Book abuse confessions

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsToday’s topic is for all the page benders, cover creasers, dog earers, and even the “books as a drink coaster” people. It’s time for the book abusers to come clean and confess their destructive natures. I’ll start first by outing my family. My mother, bless her, is pure evil to paperbacks. She’ll be engrossed in a novel and the front cover will slowly get rolled around behind. It obliterates the spine,and after one reading the pages are nearly unglued, and the book will never fully shut.

I’m pretty darn careful with my books. I abhor loose pages and creased covers. The most damage I do to a book is that I tend to fray the edges of the covers. Mostly due to my sweaty Sasquatch hands, but that’s not my fault. I simply refuse to read with tweezers. So how do you abuse your books? Maybe you have a particular story of book abuse you’d like to share?

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. I abhor book abuse, of any and all kinds. The first thing I do when I purchase a new paperback (trade or mass market), is cover it with clear plastic laminate (Duck brand of course) to protect it. I even posted a ‘howto’ video at youtube to spread the good news about protecting paperbacks.

    For my hardcovers, I used to have my mom, who worked at the local library, cover the dust jackets just like you would for the library shelf (minus the strapping tape). But she retired last month, so now I’m going to have to learn how to do my own dust jacket protecting.

  2. Jon, I do the same thing with my dust jackets, only I use Brodarts. My husband introduced me to them about 12 years ago, and we’ve slowly but surely been getting our entire library sheathed in plastic.

    Oddly enough, it doesn’t look like a public library in our house. The covers are sufficiently nonreflective that it just looks like a well-cared for library.

    Sorry, Justin, here we are supposed to be talking about abusing books, and all we’re doing is talking about how obsessive we are about protecting our books! I will confess that if I’m reading a thick paperback, I will deliberately break the spine at predetermined intervals (say, every 100 pages). They definitely look read after that — though read by someone who is extremely tidy about it!

  3. The only books I have ever abused are piano music books, especially if they are not spiral bound. In order to get them to lay flat on the piano, I had to break the spines. And I was guilty of bending the page corners, because a book mark just slips right out when the plane is almost vertical. Later in life (several decades worth), I remembered to keep post notes or some other kind of re-adhesive sticky note to mark my place (or favorites) in a music book.

    For anyone interested in ‘how to’ protect paperbacks (and I’ve done it for music books as well): Protecting Paperbacks playlist

  4. My paperbacks sometimes get a little warpy because I hold them one-handed at the bottom. I need a hand for the coffee! :) And I admit, I’m not to the point of covering my books in plastic. I stand in admiration of you guys!

    The worst damage that’s been done to my books, though, has been by my dog. This doesn’t happen anymore — I’ve gotten really good at keeping them out of reach and she’s calmed down anyway — but when I first adopted her, I learned that a Rottweiler can seriously maim a book.

  5. I am really critical about how I read books and I don’t lend comfortably to anyone even family. If someone wants to read one of my books I will most likely tell them where they can buy there own copy or end up buying them a copy to read. Dog ear, spine creasers, cover folder backers people drive me crazy! Really horrible incident happened to me about a year ago when I bought my sister a copy of A Game of Thrones from a book sale (Now Granted the book was discounted) but I stopped by her house like a week later and seen LITERALLY half the book laying on her dining room table! When I asked her about it she said, “I really hate lugging big books around with me so, I ripped it in half.” My mouth hit the floor for like 10 minutes. Then I proceeded to tell her that I was never buying her a book again. Thankfully, I have recently talked her into buying a Kindle. Please people… STOP book abuse!

  6. @Kelly: Love Rottweilers (I’ve got two). Thankfully, they haven’t acquired a taste for paper books, just paper towels.

  7. Michelle in Colorado /

    I admit to cracking the spine of books, other wise it is hard to open the book enough to read some times. I also dog ear books.

  8. Maria Powers /

    Hello, my name is Maria and I am a book abuser. I read in the tub and have dropped a couple in. Sure, they dry, but they are never the same. I write notes in the margin and highlight ’em, too. I’ve been known to throw them across the room when they disappoint. I frequently leave them open upside down to save my place rather than use a book mark. In fact, you know how involved in a story I have been by the food marks, rips, notes in the margins, highlights and the permanently slightly open nature of any book. This may be why my Nook, which I am learning to love, is just not the same.

  9. Jon, Terry, and Travis,
    I was going to ‘fess up, but now I’m scared… perhaps I will log out and do it anonymously.

  10. Oh, and I’ve gotten coffee on books more than I care to admit!

  11. anonymous /

    I write book reviews, so when I want to remember something but I’ve forgotten my notebook and pen and I’m comfy and too lazy to get up, I dogear the page. I even do it to library books.

