Some hacks are not for everybody. If the idea of damaging a book makes you feel faint, please scroll past this post and go lie down until you’re ready to read about some less terrifying life hacks. But if you’re not squeamish, let’s talk about why cutting books in half is a genius idea.
Yesterday my colleague called me a ‘book murderer’ because I cut long books in half to make them more portable. Does anyone else do this? Is it just me? pic.twitter.com/VQUUdJMpwT
— Alex Christofi (@alex_christofi) January 21, 2020
Writer and editor Alex Christofi—who is writing a book on Dostoevsky according to his bio, so I imagine he has this problem a lot—tweeted that he splits large books in half to more easily carry them around.
And you know what I say to that? Why not. This fits every definition of a hack. It solves a real problem, its benefits outweigh its drawbacks—I know there will be some debate on this, but hang on— and it helps you do a thing you want to do: read more. (Also, you literally hack up the book.)
What if I need the endnotes? What if I’m getting close to the end of my section?
If you think you will need the later portions of the book, there is a further hack, courtesy of science and nature writer Jason Bittel: start with the whole book, and remove previously-read chunks as needed. He came up with this hack while doing nine-day backpacking stints, where space and weight are at a premium:
I would usually cleave after reading, that way you shed weight you don’t need anymore but always have some in waiting in case it rains a lot and you have more reading time than usual. Ounces add up to pounds, as they say!
— Jason Bittel (@bittelmethis) January 21, 2020
But the inner pages will be damaged or will yellow prematurely!
This is a book you’ve cut up for easier reading. You won’t be donating this one to the National Archives. If your purse is a particularly rough environment, you could always cut a bit of cardboard as a makeshift cover and tape it into place.
This is what ebooks are for
Look, some hacks are not for everybody. I hate ebooks, personally! I will literally forget I have the book, because it’s digital nothingness and not a thing on my shelf. Some of us like having a physical object. You’ve gotta find the hacks that work for you.
But you’re hurting a book!
Look, a book exists to serve you. Its job is to store words temporarily until you can insert those words into your eyeballs. Altering a book to let it do its job better is your right as the owner of that book. (Obviously, we aren’t hacking up library books or treasured copies lent to us by friends.)
I used to be a book-worshiper, but discovered years ago that dog-earing pages is really damn handy. What’s more important, being able to find that page I wanted to make a note about later, or keeping the corner pristine? That’s a judgment call, but personally I choose the former. Hey, it’s my book. I haven’t cut a book in half yet, but I’d consider it.
Is the book a little worse for wear when you’re done with it? Yeah, but all books are. If you want to keep your book, you can tape it back together and stick it on your shelf. If not—well, it served its purpose, right? Books exist to be read, so go ahead and read them whatever way you like.