Friday, January 18, 2013

The Desecration of a Book

I love books.  I love to read (although I rarely read for pleasure any more), and I love the look, feel and smell of a new book.

I've also been taught my whole life to take care of books.  As a tiny child, we were to put our books away on the bookshelf, turn the pages carefully, not bend the spines, and never, ever color in them

As an elementary student, we were taught how to "break in" a new book properly, opening up the cover and running our hand down the length of the angle where the page and spine were joined, and then opening the back cover and doing the same, repeating the process with a few pages at a time until we had reached the middle.

As a high school student we were told not to write on the pages of our textbooks, not to tear out pages, not to doodle on the covers, not to throw them in our locker (I think high school students are tougher on books than toddlers!!).

As a college student, we had to buy our books so we didn't have to be told any more to take care of them.

I was always dismayed when I'd read about or watch on movies scenes where soldiers or a mob would raid a bookstore or library and throw hundreds of books into the street and burn them.

And I am horrified every time I read the story in the Bible where King Jehoiakim was in his winter palace sitting before a roaring fire and he took a knife and cut up the scroll of scripture and threw the pages into the fire.

So what I did today was very hard for me...

I purposely and very deliberately desecrated a brand new book.

I took an X-acto knife and ran it down the length of angle between the cover and first page and cut the first page out.  I continued like that for 100 pages until I realized this was very messy, very tedious, and very slow.  So then I grabbed the cover between my hands and twisted the spine...wrenching the binding away from the pages, and then pulling sections free of the stitching and heavy glue...for 874 pages!!  And that was just book #1.

My daughter Kate had to order two American textbooks for an online course she is taking in Bosnia, but they wouldn't ship overseas, so she shipped them to our house and asked me to send them to her.  Because the last package I sent her cost $50 and was much lighter than two textbooks AND took a month to reach its destination, I knew I'd have to do something creative to get her books to her.  So I proceeded to laboriously scan page after page for the first three chapters and then emailed them to her.  After an hour and a half of very boring work, I received an email from her stating that only the first page of every chapter had come through.  That's when I realized what I would have to do...destroy the book and harvest the pages, then send the pages with my other daughter to scan on her work scanner, which feeds the pages automatically.

I can't tell you how hard it was to demolish that book!  It went against the very grain of my life-long training to treat books with respect, coupled with my personal love for them and my personal disgust of abuse---or even just plain and simple misuse---of anything.  I'm a careful person.  I take good care of my things, and this just seemed so wrong!  But for the love of my daughter, I did it.

It still took me a good hour to get all the pages out, but I accomplished the task.  Then, later today a friend who owns a printing shop told me they have a guillotine-type cutter that in one swipe cuts a book free of its binding with a perfectly clean, sharp edge.  Then they feed the pages through their professional automatic double-sided scanner, and then they hole-punch the pages, re-bind the book into a coiled binding, and give it back to the customer.  Wow.  How wonderful that would have been!!  Guess the best I can do is file that information away for future reference...for the next time I need to tear a book apart!

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