HOWTO Make a purse out of a stack of old books

LiveJournaller Penwiper337 set to explore the "librarian side of steampunk" by turning a stack of old crummy hardcover books into a beautiful purse:
I had my eye on some attractively bound Reader's Digest Condensed Books (I have no pity for them) that were in the local library book sale, but wanted a little more space than one book could give me. So I made a box-type purse out of three.

I started by cutting out the attractive endpapers for future use, then coated the text block edges with thinned-down school glue (using wax paper to keep them separate from the covers). Use plenty of weights on the books while they dry or they will warp! I then hollowed out the text blocks, as well as the bottom cover of the top book, both covers of the middle book, and the top cover of the bottom book. I gave the interiors of the text blocks several cots of thinned down glue, then glued them to their respective covers with school glue (leaving the top cover unglued to act as the lid of the purse. E6000 glue was used to glue the stacked books together into a solid block.

Book purse (via Craft)


  1. i’m offended,
    there are no “crummy books”
    and anything printed and bound deserves respect.

    go ahead, hate me if you must. when you trash one book because you don’t like it, you allow everybody else to trash books that they don’t like. maybe even a trash book that you have a personal connection to.

    this is how it all starts. and you know how it ends…

  2. NI-ICE!

    The only problem is that I would still want the book to be cool. However, if the book is really cool, then I wouldn’t want to mutilate it… Guess I’ll have to wait for a 2 for 1 sale.

  3. I’m with you, MMBB @#2.

    I admire the craftiness, resourcefulness, ingenuity, creativity, and swell-looking end result.

    But I just can’t bring myself to destroy *any* book, no matter how cruddy I personally find the content to be.

    Heck, I can’t even bring myself to underline a passage or make margin notes and I practically experience physical pain when I see someone (shudder!) dog ear a page.

  4. There is something odd about this posting — look at the picture in the posting and tell me what the green stuff is sitting next to the white shells. Is that Jamaican potpourri? What exactly are they hoping to fill these hollowed-out books with? Am I crazy, or is there something to this?

  5. I LOVE IT! I have almost 100 of these books! The people who complain don’t give them a home.. they just want to control what you do with your own possession!

    Go one girl… This is one of my favorite projects!!!!!

    Besides you can use the insides for decoupage projects!


  6. @MMBB: Ummm, these are Readers Digest condensed books. I put it to you, that they are not really books, merely book-shaped

  7. No dear, those are not books, they may look and feel like books, but any book lover WILL contend that they are not.

  8. Nice job PenWiper! That’s extremely cool. So glad you went with a stacked orientation instead of putting the binding on the bottom.

  9. This looks interesting but not especially functional. Too heavy, too cumbersome.

    That “green stuff” next to the shells (look more like coral to me) is not “Jamaican potpourri”. Those are natural sponges.

  10. This would be good for a bookstrap-using Little Rascals Halloween costume. Otherwise…”$8.29? OK, let me unbuckle my box-purse and get my wallet out.”

    I think a much better design would be to use one book, hollow it out, and cut the spine so it hinges up. Like a….pocketbook.

  11. MMBB: No.

    Superfluous books get trashed all the time. Some of them get pulped. This has been going on since before you were born, and yet most people still respect books, which is about as good as things ever get.

  12. It’s good that someone found a practical use for some old condensed books. While I cringe at the thought of defacing a book by so much as writing margin notes in a book, (I tend to use post-it notes for that sort of thing,) these aren’t books, they’re book-like objects. I’m tempted to try something similar with a stack of old National Geographics. It really doesn’t look much more inconvenient than using a lunch box or an ammo box for a purse, and it would definitely look appropriate to be carried by a neo-victorian librarian.

  13. You pay for a book, you get to do whatever you want with it. Set it on fire, carve a purse out of it, cut it up for collages, feed it to your goat, whatever.

    This looks really pretty nifty, though I think it’d be a little cumbersome to actually use.

  14. But I just can’t bring myself to destroy *any* book, no matter how cruddy I personally find the content to be.

    I call big fat shenanigans. Readers Digest Condensed Books are books that have already been destroyed. It’s a hardcover magazine consisting of books that have had all the stylistic elements that might distinguish one author from another removed. They are pre-destroyed.

  15. Every time there’s a post about turning books into something new, there’s someone up in arms about destroying books. I love books, I respect books, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate something like this. It gets rather tiresome reading the same rant every time.

  16. That turned out really well. If I just HAD to criticize anything, I would only say that a heavier glue would probably have been preferable. Good old-fashioned epoxy resin would probably have done the job well, without soaking into the paper and crinkling it. But now I’m just nitpicking.

    I’m impressed with how well the inside looks. That had to be time consuming.

  17. The lining impressed me too. Looking at the original article, it was apparently achieved by saving the endpapers from the lower books. Clever!

    I don’t generally believe in destroying books, but these really are disposable, however pretty they may be. There are transfinite numbers of copies of each edition, they contain butchered versions of the stories, and book sales can barely give them away. If they’re just going to be trashed anyway, it’s better to recycle them… and if you’re going to recycle them, this is one legitimate, creative way to do so. I have no need for a purse, but I may swipe this idea as an attractive container for library supplies.

