. Beware of storing books in plastic boxes or bags if humidity is high, as the plastic can retain moisture, which can create an environment where mold and mildew can set in.

Don't store your books in rooms/climates that are too dry, as humidity levels lower than 40% will make paper brittle over time too. Good air circulation will help prevent humidity, mold, and dust from accumulating. Also avoid rooms that have temperature fluctuations, like extreme heat or cold, such as attics or garages.

It's also important to keep your books away from direct sunlight, which will fade/discolor both the covers and interior pages fairly quickly.

If possible, store your books upright on a bookshelf, if possible, and not too tightly jammed together. Use bookends to keep books upright, not leaning at an angle, because that would warp and weaken the binding. If you store them flat in a box, put the largest, heaviest books on the bottom.

Avoid storing your books that are already starting to yellow away from your newer books and books you especially want to preserve. The yellowing means that those books are “off-gassing” and that will contribute to the yellowing of other books. (Kind of like how the gasses emitted by bananas and avocados help them ripen faster when they're kept in a paper bag.)

With a little TLC, your manga will hopefully last for years to come! If you need more tips for storing and preserving your books, check out these recommendations from the peeps who have to preserve thousands of old and new books, the Library of Congress ( .

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Deb Aoki was the founding editor for Manga, and now writes about manga for Anime News Network and Publishers Weekly. She is also a comics creator/illustrator, and has been a life-long reader of manga (even before it was readily available in English). You can follow her on Twitter at @debaoki.

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