Life Log

I Have to Confess: I Am a Spine cracker

There are people who treat the book-as-a-physical-artifact, who love the physical object. I have a bit of that in me, I can’t ever bring myself to annotate or write on printed books. I think that came from all those years of not being allowed to in school.

But other than that, for me a book is no more than a container for the words that I want to get at. So for me, readability is the most important part of a book.

So when I sit down to read a book, the first thing I do is audibly crack the spine of it so that the damn thing lays flat when I sit it on a surface and am reading it. When the pages try to spring up and interrupt my flow, I shove my thumb down the crease and flatten the book out.

When I used to browse the used books in stores, I would actually gravitate toward books with five or six visible cracks in the spine: there, that was a book that would stay the hell put!

Dog ears are particularly welcome. This tells me where I stopped.

My personal love is for paperbacks. I love the form most of all. It lends itself well to a voracious reader like me. It’s easy to crack the spine. It’s small and portable, will even fit into the pants pocket of a pair of baggy jeans. It’s cheap, so I can read lots of them. More of them would fit on my shelf. It doesn’t have an annoying cover sleeve that falls off, or gets in the way.
I love books. But I love them for what is in them, not the book itself.

I guess that’s why it wasn’t too hard for me to switch to reading a good percentage of my books on screen.

19 thoughts on “I Have to Confess: I Am a Spine cracker”

  1. I’m looking at the new Kindle with extreme interest because, you know, its like taking the book store with you. You download a book using cell towers (no need for wifi). And the prices are comparable to paperback. And your library (of downloaded stuff) will fit in your backpack.
    Downside: You can’t loan a book, sell a used book, or buy a used book. And the books I already own – in paper form – don’t make the trip without re-buying them.
    Bottom line: I might get a Kindle, but it’ll be awhile before the paperback disappears from my house.

  2. Oh, I’m a spine-cracker and a dog-earer as well! Any random observer can tell which books are the most loved in my collection; they’re the ones with the covers falling off! But I think I need the physical act of turning the page to make reading satisfying for me…

  3. Dude…you crack spines and dogear pages but you can’t bring yourself to write in the margins? 😀
    I have the opposite hangup. I don’t like to dogear pages (leaves a permanent crease) and I sometimes worry about splitting the spine (because I want my books to last). As an academic, I’m often writing notes in the margins of non-fiction books, so that doesn’t bother me.

  4. Delynn: my most read books are also very weathered.
    Geoffrey: I didn’t say it made sense, it’s just how I roll 🙂

  5. There’s an essay in Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman that you should read if you haven’t: “Never Do That to a Book”. In fact, read the whole book!

  6. I find I’m some sort of hybrid. I’m a library paraprofessional, so I’m supposed to revere The Book. Except that I’ve historically worked in library fields where access was the foremost mission–reserves, where books are kept on short term loan so that more people can read them, and interlibrary loan, where it’s all about getting a readable copy into the patron’s hands. Archiving takes a big back seat to that.
    It has informed my personal reading choices. I tend to look for durability in books that I love (or suspect I will love) so that I can get as many readings out of them as possible. Books (and authors and genres) that I’m testing out can be acquired in less-than-ideal shape, because it’s a test. But once I suspect that I’ll want to re-read something–and once I have re-read something a bunch–I’ll go for a hardcover–and keep the crappy copy as a loaning copy. (If I love it that much, chances are good I’ll want to loan it.)
    So…. yes. I confess: I work in a library and I crack books. (I also read them in the bathtub… which is why I suspect I won’t be an instant convert to the Kindle, but I love the idea enough that I’m already planning to acquire one.)

  7. I’m like that, too. I treat my books with care, but if they get beat up, hell, that just means they were well-read.
    My biggest problem with the Kindle is I can’t test drive one. I want to check one out before I lay out the bread.
    I’ve heard rumors Apple’s going to come out with a larger format iPhone-like device that could act as a reader for books and I’d be open to that. I really can’t read books on the iPhone–just too small. (I love my iPhone, but not for that).