    If you’re one of those who has a fondness for these editions, PLEASE save as many as you like by adopting them at library book sales. The libraries need the money, and they need the storage space.

  18. I accidentally thwack enough people with my light-weight purse as it is. I suspect this one would really bruise some knees in a crowd.

    But, as long as it’s square and hard-sided, wouldn’t it make a great lunch-box? You’ve already got insulation, and it would keep your sandwich from getting squashed. Other options would be a sewing box, or a tool box, or a camera case, anything where you need hard sides, and portability.

  19. This can’t be “librarian side of steampunk.” For it to be steampunk, it has to have gears glued all over it.

  20. Nice, I finally found a use for my first-run copies of “El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha”. One of them even had this really horrible printing error.

    If the universe had any sense of humor, this would be a serious comment.

  21. Having lugged my books around several thousand miles over the past decade, I am sick of it. If I could pay a reasonable amount of $ to have my books digitized very well (i.e. high resolution; perfect OCR; open format; &c.) I would probably do it, even if it meant destroying the paper (as in Vinge’s “Rainbows End”).

    If e-book readers were more mature and e.g. interfaced seamlessly with my PC and other viewers; supported math properly; &c., I would do it without thinking twice.

    Why is a book any more special than a CD or DVD, besides accident of tradition? Paper is heavy; binding is almost always garbage; it costs fuel to ship; storefronts and libraries are always running out of space. Bah.

  22. Those Reader’s Digest objects aren’t books – and anyone who has encountered one should agree with me. They’re *notbooks* to the extent that I’d be deeply ashamed to carry a similar purse, just in case casual passers by might mistake them for the real thing and make horrible assumptions about me.

    And Galaxykate @21 – surely that’s the point? Some moron with one of those enormous 3-wheeled pushchairs started to barge my very expensive *actual* purse in a cafe today (my bag was hanging carefully from my chair – she was bodging it with her repeatedly with her muddy front wheel in an affronted maner) before she realised she couldn’t quite shove the thing past it. Sadly, my purse is soft and plushy. If it had been as satisfyingly pointy at the corners as the condensed books above, I’d have been very happy to bludgeon her with it. (As it was, I just got extremely passive-aggressive and embarrassed myself.)

  23. Reader’s Digest condensed books were suitable for introducing the very young to the existence of some works of literature. Indeed, for some working poor, bereft of adequate public library service and mired in underfunded public education, these summaries did perform some useful social service. Then television happened.

    I myself suggest using $cientology hardcovers. They are as ubiquitous and valuable as cockroaches.

  24. “anything printed and bound deserves respect” Mein Kampf was printed and bound. Do you respect Hitler because he had access to a printing press?

  25. Its very fetching. The faux leather binding is a great purse surface. It reminds me of bookstraps you’d see on Little House on the Prairie. I remember all the kids carried their textbooks like that with a strap. It is a very sweet and old fashioned notion. Many cheers to the artist.

  26. I’d like to know how the hollowing was accomplished. I’ve tried that before and its been a total failure ( trying to make a book safe ).

    As for the outrage of destroying books — some books are travesties that should never have been printed, and the world is a better place without them.

    I’m not talking about ‘objectionable’ books — I’m talking about readers digests, supermarket encylopedias, old history texts and the like. These are books that are poorly written, have outdated editorialized information instead of facts/creativity, and do more damage if read than good.

  27. Re #30: The artisan’s blog page (follow link from original BB post) has some discussion of construction details. Apparently the hollowing was done with a combination of dremel tool, old-fashioned craft knife, and patience. It was suggested there that jigsaw or coping saw might be good alternatives to try.

  28. I went to a huge Friends of the Library book sale and there was a huge pile of RD condensed books with a sign saying “Free.” They are the leftovers of the leftovers of the leftovers.

  29. Again, the artisan’s page says it weighs less than you might assume. I don’t remember whether an actual poundage is quoted.

  30. #30

    Funny you should mention supermarket encyclopedias– when I was a kid, I did something similar to this, carving out a book to make a “book safe”. It was made from an orphan volume of a “supermarket encyclopedia” set. IIRC, I used an Exacto knife, did it a few pages at a time, slowly. (These were the old days when children were trusted with knives without being thought terrorists or apt to kill themselves).

  31. “i’m offended,
    there are no “crummy books”
    and anything printed and bound deserves respect.”

    …Damn good point. Destroying books like this is pretty much akin to bookburning in my book.


    …I can NOT believe I just punned like that.

    [shakes head in utter dismay at self]

  32. So, for those opposed to “mutilating books”– are we to believe that you think that there must be an effort to preserve every copy of every book ever printed? Book burning is about attempting to destroy ideas– destroying one copy of a mass-produced book (with countless copies moldering away in attics, used book stores, lost and found boxes, and dusty library shelves around the world) isn’t censorship.

  33. I don’t see what’s “steampunk” about this. In fact, you could make the argument that bright pink is the opposite of steampunk.

