Cruelty To Books?

Grains of sand embedded in the spine, pages stained with tea and coffee. Are these the signs of a neglectful reader or do they represent the many moments of all consuming love for the book that you just couldn’t put down?

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In a world where people really do judge a book by its cover, are offer promotion stickers the ultimate sin in the literary sphere?

If recent news is anything to go by then you would assume so. Owner of Daunt Books, James Daunt, recently reacted to Waterstones’s 3-for-2 offers by saying “we don’t despoil our books by putting stickers on them”.

Having been newly appointed as managing director for the high street chain, Waterstones has taken a leaf out of Daunt’s book by abandoning the 3-for-2 deal.

Aside from whether the move will prove positive or otherwise, Daunt’s statement has encouraged me to question our treatment of books.

Other than stickers, what else constitutes book slander? Is there a reason behind our ‘despoilment’ of books and is it really as bad as all that?

In the past, books were less readily available and a lot more expensive due, in part, to their being published as hardbacks. As such, the thought of marking a book with annotations or page folding would be considered obscene. Instead, one would have taken pride in honouring the pages with a handmade bookmark.

But since the arrival of the paperback, many of us nowadays, are happy to use out-of-date train tickets and dog-eared photographs as a substitute.

Does this constitute an act of insolence? Perhaps it is merely a sign of our times; an age in which books are affordable and, dare I say it, disposable. And what about those of us who forgo the bookmark altogether and simply fold the corner of the page instead? Misdeed or misunderstood?

Grains of sand embedded in the spine, pages stained with tea and coffee. Are these the signs of a neglectful reader or do they represent the many moments of all consuming love for the book that you just couldn’t put down?

It is clear that our book habits are both personal and widely open to criticism.

While a well-read book is beloved by all, perhaps wear and tear should be prevented where possible. The question is, how far are we willing to go to safeguard our books? Should libraries be condemned for stamping their seal on the inside covers of their books? Should unwanted books be rescued from car boot sales?

While some readers have become overly protective, others are more than willing to bend the spine, underline passages and pass their books on to charity shops, internet booksellers and fellow bookaholics.

As long as books are read and enjoyed, should we be concerned with the state of the cover and its pages? Or is it important to respect the packaging as much as the contents?

The debate continues.

Originally published in Untitled Books, literary e-magazine

Written by

Writer, content creator and digital marketing specialist marionkatrina.com

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