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nebule's avatar

To Break or Not To Break? The Spine...

Asked by nebule (16379 points ) December 16th, 2008

What do people think about breaking the spine of books?

I grew thinking that it was best to rbeak the spine because you could really get into the book and feel like you were reading it. I then met a (rather horrible man who i stupidly stayed with for far too long) that convinced me that breaking the spine was unheard of and sacrilege!! He said that it basically preserved the book and gave it respect….

Which up until now i’ve have gone a long with… but was in bed last night reading Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop and felt the incredible urge to BREAK that SPINE!!!

So I did!!! It felt good!!! but felt guilty and a little confused!! I feel i can now read the book without rushing through it to the end…as i have felt when not allowed to break the spine…. thoughts???

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27 Answers

juniper's avatar

I always break the spines if the books belong to me, but never if they don’t. I find it so much more satisfying to read books that have been sort of flattened, especially the large, unwieldy ones. I have to keep breaking the spine again and again, though, and some books don’t hold up well. If you don’t mind having a less-than-pristine library, break all you want!

miasmom's avatar

it is a book, definitely break the spine if you want…makes it easier to read :)

dynamicduo's avatar

Books are meant to be read. Reading usually involves breaking spines. I have more respect for a book with a torn up and destroyed spine compared to a pristine one, as I get the impression that the book has been cherished and read many times. To me, the ultimate respect of a book is to read it.

The only exception I make is if the book’s display aspects are worthwhile. For instance, I have a series of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series in this Black cover style. It sorta reminds me of the mature Harry Potter covers, minimalistic black and white art with highlights in gold, truly awesome. Considering there are a lot of books in the series, it takes up a good chunk of a shelf in my bookcase. I treat the books gently because I value having the best looking bookshelf chunk I can. But if the spines get damaged, well it happens, I won’t go and replace the book or anything unless it’s really damaged.

damien's avatar

By ‘break the spine’ are you just meaning opening the book far enough to create a fold in the spine? I do that.. Makes it much easier to hold open with one hand.

seekingwolf's avatar

I will often break the spine to make the book easier to read. I mean, books are meant to be read right? (just like what dynamicduo said!). Breaking the spine often makes reading (the basic function of a book) easier.

However, if I want the book to stay in awesome condition, I won’t do it. I have a leather-bound Shakespeare book with gold leaf pages given to me by a friend. I want it to look great so I don’t break it.

Les's avatar

I break the spine. Like you said, it makes it easier to read. However, no such fate will ever come to my HHGTTG omnibus (if you don’t know, I weep for you). I was sad when I opened it for the first time and had to crack open the gilded seal that formed over the gilded pages.

Mtl_zack's avatar

At first I thought you meant a human spine, ermmm, no in that case.

I find that books are meant to be preserved and the purpose of written text is to pass on ideas throughout generations. If the spine is broken, the book lives shorter, and not as many people get to read the book. So, my answer would be no, don’t break the spine.

augustlan's avatar

This has always been a raging debate among readers. Some believe it shows a lack of respect for the book…I believe it shows how much you love the book! If it’s my book, I break the spine in several places right away. I also ‘dog-ear’ the pages to mark my place. If it’s a library book, or belongs to someone else, I don’t do either thing.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Augustlan is right—I’ve heard all sides of this debate and it does rage on. Personally, I don’t give a fig. I’d rather focus on enjoying my book, not if I’ve broken the spine. However, I’ve actually destroyed a few books with constant re-reading, so I know first hand with my reading habits can do to them. So if I’ve borrowed the book, I’m much more careful.

dalepetrie's avatar

I just read the damn thing, if the spine gets broken, it gets broken, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’ve never intentionally either broken or preserved a spine.

jessturtle23's avatar

I don’t think I ever noticed if I broke a spine or not. I just trade my books in for new ones at the book exchange anyway. I have some first editions I keep and the other ones I really enjoyed I will give to a friend. I noticed last night that they were making some books that lay flat now. I usually wait until I can get the paperback now because I am poor.

nebule's avatar

Wicked!! I can’t believe how much in favour of breaking the spine people are…I’m beginning to feel comfortable in my old ways again! xxx

jbfletcherfan's avatar

There’s nothing wrong with breaking the spine. Especially if the book is your’s, do whatever you want to with it. I agree with the comment of having a book look like it’s been read & enjoyed by many. It gives them character.

tabbycat's avatar

If you want to resell the book, you definitely don’t want to break the spine. On the other hand, mass-produced books are bringing less money all the time.