  34. pipenta @ 10 + 11 – maybe dried hydrangeas, maybe whek’s eggs

    Anyhow – whilst I’d gladly dismember as many copies of The Da Vinci Code as it would take to fulfill all of my luggage requirements, I’d rather the spines better reflected my taste – so I’ll go along with Sekino @ 3 , and buy 2 copies of the books I like. I’m sure the authors wouldn’t mind.

  35. Yoohoo, Antinous?

    We just keep agreeing. First it was the foxy shirtless bike boobytrapper, and now its the pure worthlessness of those hardback Reader’s Digest comps.

    As a librarian, I’d like to add my $0.02 by saying that these are always donated to Friends of the Library/Auxiliary associations, and they’re worse than useless: by definition, you’d have to pay someone to take them off your hands. Empursening them is definitely a case of ‘value-added,’ and it’s noteworthy that those were exactly what was used to make this… thing (while I hate Reader’s Digest comps, I’m that rare member of the homintern that finds purses equally useless, and equally unworthy of veneration).

    That said, could you pass something along to Cory? Summer’s nearly over, and he seems to have ignored my request for his Speedo pictures. Thx.

    1. the foxy shirtless bike boobytrapper

      I was just thinking of him the other day. I think that I need a refresher course on how to booby trap a bike.

  36. #42

    “In fact, you could make the argument that bright pink is the opposite of steampunk.”

    Have you ever touched steam? You turn bright pink.

  37. Antinous #46:
    Ha! Yeah! For purely scientific reasons! Of course!

    And if you were doing anything else at the same time, it was probably ironing, right? Or balancing checkbooks, or isolating nucleotides.

    Because you certainly wouldn’t have been reminded of him while operating a spokeshave, or moderating fuel rods in a core, or pondering Gernsbackian pylons. Because that would be illogical.

  38. To those who don’t feel comfortable destroying books: neither do I, but think of it this way. By carrying that book title around on your person for everyone to see, you are advertising it! Just trying to view the glass as half full. :)

  39. Okay, I’ll eat your Bible.

    But it will take several days of muuuunnnnchhhiiinnggg and snnnnaaaacckkiiinnnnggg

  40. There’s not a thing in the world wrong with destroying a book you own and no longer want. People who get worked up by this are confused about the difference between practical and symbolic actions. Throwing out a broken spined copy of “Rhode Island’s Toughest Golf Courses” does not lead to Nuremberg rallies. It just creates shelf space.

    That said, that’s a deeply impractical purse, and a bit tacky too.

  41. Dr.Michael, What a cool gift to get (make for) your girlfriend! I might even try to make one of these myself. To the librarian making these for library supplies: that is awesome.

    The picture of the supermarket encylopedia made me very nostalgic. I inherited a set from my mom’s friend’s teenage kids who were getting rid of them. Nearly every page is decorated with hand painted diagrams with a distinctly 1960’s sensibility. Kind of a Dick and Jane make rockets sort of deal. I wonder where they are now….

  42. This purse is not sexy. I don’t think I’d find anything like this in Armani Exchange. I mean, how are you supposed to go into a library or grocery store? People will think you’re trying to steal something, y’know? What if you were Black and had a federal record and carried something like this and the Policia identified you walking in or out? You’d get locked up immediately. Ideas like this should not be spread. Cory, please try to be a bit more responsible with your posts. Next thing you’ll be telling us we can make purses out of cake in boxes with string. What the blazes do you think people will put in that? Tampons?

  43. Dear Wolfeisma:
    Oddly enough, I recently purchased an entire set in mint condition for a pittance – in a supermarket yet (charity used book bin)

  44. I like it. Well done.

    To those who comment about it being heavy, have you ever lifted a hollowed out hardback book? They’re very light. All those pages are most of the book’s weight. While the belt buckle might be replaced for a strong snap to make it easier to get into, I think it’s definitely a wonderful thing…

  45. @nialldebuitlear(27):

    “anything printed and bound deserves respect” Mein Kampf was printed and bound. Do you respect Hitler because he had access to a printing press?

    First, obviously, idealistic respect for the artifact does not confer respect for the author. Hitler was not printed and bound (though I imagine some would not have objected to this), and thus should not be conflated with ‘Mein Kampf’.

    Second, while you may not, one can respect even the most vicious, ruthless and cruel of people for their talents at being effective, without necessarily also holding them in high esteem.

    I think Hitler and many of the people associated with him were vile, hateful beasts, but I respect their ability to be dominant, and I think that they are very much worthy of study and understanding, if only so that we can more easily deal with such undesirable people and situations in the future.

    We may also find that some of the knowledge resulting from the study of such people are worthy of reuse. Simple association with monstrous people does not taint knowledge. You’ll note that your example, Hitler, was one of the major driving factors in the development of the jet engine. While his desire for that technology was hateful, the technology itself has found wide application free of the stigma of it’s benefactor.

  46. Anyone who would complain about this being done to books, but would throw away a magazine, or even a comic book is a hypocrite. Some may call this disrespect, but it could also be considered quite the opposite.

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