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Acid-free paper

Paper with a pH value of 7.0 (neutral) or higher (alkaline). The key point however is that the paper is also free from wood-based impurities like lignin which react to heat and sunlight and cause the paper to turn yellow and become brittle.

The best alkaline paper can last up to 1,000 years. To optimize the longevity of their collections, academic libraries prefer (and may only buy) books that are acid-free. In the US most university presses only print on ISO-certified alkaline paper.

The label ‘acid-free’ is sometimes associated with green publishing but in fact most of the paper used in academic books today is acid-free and clear of any impurities; the difference is in the manufacturing process. Newspapers are printed on impure, often acidic paper that deteriorates rapidly – so, too, the kind of mass-market trade fiction often popular for summertime beach reads.

This definition is extracted (and expanded on) from the book Getting Published: A Companion for the Humanities and Social Sciences by Gerald Jackson and Marie Lenstrup. It was first referred to in the blog Getting Published.

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