Purpose of a Paperback

I was at a friend’s house on Saturday talking about – what else? – books. We sat in a room with floor to ceiling shelves on either end, overflowing with literature. A former librarian and bookstore owner, my friend knows practically every author, title and genre in print.

So I just about died when she told me how she and her husband share books.

“I just tear off the part I’ve read and give it to him so he can start.”

I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing. “You tear your books? Apart?

“Well, obviously not the hard covers, but the paperbacks. That’s what they’re for.”


ย Your husband can’t wait two hours while you finish the book?

I’m the type of person that practically cries when my covers get a crease. And don’t even think about dog-earing the corner of a page. Have you not heard of a bookmark?

But to take your bare hands and intentionally rip a book in two? The woman is a librarian! They fine people for damaging library books. Bringing one back in two pieces would probably give our Solvang librarian a heart attack.

So tell me, have you ever “shared” a book this way? Actually, never mind. If you’ve defiled a book this way, I don’t want to know.

I’d like to still respect you in the morning.

32 thoughts on “Purpose of a Paperback

  1. I feel the wierdest mix right now ..

    giggling at your last line (very clever)

    but sick to my stomach at the thought of tearing one of my books.

    never, ever. that would be like yanking a limb off my child. well, maybe that is a tad dramatic … but only a tad.

    the REAL purpose of paperbacks is to allow me the ability to afford two or three books instead of one hardcover.

  2. I agree. This is a violent crime as far as I'm concerned.

    My husband's business partner does this, and it drives me crazy. What's worse is that as he finishes a section of the book, he tears it off and THROWS IT AWAY. He says, “Why carry around that big bulky book when I've already read half of it.”



  3. I think I am going to suffer from horrific nightmares after reading this post. A librarian? Really? That's like a doctor intentionally maiming one of his patients – I'm pretty sure people would frown upon THAT!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Okay… I'll admit it… I'm rough with my books. I bend them and fold down pages and get food on them and underline them… I love them until they are soft and worn. But I would never, never, NEVER tear a book in half!! Not even one I hated!

  5. Tess: You nailed it: affordability. THAT's the purpose of a paperback!

    Shelley: I know, right?!!

    SF: My heart went into my throat at throw it away. That is just insane.

    Karen: I'm dying too! Crazy!

    Amy: Never, never, never!

    Beth: I think my mouth hung open the rest of the day I was in her house. The shock was too great.

    Shannon: Sorry for the nightmares. My heart still hasn't recovered either!

    Valerie: Me too! I've thrown a book I disliked, but then I always give it away because someone else might enjoy it. The tearing freaks me out.

    Windy: Well said!

  6. *Runs screaming into the other room, puts hands over eyes and pretends she never read this post* Gasp. When my husband reads my books I practically hover over him, “careful, please. Careful. CAREFUL!!”

  7. If I told you it was a law school tome that was much easier to carry to school in sections, would you still respect me?

    And yes, many students were appalled and some were thoughtful and considering my solution a viable option – but they were unable to do the same.

  8. I don't know…part of me thinks it's somehow not nice to do this, another part of me sees a practical implication. How about those so-so books you read that have a few memorable scenes you'd like to analyse? With library books, I make a photocopy and mark that up, but with cheap paperbacks? Why not just rip it up? The author benefits most when people buy new copies. We could be working together to keep the used book market from being so flooded.

  9. I've never torn a book, but I have plenty of copies with coffee rings, rippled pages, dog-eared corners, tattered covers, and writing/highlighting throughout.

    My philosophy is books we love are meant to be used, and if that means using them up in the process, then so be it.

    Yesterday, I found my son had left his read-during-breakfast book on a bit of maple syrup. Now part of the cover is missing, but it still works for a good read!

  10. I cannot believe I just read that! I am so anal about my books. I hate bent or creased covers, NEVER fold pages down and I will not let my kids touch my books because I don't want them messed up. When I'm done reading my books, they still look brand new. I cannot imagine TEARING one!

  11. NEVER! Holy cow, is your friend insane? Paperbacks are made for ease in carrying around because they are smaller (even th 6×9 trades) NOT for tearing!

    Wow. I'm gonna have to mention this in my Friday roundup post. No one would believe me otherwise!

  12. I am like you, protecting my babies from every rain drop, every harm. If I have to write in the margins (for teaching or readings), I often buy myself a second copy. If I really love a book, I buy a copy for lending and a copy for me.

    Your photo is PRICELESS here.

  13. Nooooooooo!
    I am shocked, especially since she's a librarian!
    That book could be donated and read by others!
    The purpose of paperbacks is affordability not so you could tear them in half! Yow!

  14. My heart just about stopped reading this post. I, like you, am ready to throw up if I crease a cover. Even on an ARC, let alone a REAL paperback book! Hot damn!

  15. OMG! I swear my heart stopped. I have been in pain all the past few months, because–for some reason–this latest round of re-reading my Agatha Christies is MAKING THEIR FRONT COVERS FALL OFF. BY ACCIDENT! No, you don't TEAR A BOOK!!! Okay, I think it's time for an intervention. ๐Ÿ™‚

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