There's good news for book lovers. From now on, books are going to last longer, thanks to science.

Chemists, it seems, have invented a new way to manufacture acid-free paper, making it no more expensive for publishers than the acidic paper now used in three-fourths of U.S. books.Before 1850, acid-free paper was the only kind available for books, but its high cost limited the size of their market. The development of low-grade, machine-made paper helped bring books to more readers, but its high acid content made them disintegrate faster. In today's research libraries, it is not unusual to find volumes from Benjamin Franklin's era that have held up better than those printed a century later.

Several major publishers, including Doubleday, Random House and Simon & Schuster, now plan to use only acid-free paper for the first printings of hard-cover books. As a result, Scripps Howard News Service reports, their new releases should last 300 years or more.

Just how many of the new books will deserve to be remembered that long is, of course, another matter.