Tuesday, December 08, 2009

How to "Break in" a New Book

New Books: Easing Them into Use

Ever see someone curve back the cover a brand new paperback novel? That's one way to crack it open for reading. However, that's not the best way, the way to make the book last.

A paperback isn't the most expensive thing in the world, so perhaps this isn't the example to go postal over. Yet, it illustrates the lack of care many people take in treating their new books. That lack of care often extends to all their books, even the expensive hard cover ones.

Fitness Stretches for Your Book
Think of a book as a body. It has a spine and attached to the spine are a tight skin (the cover) and taut muscles (the pages). When something pliable is tight, and you fold it quickly and unnaturally, it may snap or break. That can happen to books just like it can happen to living bodies.

When athletes prepare for a sprint or other athletic activity, what do they do beforehand? They stretch! That's what you should do for any new book, too. Stretch the binding that links the spine with the covers and pages to gently release the tension between them. By stretching it, you prepare it for hours of open and closing at your leisure, which makes for a more pleasurable experience for you.

Follow These Simple Steps
Stretching the binding is really simple and will keep the spine from breaking and the book in much better shape for a much longer time:
  1. Stand the book on a flat surface on its spine.
  2. Holding the book vertical, open the front cover a full 90 degrees and press your fingertips along the crease the length of the page.
  3. Keeping the front cover open, now open the back cover a full 90 degrees and press your fingertips along the crease the length of the page.
  4. Retaining the current sides open, return to the front of the book and fold three or four pages open together 90 degrees, pressing your fingertips along the crease.
  5. Repeat this at the back of the book.
  6. Alternate this for more and more pages between the front and back of the book. Although you could go all the way to the center of the book, I find a quarter of the way sufficient.
Once you break in the ends of the book, the middle will naturally follow as you open the pages.

I challenge you to try this and see if it doesn't make using a new book much easier and make it wear much better. Let me know what you think.


Jim Oostdyk said...

Yes, much better. Thanks for this!

Alan Eggleston said...

Glad that it worked well for you.

Kathy Vu said...

Thank you for posting this! It was really useful for breaking in new paperbacks. I wish this was taught in schools. Sadly, we don't read as much anymore...

Alan Eggleston said...

Thank you for commenting, Kathy. Glad that you found this article helpful. I've seen many a misshapen paperback and having worked in a bookstore, I thought I would share a little knowledge to help extend the life of a few "friends" (books).

TFY said...

Thanks very much for posting this. I knew there had to be someone in the world who could recommend a good way to do this. I'm glad Google brought me here. I wish I'd learned this technique 30 years ago.

Some folks talk about "breaking the spine" as if it's a good or at least necessary part of reading a paperback. I used to avoid lending these folks my books. Now I'll just send them to your blog.

Alan Eggleston said...

Thank you for commenting, TFY. Glad you found the information useful. Please do send others to this page - a book eased in is a book with a longer life.

Festoonic said...

We were taught to do precisely this with new textbooks in grade school. As a result, my McGuffey Reader is still in mint condition today.

Alan Eggleston said...

I'm delighted to hear it, Festoonic. And thank you for commenting. A testament to how well this technique works.

James said...

If I may:

“Think of a book as a body. It has a spine and attached to the spine are a tight skin (the cover) and taught muscles (the pages).”

“TAUghT” = past partticiple of “teach”.

“TAUT” = “not limp or floppy”

Of course, if a book is a record of teaching, and is a hardback. then it could be described as taught, as well as having “taut muscles”. But both words do not seem to be intended.

Books are our friends. They need to be looked after.

Alan Eggleston said...

Hi James. Thank you for commenting. This article has been online for almost nine years with thousands of views, and you're the first one to notice the misspelling! Kudos to you for catching that oversight. I'll correct it immediately. I did intend it as correctly spelled, as a metaphor for stretched skin that needs to be relaxed, thus the need to gently flex it so it doesn't snap.