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I ordered a print-on-demand textbook, and here is what I received:

Cover

However, when I opened it, this is what I saw:

Title Page

There are two evident problems with this book. The first, that it’s the wrong book, got taken care of quickly. They shipped me the correct book pretty quickly.

That left me with an free copy of the Virginian Woolf (with a humorously ill-matched cover). However, the books still has a second problem. As you can see from the picture, the binding is coming apart. The reason for this is that the Virginia Woolf book is slightly shorter than the quantum field theory book. Laid side by side, the pages of the Woolf are about a millimeter thinner, but they are bound in identical covers (which were obviously sized for the slightly thicker book).

I don’t want to replace the funny cover, but I am afraid that the tear between the overleaf and the cover page is going to get worse, and the book will fall apart. So what is the best approach for repairing this unusual binding, in which the spine of the binding is about a millimeter two large for the pages it contains?

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It looks like a low-budget operation using a one-size-fits-none cover stock, or they got the wrong size covers. The cover spine is too wide. As long as it's stiff, it will continue to pull on the page seams. I would try these two steps:

  1. The original glue location is visible where it came apart. Put a narrow bead of glue in the same location (Elmer's Glue should be fine). If you put down too much, spread it from the original location toward the spine and wipe off any excess (when you press it closed, you don't want glue being squeezed between the cover overlay and the front page).

    Lightly close the cover and immediately open it again to spread some of the glue to the other side. If excess glue squeezes onto where you don't want it, wipe that off with a slightly damp rag. Leave the cover open for a few minutes for the glue to mostly soak into the paper and any wiped areas to dry enough to not be sticky. Close the book, making sure the cover is aligned as it originally was. Put a little weight on top, like another heavy book, and let it dry for at least a few hours.

  2. Soften and curve the spine so it's flexible. The spine will try to pull the pages apart if it's stiff and flat. Between the spine and the covers, there's an indentation front and back. Put a heavy duty rubber band in that indentation to compress the covers against the pages. Then open the book in the middle and lay it flat, pages down.

    The spine should jut out in a curve. If it doesn't, find something rod-shaped that you can push between the spine and the pages to push the spine out into a curve (just big enough to introduce a curve, not so big that it tears the glue joint holding the pages in). Use your fingers to compress and roll the curve all along the length and from cover to cover to train it into a curved surface instead of a flat one, and to soften it a little.

    Then close the book and with the rubber band still on, hold the book spine-down, press it against a surface like a desktop, and roll it from side to side (putting pressure on the front and back corners). Compress the indented area to make the indentation and the bend between the indentation and the spine more pronounced.

    These actions will reduce the tension on the pages so the cover doesn't try to pull the pages apart.

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  • I should say, the width of the spine fits the correct contents perfectly, so it’s not a “one-size-fits-none cover stock” situation.
    – Buzz
    Aug 1 '20 at 2:19
  • @Buzz, maybe the picture is an optical illusion. It looks like the spine is way too big for the pages. If it actually isn't, ignore my commentary. Still, if the spine is stiff, it will pull on the pages when the book is open (if it is oversized, it will do that even when the book is closed). What I describe in the answer should help even if the cover isn't oversized. If you give it a try, please post back with the results.
    – fixer1234
    Aug 1 '20 at 2:32

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