  8. One thing about cracking the spine though is that sometimes the pages start falling out cause of that.
    Or if the book is by Peter Hamilton even if one cracks the spine, it’ll still never lie flat because the mass of one side is so disproportionate to the mass of the other side.

  9. You… you… monster.
    Kidding, of course. I’m a dog-ear-hater, writer-inner, spine protector. I never made a habit of laying a novel flat to read it. An art book, sure, but a novel I always hold for some reason.
    To compound the irrationality, even though I will write in a book I own, I get blind furious when I find a library book that’s pre-scribbled.
    And re: King Rat @9’s observation — I once had a mass market copy of The Stand that had a well-cracked spine sitting on the back seat of my car. I rolled down the windows in a 45 zone and within 10 minutes had a cyclone of paper whirling around my head.

  10. I’m not one to dog ear pages, and I set books open side down or use bookmarks so the spine is not so much an issue. I want my books to last as long as possible.
    One thing I’ve noticed at used book stores is that racy novels have their spines broken at the naughty bits. :-0

  11. I, too, have an aversion to marking up books. I cannot read a book with marks, notes or highlighting by another person. As for cracking spines, hey I have a bad back, too. Cracked spines are just an occupational hazard for a book that’s going to be read. (grin)
    BTW, I decided against the Kindle 2 and just now did my first test run with my new Sony PRS-505. I got it with the light wedge cover so I read in the dark/dim. And loaded it with stuff from an SD card. Can’t do that with a Kindle 2.
    Dr. Phil

  12. Anything is permitted as long as you own the book.
    But, nothing drives me crazier than when some a-hole has dog-eared or spinal broken a LIBRARY book.
    (All that should go without saying, but……)
    Libraries help me keep my jones for books.
    Use your local library and respect its contents!
    Rick York

  13. That is wrong, so wrong. I love to keep my books pristine, if you can’t tell I’ve read it, I’ve done it right! My friends all know if they borrow a book from me (I have over 1,000 sf books) they may not crack the spine if they can at all help it.
    You may crack the spines in your books but I will not lend you one of my books. I’m sure you are okay with that.

  14. I broke myself of the dog-ear habit and now use scraps of paper to keep my place. However, breaking the spine is the first thing I do with a book when it needs it. You have to do it first so it’s don’t right, and not haphazard. Also, for the record, I’ve reread Lord of the Rings so many times I’m on my second paperback set, and I’m on my third 1984. These days, though, I’m happy to have the time to get through a book once. But yeah, I’m not thinking about resale when I buy my books. And I also look at the quality of the binding and paper before I buy a books (some of them, the individual books, are crappy, and just selecting the next book back on the rack gets you a better quality product).

  15. Rick: yeah, for the record, I’m delicate with Library books. But that’s why I prefer cheap ppb books. I can buy them and abuse them.

  16. As I librarian I say thanks for making sure to take care of library books. I have to say though the easiest way to see what folks are actually reading on the shelves is the condition. An older book with no dogears or spine cracking is a book that might be moving on to the library booksale. One that is beaten may well get reordered. So maybe a little bit wear and tear isn’t so bad, lets know what the users are reading.

  17. You’re breaking my heart! Modern mass-market paperbacks are so poorly made (at least in the US; the Gollancz pressings in the UK are substantially better) that the glue comes undone and pieces fall out.
    It’s because of this that I buy everything I can in hardback. I love the way it feels in my hands, the way it smells, and, yes, the way it (mostly, usually) lays flat so I can read it e.g., on the couch.

  18. Ouch! I am grimacing. I was once like you, but my partner cured me of that quick. We try to keep our books as prisitine as possible and like Adrienne I don’t think we will be lending you any books to read.
    Seriously, they are your books and you can do whatever you want to them.
    Just keep writing OK?

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