How to open a new book


A limber binding is a happy binding. (Submitterated by Gabriel Andery)


  1. Yay! I learned this exact technique from my 2nd or third grade teacher. (For you young punks on my lawn, that was around 1962).

    Don’t try this with your Nook…

    1. Fast forward around 30 years or so, we mostly learned how to repair (or at least tape back together) our school books…

  2. The only book I’ve ever broken was a cheaply glued together paperback. I doubt that a properly bound hardback would ever break. Perhaps I’m too gentle with my reading material.

  3. ikr? haha. i never broke a book either. well i did get real pissed off one time and destroyed my bible. That took a lot of force tho. lol


  4. As a MLS student, I want to print this out and put it on a t-shirt.

    I have some old books (pre-1950s) where clearly this technique was not used. :-(

    1. “If this book should chance to roam,
      Box it ears and send it home.” –
      The Journal of Education Dec. 1899 Book Rimes p. 79

  5. It causes me physical pain when I see people reading a paperback with the front cover folded all the way behind the back cover. It’s their book, but I just want to take it and stroke it and say, “there, there, they didn’t know they were hurting you.”

    Maybe I should start a home for abused paperbacks.

  6. How to open a new book: click on the epub file.

    Back in college I had a set of graphic novels that I really liked and I had been very careful with. I lent them out to several people with no problems. Then I lent them to this cute asian woman, and the next day I dropped by her room to say hi, and she was reading the book WITH THE COVER BENT AROUND BACKWARDS. I thought I was staying cool when I said “uh, please don’t bend the covers back like that.” but I think I must have been telegraphing the horror of having something I liked wrecked by an idiot, because she became very apologetic. At least none of the volumes after that one were wrecked when she returned them.

  7. I’m a life-long book lover, but I’ve never heard about this. (It seems like it would be a more valuable thing to teach kids in school than much of the stuff they cram into the school day.) I’m going to try it on my next new book, however.

  8. If you cannot dip a novel in your bath, throw an essay from your bed, pour mayonnaise on a cookbook or store novellas for months in the bottom of a stuffed backpack, you should rather buy a Kindle.

    Respect for books is killing them!

  9. Don’t laugh–but this is the ONLY useful thing I learned at a very expensive Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics Course back in the ’70s.

  10. Do not follow the “How to open a new book” advice for many, perhaps most, modern books.

    The old advice is probably fine for books bound using old-style, flexible sewn bindings, but not for modern books that have glued bindings which can easily break.

    It used to be that paper backs had glued bindings and all hardcovers had sewn bindings. Not any more. Now many hardcovers have breakable glued bindings that should never be opened flat. So one should be careful about applying old advice to new products. Don’t assume that everything is still made the same way or should be treated the same.

    1. Yep, which is one reason I think the prices of modern hard-backs are bullshit. They’re even less durable than a trade paperback.

  11. Ah, the obsessive compulsive guide to book opening. Seriously, until someone shows me study proving (beyond statistical reasonable doubt) that this makes any difference, I will classify this as superstition.

  12. My dad demonstrated this procedure to me when I was four or five years old. I’m fifty-eight, and still follow it (even with glued-binding books; it seems to work OK……….).

    Still remember my sixth grade teacher handing out brand new math books. Once we each had one, he opened his VIOLENTLY to the point that he seemed to make the front and back covers touch. We heard a loud cracking sound. He told the class to do what he’d done. I damn near fell out of my chair.

  13. It’s been a while since I was a Bookbinder (the 1970s), but the idea that someone is the most famous bookbinder in America stuns my mind. What does one do to become the most famous bookbinder in America?

    My father, a lifetime bookbinder (from the 1940s through the 1990s) also told me the proper way to open a fleshly bound book, when I was a child. If you pop open a book’s front cover, you can rapidly access whether or not you have to use these procedures. Rare is the edition bound book that needs to be eased open like this.

    1. Wow, so your Dad not only bound the Necronomicon but taught you how to properly open it? Seems irresponsible to let a kid read that, although I guess as long as it wasn’t out loud…

  14. I do this to books that I need to stay open, even glued softbacks can be gently eased to stay a bit better open. But I usually don’t do it, most really don’t need it at least for my reading pleasure.

    But yeah, all those people that bend softback or graphical novel covers all the way back… *shiver*. I love to lend my books, but I hate it when the first thing people do is bend the cover back, *my* book right in front of *me*. What the…!?!?!? Got so tired of it that I now warn people in advance not to bend my books back or they are put into the “do not lend to” -list.

  15. Old enough to have learned this in school (based on other comments), and I read out at least three libraries while growing up, but I’d never heard of this before.

    Thanks for the lesson!

  16. I’m a young one (based on the other comments here) and I just recently took a bookbinding class. I learned a lot of interesting things about books and bindings, but I never learned this. I think it’s pretty neat. I might include it in future books that I bind and sell.

  17. Ignore this advice for old paperbacks. Especially the unfortunately-named “perfect” binding. Luckily most have little value.

  18. This technique was required knowledge for a scouting merit badge, back in the day.

    It is hard to watch someone crack a spine needlessly.

  19. love hurts. if you can’t bend the cover back and hold it two inches from your face on a crowded bus, the poor thing’s going to think you don’t care.

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