    I hate myself for this. I should be scalped, shot, and then have my library card taken away.

  12. SandyG265 /

    I try to be pretty carefull with my books. But one time I loaned my sister-in-law a book. After a while I asked for the book back because I wanted to read it but I could never get it back from her. I fainally asked my brother and he found the book. Turned out she’d dropped it into the tub and never even bothered to try and dry it off. Of course it was out of print and it took me a long time to find another copy.

  13. I know that last “anonymous” was you KAT! You think you will trick us with your reverse psychology… Go ahead dogear that library book, see what happens we’ve got our eyes on you ! MUAHHHHAHAHAHAAHA!!!! Just kidding….

  14. LOL! Well, then, I’ll confess that I have occasionally dogeared too. I’ve mostly stopped — in part because at this point I have so many FanLit bookmarks that there are usually at least 4 of them on any given flat surface in the house. I am set for life in the bookmark department.

  15. I don’t abuse books.I hold them carefully, I don’t open them to wide and I don’t make any kind of marks in them. After just one reading, most of my books look completely new (really, really thick paperbacks usually show some wear, it can’t be helped, but damn if I won’t to everything I can to stop it). That being said, my books abuse me. They make me stay up late instead of going to bed, they distract me from studies and work and they keep me from exercising (which of course make my audiobooks less evil but even harder to get away from). Plus when I lend books to family and friends the books look at me accusingly when they get back and are… well abused I guess. It just feels better to read a book that feels new and has been treated with respect -even if the book doesn’t always return the favor!

  16. I kind of prefer a book that’s been well-loved, myself. I draw the line at food stuck to it — that’s just gross — but I’m less intimidated by a gently used book than a pristine new one. Show me a book with a few white lines on the spine or a couple of dog-eared pages, and that’s a book I won’t feel like I need to read while wearing a hazmat suit (to protect the book from me, not the other way around) and using the tweezers Justin mentioned.

    I think that’s also why I like ARCs — I know they’re fragile and not as sturdy as a regular book, so if I accidentally damage it, I don’t feel as guilty because I figured it would look worn after one read anyway.

  17. I generally am nice to my books, but not obsessive. I remove the dust covers on hardbacks to keep them looking nice. I do read paperbacks one handed which can cause some wear and spines rarely make it more than 1-2 reads before some creasing appears. “Normal” wear and tear but no abuse.

    I did loan some of my paper backs to a friend once. A week later, I saw him walking down the hall with it stuffed in his back pocket. Just about killed him. Never loan books to people until you see how they treat their own. I found out later that he also was both a page folder and a marker – he marked his place on the page when he quit with whatever was handy – pen, pencil, highlighter, whatever. Argh!

  18. I take pride in my ‘read’ books looking pristine. If I loan them out I also issue the warning “break the spine of the book, and I’ll be forced to break yours”. Brutal, but it works.

  19. page folders and Dog ears I can forgive….you take a pen to a book and justice should be swift and unmerciful upon you.

  20. I used to dog-ear pages and lay books face-down, but I’ve trained myself to be better. I use bookmarks now or I carry sticky flags which come off with no damage to the book. I have gotten coffee stains on books.

    Justin, you are just wrong! Books exist to be interacted with! Underlining a passage you love, or making a margin note is totally justified. I love buying used books with marks or marginalia–weird, I know, but it’s like three-way telepathy; you, the author and another reader, communing over the same work. If you can’t face it, the splurge for two copies (which I have done for some books, like John Crowley’s luminous The Translator) one first edition hardcover to be sheltered and protected, and one remaindered hardcover to lovingly underline.

  21. Marion you use such nice words to describe your desecration.

  22. Justin ;) thanks for noticing!

  23. This feels like confession day for all so in gnna fess up. I’m one of the worst abusers. I tend to be a hazard on paperbacks. i not only roll the cover page on paperbacks but the entire pages so you end up with a concave book that can stand sideways. The covers are so rolled up that the lamination peels off and i keep picking on the lamination that at some point i peel it off.

    I do all sort of things while reading : Paint, cook, write with liquid pens, feed stray cats :P and even water my mom’s roses. This tends to get all sorts of stains on my books, good thing i buy them at book bazaars, the older and rumplier the better. I sometimes highlight or tear the page tip instead of dogearing i confess that i even used do that to my college text books at first, so now i buy them in soft copy and then print so i can abuse to my heart’s content.

  24. Hilarious story about your sister, Travis.

    Travis, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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