Sunday, 26 January 2020

Ripping Books In Half and Other Taboos by Shirley-Anne McMillan

There was some Twitter consternation a few days ago about someone who said they had been known to rip a ginormous book in half in order to travel with a smaller item to read on the journey. As I write this it is several days later and people are still having conniptions about it, with some arguing that it is sacrilege and others (fewer!) saying 'Wow, genius idea!'

As a writer I am fairly often told about things like this in the expectation that I will be horrified. I am assuming that this is because a) I am actually appalled by many things and I tend to voice my opinion on those things fairly regularly, and b) I am a writer so therefore I must love stories and the printed medium above all else. Here is a list of things which I have been told about with the expectation that I will be appalled, plus, my true feelings on the matter.

1. Ripping a book in half. I don't care about this, mostly. I have been known to rip the insides out of a hard backed book to make a handy folder for notes. The physical form of books in themselves are not sacrosanct to me. Where I draw the line is if the book is a special edition or a really wonderful graphic novel which also serves as visual art. But I don't care if you rip your Penguin copy of Moby Dick in half. Which leads me on to:

2. Binning books. We should, of course, recycle, but I am happy enough to throw terrible books away so that other people don't read them. It isn't censorship- we're not obliged to pass on rubbish (I might argue the opposite actually). Also- it is fun to bin a book which you really hated.

3. Folding down the corners of books. I don't care about this, apart from the exceptions mentioned above. Next!

4. Underlining bits of books. I've always done this. I write notes on them too.

5. Folding the book right back on itself. IT'S JUST A BOOK. Unless there's only one of them we don't have to treat it like it's a child.

6. Kindles/e-readers. I love my Kindle. I don't know anyone with a Kindle who stopped buying paperbacks. I don't think paperbacks smell better and I like being able to read with one hand and I like being able to drop my book without losing my place. I like being able to enlarge the text when I've forgotten my glasses. Ebooks are an amazing invention. They make books more accessible. Physical books are one of the things that make being human a lovely thing, but I also have a severe dust allergy and physical books tend to want to kill me. This is not to say that I want to harm them out of revenge or even self defence. I know it's not their fault. Hooray for ebooks, though.

7. Audiobooks. I love audiobooks. I consider listening to audiobooks reading. I believe that, depending on the reader, an audiobook can significantly enhance the enjoyment of a text.

There are probably more but you get the idea.

Have a lovely Sunday with all your stories!


Anonymous said...

Kindle Paperwhite: reading in the dark FTW!! Best thing ever!

Shirley-Anne McMillan said...


Anne Booth said...

I need to get into audiobooks, I think. This sounds silly, but how do they work - is it all via audible? Do you listen via your computer? I

Shirley-Anne McMillan said...

Audible isn't the only way you can get audiobooks but it is very popular at the minute. You can get them from your local library on CD (Or I think possibly online now too- maybe someone else can advise about this?) You can listen on computer if you like. I listen via my phone on the Audible app. If you use Audible you have to have an Audible account. They do have some free podcasts and ebooks but for most you have to have a subscription. However, if you want to try it out I can send you one for free if you haven't got one from them before. Email me at and I'll send you a link to the ones I've got.

Chris Vick said...

I think you're right not to treat books as sacred objects.
It's the stories inside that are the thing, not the vehicle they came in

Sue Bursztynski said...

I love my ebooks and audiobooks and the fact that I can carry hundreds with me. As a librarian I have had to get rid of books which have gathered dust for a long time, and refuse “donations” of books nobody will borrow from people who can’t bring themselves to destroy them. I’d rather offer weeded books first in a “free books” pile and you would be surprised how many I have disposed of that way. And there is a Little Library in Melbourne Central where you can put the rest; who knows what book you have finished with that someone else will love? But yes, I have binned out of date economics books!

As a teacher librarian I have fixed the dog ear problem by offering bookmarks to my users, just the kind -advertising ones - you get free in bookshops. Nobody has ever said no thank you, unless they already had a favourite bookmark. You avoid dog earing and they think you are doing THEM a favour! ;)

I once had a library technician who did displays by tearing up brand new, beautiful books - without asking if it was okay - and using them for origami! Needless to say I was not sorry when she left for greener pastures, except that she was not replaced. For me, tearing up a thing of beauty for convenience is just not on. With ebooks available, is it even necessary?

Shirley-Anne McMillan said...

I wonder if people are aware that books which are remaindered get pulped? They all end up as mush. I'm in such a happy mood today...

Shirley-Anne McMillan said...

Oh and my son does collages with book pages. I am fine with this but not when he tears the FIRST PAGE of one of MY books out! Grrrrr....

Jen Robinson said...

I ripped a bit fat paperback in half once on an international trip, with no regrets. These days, I do LOVE the Kindle for travel.

Claire said...

Hello :0)
I love books. ❤ ��
I don't know what it is about them, but I love looking at the cover art, and reading from printed material. Even the way they smell. (weird, I know).��

I tried reading from a Kindle and using Audiobooks, but for me, I just prefer paper.
I broke the spine accidentally on a second hand book the other night and felt guilty with the snapping noise it made. ��
In Primary School I loved making up fantastic stories in my head and getting books out from the mobile library.
I almost never shop in Waterstones or other high street booksellers, except for Christmas or birthdays. I much prefer second hand book shops as it is amazing what titles people will donate in pristine condition.