Book Habits

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question makes me incredibly happy:

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

If there’s anything I enjoy more than perusing the pages of a book, it’s talking about books, and my rather increasingly anal book habits.

I hate to bring Freud into all this, but when I was younger, I used to toss books around, fold pages (I didn’t believe in bookmarks), bend spines – it makes me shudder to think of how my much suffering I caused those poor paperbacks. That’s probably why I’m so obsessive compulsive about my books nowadays. I still don’t believe in bookmarks, but I do use train tickets and receipts – sometimes post-its – instead of dog-earing. After purchasing a book, I will cover it in clear contact before reading it. Yellowed and torn pages don’t bother me so much, but I detest a bent spine.

Strangely though, this is only the case with new, undamaged books. Once a spine has been broken, it’s no longer sacred, so I have no scruples about bending the cover. I’m also guilty of mistreating the occasional library book. But I’m not so obsessive compulsive that watching other readers damage their books causes me to flinch.  I don’t endorse such depravity (sorry, I’m prone to occasional bouts of melodrama and/or gross exaggeration), but I don’t really give two cents about what other people do to their own books.

EDIT: I think another reason why I’m careful with my books is because I never, ever buy hardcovers; I prefer the feel of paperbacks in my hands. But paperbacks tend to get worn over time anyway, so I like to keep them in pristine condition for as long as possible


16 thoughts on “Book Habits

  1. I don’t care what other do either, but I don’t want anyone messing with mine. Because of the plastic wrapping, you sound like a library person to me.

  2. “Once a spine has been broken, it’s no longer sacred.”

    I concur! Books should be treated with care and gentleness, like cradling a baby in one’s crook.

  3. I used to treat my books awful, too. Underlining, creasing them, tossing them about. I’m much nicer to them now, and even have some in those protective plastic covers (but not all). I can’t stand cracked spines, and won’t dog-ear pages of my own books, but often do it to library ones. Guilty!

  4. I try to keep the insides as clean as possible (random diet coke spills not withstanding) and I treat books that don’t belong to me, including library books, much better than I treat my own.

  5. Sunny – yes, there is still hope! I think I first began to pay attention to my treatment of books when all my favourites started to fall apart

    Sally – actually the books at the local library are in horrible condition! I groan every time I visit – a lot of the books, especially the hardbacks, are uncovered

    Heather – hm, he would probably say something insanely Freudian and far-fetched, but let’s keep the discussion to books :)

  6. Matthew – on second thought, though, a lot of my older books are damaged babies but I don’t love them any less for it. I just try to keep the newer ones in pristine condition

    Jeane – cracked spines are undoubtedly the worse of all! They look so ugh on the bookshelf

    Mary Beth – hahah! It’s probably disrespectful of me to treat library books as less sacred than my own, but it’s so easy to bend spines back and so on when it’s already been done by 10 000 people before you!

  7. I agree about library books with broken spines. I like the convenience (and price) of paperbacks, but I prefer the look of hardbacks on my shelves.

  8. gautami – so do I! But I wouldn’t want to put any more books through such misery, so that’s why I like to try and keep my books in good condition for as long as I can!

  9. Secretly, I occasionally like to check out an old, battered paperback from the library. Even though I keep my own books nice and neat, I don’t mind reading those that have been “well used” by others!

  10. Becca – me too, but I found it surprising to see how many people respect library books more than their own. For me, if a book already has a cracked spine I’m not really going to bother holding it so it won’t bend.

  11. To your comment on my blog, creased and torn pages are major problem at my public library, where some patrons have no sense of care and consideration. Some books, especially the DIY ones, are plagued by pencil marks.

    Try to have a ruler handy when you wrap books with contact. Spread and smooth the contact with the ruler to avoid bubbles. :)

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