Sunday, April 02, 2006

Q&A: Book dummies for book smarties

Q: What is a “book dummy” and when should I use one?

A: A book dummy is an imitation book that you use on a shelf in place of a book you have pulled from the shelf. It helps keep the same pressure between books that was there before you removed the book, and it helps keep the shelf neat. In libraries, book dummies are sometimes used to show visitors that a book has been moved and where to find it, such as when a book is in use in a display or put aside for a group.

You should use a book dummy if you collect books or are otherwise concerned about maintaining the value of your books. In addition, you should use one if your shelves of books are part of the d├ęcor of your home or office, or if you entertain frequently in the room where you shelve your books. Unkempt shelves look sloppy and can be bad for book covers, bindings, and pages.

Book dummies are easy to make, or you can buy them from book suppliers.

How to do your own:

  • Option 1: Buy used books to serve as book dummies. Books from garage sales work well as long as they aren’t moldy – you don’t want mold to spread to your other books! Buy several different sizes to mimic the size of books on your shelves.
  • Option 2: Make one from sturdy cardboard, Styrofoam block, and tape. It should be the size and thickness of the standard book on your shelves. To make it look like a real book, buy a hardcover book at a garage or yard sale, remove the covers and binding, and bind them to your Styrofoam block.
  • Option 3: You can also simply use a block of wood the size and thickness of a book, or a block of Styrofoam, although these aren’t as aesthetically pleasing to the eye and will likely detract from the look of your book collection.

Where to buy:


Note: A “book dummy” is also a term used in the book business for a mockup of a new book. A designer will layout the book and its design in a “dummy”, much as an art director will do for a magazine issue. Don’t be surprised if you do a search for one kind of book dummy and find the other.

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