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"How do you tell if a book is starting to tone?"

Jake writes:

Hello, I was wondering if you know how to tell if a book is starting to tone, or if the type and color of the paper used just makes it appear so. I have seen new books that appear to be different shades of white and I am not sure how to tell the difference. Will older copies (10-20 years) eventually change colors as well?


John replies:

Hi Jake.

Publishers' papers vary greatly from bright white to cream. Most US editions are now printed on cream colored acid free paper.

Quality improvements have greatly improved toning problems. However, most books will tone over time. Exposure to the elements will make this happen more quickly.

Occasionally, a title will tone really fast, so that no copies can be found without significant toning. One such book is Treasure by Clive Cussler. It can only be attributed to an inferior paper being used. Other examples can be found.

Until recently, UK editions toned more rapidly than the US editions of the same title. This, again, must be attributed to the paper used.

Toning usually starts on the edges of the page block and moves into the book from there, so that the discoloration is uneven. If the pages are the same color from the edges into the book, you are probably observing the color of the paper, and not toning.

I hope this helps,


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