Cut A Book In Half If It’s Too Big

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Cut A Book In Half If It’s Too Big
Photo: Shutterstock

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.

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:

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.

Comments

  • Absolutely ridiculous idea, anybody wanting to read that book in the future will find the thing in an unusable condition with half the pages missing. Just don’t do it!

  • I’m … conflicted. This is definitely a clever idea for carrying around large books in manageable pieces, but I’m not a big fan of doing permanent damage in any form to anything, even accidentally. It’s a personal hang-up. When you consider a physical book as a one-time consumable, sure, okay. I’d cringe, and I’d probably never do it myself, but I get it. I read mostly digitally these days, so any book I own physically is either for display or unavailable digitally.

  • The first time I saw someone do this I thought what a brilliant idea. I was in Europe and I met this guy who had trimmed his Let’s Go Europe by pairing away the pages of countries he was definitely not going to visit. I took a slightly different approach and separated the book by country and only carried one country in my pocket or just the few pages for that city.

    The next trip I borrowed the books from a library instead of buying them and photocopied the relevant parts onto thin paper and photo-reduced them at the same time.

    • We’ve also pulled apart the travel guide (lonely planet) Throwing away the parts we would never need and throwing away other parts we’d finished with them. Just had to make the mental shift that a travel guide is more like a magazine than a regular book.

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