I am generally in favor of treating books respectfully and keeping them in as good condition as possible, not only because they could be worth money, but because it’s nice to pass them on to new readers in decent condition. But I know that many regard books as disposable items—to be read and thrown away. Perhaps the worsening economy will remind us to value our books and our other possessions a bit more.

augustlan's avatar

Oh, I definitely don’t think of books as disposable! I keep most of what I read, and do pass them on to other people sometimes too. I just really love to read, and breaking the spine helps me ‘dive in’ so to speak.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Wait—seriously? People think of books as something to be thrown away? Because even the few I’ve utterly destroyed via reading, I’ve kept around. They’re odd symbols of pride. But the ones I haven’t destroyed? Are definitely on the shelf to be reused. Who would throw a book away?

Unless there was a flood. And it was really not keepable. I’ve lost a few that way, of course.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I agreee, EP. As a librarian, I have the utmost respect for books. If I own a book that I don’t want any more, I take them in to the library for our annual book sale. I wouldn’t dream of just tossing them.

Nimis's avatar

I rarely break the spine on books.
For hefty volumes though, it’s a bit more necessary.
And when I do, I try to make sure to do it in several places.
I hate it when there’s one strong break that the book always falls open to.

dalepetrie's avatar

I too wouldn’t dream of throwing a book away unless it was damaged beyond repair (and not even then if I couldn’t replace it). Certainly if I happened upon something that I found to be a colletor’s item wherein I could get a great deal of money for it, I would keep it in pristine condition and maybe sell it and just buy a copy that wasn’t a collector’s item. But otherwise I just read them, sometimes they get spilled on, sometimes they get stuff smeared on the pages, and yes, sometimes I open them all the way up to make them easier to read, just depends. Most books I can read and you can’t really tell they were read, but books are meant to be read, and just like anything, there will be a rare item that maybe is worth preserving, but my thoughts would be to sell or give away books if I could part with them. At VERY least if you have mass market paperbacks that no one will buy and you can’t even give them away, then recycle.

janbb's avatar

I guess I’m in the minority, but I really like to keep that pristine look of books that I read, my own and others. I get upset if the cover is bent. Although when I am preparing to teach a book, which I do for adult ed courses, I will mark it up and highlight it (but very neatly.)

btw, I’m a librarian too.

dalepetrie's avatar

lots of librarians here. My wife is also a librarian. I know she pretty much agrees with me in regards to book treatment. Use it, don’t abuse it, but let the chips fall where they may unless there’s a reason not to.

janbb's avatar

I agree with you, dale. It’s just my ocd that makes me want to keep them neat, not my profession.

Nimis's avatar

I’m a little OCD too.
If I break the spine, they have to be evenly spaced.

Darwin's avatar

I am a book lover and a book seller rather than a librarian (although some might argue that I run a private library based on the sheer number of books in my house). I never break the spine of a book if at all possible – I love the crisp, solid feeling of a book with an intact spine.

One very big reason for my NOT cracking the spine of new books is that modern books frequently have glued spines rather than sewn spines. Cracking the spine means actually cracking the glue, which means pages can and do fall out. There is nothing worse than a book with missing pages.

Older and better quality books with sewn bindings tolerate more abuse. Even when there is a great deal of “wiggle room” in the spine the binding is still solidly holding the pages in place.

As for throwing books out, I have a terrible time doing that. However, I live in an area of high humidity and if by chance a book comes to me with mold or mildew I very reluctantly throw it away. I must admit I have attempted to “rehab” some of these books but I have not been really pleased with the outcome despite a great deal of work.

IBERnineD's avatar

I love to do it! Especially while reading the ones I enjoy. Although I never do it to the ones I borrow no matter how good it is.

BlueDing's avatar

I never used to break the spine when I was younger. I didn’t want to “damage” the book. But that all changed when I started reading books for class. Then, all of a sudden, I was underlining everywhere and bending back each page as far as it would go so I would have room to write in the margins!

90s_kid's avatar

No I don’t. I don’t read much because I have trouble reading, But I don’t break the spine. Never heard of it. (not even fully sure of how to do it). I read soft cover books one page at a time then flip it over, but I am not sure that the spine is broken.

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