Book end

I destroyed 127 books this weekend, and it felt awesome.

I didn’t rend them en masse with a flamethrower like one of Bradbury’s firemen. No, I carefully selected my targets, taking great delight in removing from circulation works that achieved egregious crimes against literature.

reader's digest condensed books recycled spinesAs a plus, it was all in the name of recycling.

To explain: I’m edging in on the completion of a couple of pieces of writing — a short novel and a collection of short stories — that I’d like to craft publish. But if you do a bit of research, there are a lot of pieces that go into a hardcover book. There are the covers and the pages, of course. But there’s also endpaper, and webbing for the spine, thread to stitch the sections of pages together, and decorative headbands for the top and bottom of the pages near the spine. The cover itself is a fairly complex combination of cardboard, special cloth, and paper.

Price all that stuff out new and it gets spendy fast. Book boards — the cardboard used for the covers — run about a buck a book. The cloth can tack on another $3.50 per book. Headbands are about $5 a yard.

I haven’t even priced printing the book yet. Hell, I haven’t finished writing it yet. Either of them. But what I don’t want to end up making is a hardcover that costs $30 and doesn’t actually make me any money.

recycled book headbands
Recycled book headbands!

(It’s not about the money, of course. And I realize that $30 is probably an acceptable price for a craft-made book. But thrift and value are tightly enmeshed with my DIY ethos.)

I did come up with a source for cheap book boards and headbands: Other books. Old, crappy books that no one wants.

So yeah, what I did was, I went to the book sale put on by the local newspaper on their final “bag sale” clearance day. I wanted books that were all the same size, since that would minimize the amount of cutting I would need to do to make the new boards. Not to mince words, I went straight to the stack of “Left Behind” books. This was not really an attack by me on religious fiction, as I love C.S. Lewis’s sci-fi trilogy, for instance. This was an attack on pissy writing. Here’s a review on, from a guy named Trent who gave the “Left Behind” books 4 of 5 stars:

“I think whether or not you enjoy this book depends on what you consider a ‘good’ book. If you think all good books are well written, then this is probably isn’t for you. If you think good books have to be 100% accurate, then this book probably isn’t for you.”

reclaimed book boardsSo yeah. Adios, Mssrs. LeHayne and Jenkins. Their leftovers were good for about 50 books. Sadly, there weren’t more left behind. But then I hit the jackpot in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books room, where I found boxes and boxes of books all exactly the same size and a crew of volunteers ready to make a great deal if it meant they didn’t have to tote those damn books back into storage.

And that’s the story, minus several hours of ripping, tearing and cutting.

I learned a few things about Reader’s Digest Condensed Books during that phase:

  1. There’s about a 30-percent likelihood that any given edition will contain a story by either Dick Francis or Nicholas Sparks.
  2. There’s about a 90 percent chance that the headband on the volume will be yellow. I don’t know why. (In related news, there’s about a 90-percent chance that the novel you buy from me will have a yellow headband.)
  3. The construction is quite good. I would later claim a tennis injury, but it was pulling these books apart that chased me to the Aleve bottle the next day.
  4. The book cloth they used in the early days was quite groovy (see below). It will actually pain me to recover some of these.

So now the boards are all tidily stacked in a small box under the bed. I have a large part of the supplies I need for 150 copies of my book.

You know, that book I need to finish writing.

Check out the designs of these retro book boards.
Check out the designs of these retro book boards.

p.s. — Can you believe Hollywood’s rebooting the “Left Behind” film series, with Nicholas Cage playing, um, whoever Kirk Cameron played. God help us.

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