The Art of Deflowering a Book

Here’s a paraphrase from memory of an instruction sheet that came with the main Swedish encyclopaedia back in the 90s. I treat all new books this way to keep their spines from cracking. And they just can’t have enough of me.

1. Put book on table, spine down. Fold down left cover, smoothen inner edge, fold down right cover, smoothen inner edge.

2. Fold down 15-20 pages to the left, flatten firmly with finger along inner edge.

3. Fold down 15-20 pages to the right, flatten firmly with finger along inner edge.

4. Repeat steps 2-3 until the book is spread out flat in front of you and open at the middle.

5. If it’s a hardback: close the book and knock the front edge, opposite from the spine, firmly against the table a few times.

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Comments

  1. #1 codero
    March 30, 2010

    I’d like to find pertinent instructions for glue-bound books of sheet-music. You really need these to lie down flat on the stand, but once you impress that attitude upon them, they tend to come apart :(

  2. #2 kai
    March 30, 2010

    An excentric teacher of mine had us all do this to our new textbooks—in synchrony, it felt like taking part in some kind of East German gymnastic event.

  3. #3 Kierra
    March 30, 2010

    The trick for piano books is to take them to Kinko’s (or Staples, etc) and have them cut off the original binding and replace it with a spiral binding.

  4. #4 Don in Rochester MN
    March 30, 2010

    I remember being taught to do this in the 60s when I was in high school. And so that’s what I ALWAYS do with a new book. (Doesn’t everyone? ;^)

  5. #5 William
    March 30, 2010

    I learned this habit from my father. I believe he learned it in (a Canadian) school in the 60s, same as Don @ 4. Anyone know if this was a common thing back then?

  6. #6 Joakim S.
    March 30, 2010

    You’ll only ruin the binding if the book isn’t made for lying flat open.

    Books that lie open should be bound on tapes, other bound books are usually bound on cord. Cord bindings are tighter. Glued bindings are only good for cutting costs in production.

    Check out the nice springback binding:

    http://www.philobiblon.com/springbackbindorama.shtml

  7. #7 Katherine
    March 30, 2010

    Now we need instructions on what to do with books that haven’t had this happen and look like they will have spine problems in future (but don’t have them yet).

  8. #8 codero
    March 31, 2010

    Spiral (or comb) binding is actually not perfect for printed music, as it may be difficult and noisy to turn the pages.
    Also, retrofitting all my glue-bound tomes in the way described might cut into the music itself, and would not be conducive to shelf aesthetics.

    There are various special kinds of binding that allow books to lie flat even without breaking them in, but they are rarely seen in the low-end market.

  9. #9 Kristen
    March 31, 2010

    My grandmother actually sat me down and taught me this with all seriousness when I was about 17 (1979).

  10. #10 Kierra
    April 2, 2010

    Spiral (or comb) binding is actually not perfect for printed music, as it may be difficult and noisy to turn the pages.
    Also, retrofitting all my glue-bound tomes in the way described might cut into the music itself, and would not be conducive to shelf aesthetics.

    Noisier or more difficult than having the book pages close while your playing, or having to readjust the clip keeping the book open? For performances I usually use photocopies to minimize page turns, but for practice the spiral binding is fine. If the pages are too difficult to turn, then you probably picked the wrong diameter spiral.

    I have yet to have a problem with music being cut into or off. My books have all had plenty of white space between the binding and the printing.

    I’ll give you the shelf aesthetics, though. But I just haven’t found anything yet that works better.