Tearing Off Book Spines?

In early January, I visited Austin, Texas, for a national conference in my field. I had a few job interviews for assistant professor positions while there, and I ate a lot of good food.


But today I wanted to pose this question: should you rip the spines off of books?


I saw this in a hotel lobby in Austin, and it was meant to be decorative and perhaps universal and therefore inviting and cozy. However, I felt bad for these books. I would rather know what they were titled and who wrote them than see them in this state. I don’t think I could ever do this to my books.

What do you think? 

35 thoughts on “Tearing Off Book Spines?

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  1. This sends shivers down my spine. I think that some publishers have done this for books they didn’t want to be resold as new, but putting a mark on them with a marker is much more appropriate, I think. Or maybe these are discards and aren’t supposed to be resold at all, but it is still horrible. Even discards shouldn’t be treated this way, because someone might still want them.

    1. So true. Somebody might still want them. I really wanted to peek at what these were on the inside, but it was a very public place, so a picture had to suffice. If you want to do some investigating, since you live there, it was at the Omni Hotel. 🙂

      1. Hmmm, I think I’ve been in there, but I don’t remember that display. On the other hand, I’m sure they change their decor periodically, and I haven’t been there in a while.

  2. Never!! Oh my, that makes me sad. Books are like little people to me. Personality, love and memories with each one. Just holding them makes me happy. I could never pull off the covers. I had no idea it was even done! I’ll put on my dispatcher face and say “Defacement is a crime!!” =)

  3. I am a book lover that takes really good care of books and even use a bookmark 🙂 I could never do this and when I borrow a book from the library and the binding has come loose or some damage has occurred I hand it over to a librarian for repair. Here’s to being good to books! Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    1. Yes, we should be good to books. They are our friends! I don’t even like to dog-ear them, but I have taken to writing in them if they are mine.

  4. I recently heard a radio report about decorating with books. The interviewer explored buying books by the foot in order to decorate one’s shelves at home, in the office, or on stage. I just looked up the website, but no stripped books were offered. It is really sad to see books used in a misguided “shabby chic” manner. Our family household policy was “Books are our friends.” We have some hand-me-down books whose bindings have been loved off by children, but they are favorites, so I would never sell them!

    1. Books by the foot? Why doesn’t this decorator do some reading and acquire books the good old-fashioned way?!?!? I think you should have read the books you display, but maybe I’m a book snob. 😉

  5. Ugh. I get what they were going for, but I’m torn. I hope they bought them from a rummage sale or got them from a library that was recycling them. But honestly they should’ve just purchased the “blank pretend books” that are widely available for decorative purposes.

  6. Oh no! That looks awful. I’d never do that to my books — I’m the type of person who likes to keep books in relatively pristine condition. It even took me a while to pluck up the courage to highlight and annotate my academic books. 😀

    1. Me too! I have slowly moved into writing in my books and annotating more. I used to keep them perfect, but now I think they are even “more perfect” with my notes in them. 🙂

  7. For some reason I think I have heard of this before. If I remember correctly (ans please feel free to correct me if I am wrong) publishers/printers do this with bulk returns as part of the destroying process. Its to prevent resales of large batches that were either incorrect in some way or returns.

  8. I appreciate book cover art and book spines are a part of that. Tearing spines from books for some artistic affect? I don’t know…for some reason I feel that it “hurts” the book. Crazy, right? I have seen decorating magazines that show “decorating with books”—using them more as props or visual backdrops but not so much for reading.

  9. So sad… looks awful! Here, in Brasil, we have so many people who do this. But book is art by himself. So beautiful a wall full of books, no? (Sorry my english, I learned by my own 😛 )

    Barbara Filippini (Presente do Ler (Gift of read) – https://opresentedoler.wordpress.com)

  10. This reminds me of that trend of cutting up old books into the shape of your initials. I feel the same as Leslie already said – it feels like it must hurt the books somehow! I just want to grab the books and take them home and love them.

  11. Read this but didn’t take the time to comment. Yikes! It’s like looking at corpses! What is pleasing about that? Honestly, I think I would have said something, or at least asked why would anyone do that? Or who had done it…or suggested it. Shameful!

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