Given a choice between a hardcover and paperback book with the same cover design, I will almost always pick the paperback. Paperbacks take up less space in my bags and bookshelves, are much lighter and are much handier when reading. The one drawback they have measured against hardcovers is that their spines crack very easily. Still, I am very determined at preventing cracked spines. At the same time, I don’t like squinting into the shadows of a book that is hardly open.
Some people have asked me to share how I keep my paperback books in such a pristine condition. That’s why I’m sharing a step by step guide on how to prevent cracked spines, complete with photos.
Step 1: Pick a book
I usually do this just before I start reading a book. Technically I could do it when I haul them but I’m afraid I’ll forget or accidentally skip a book. Before reading is the most foolproof time. Here’s an example with my paperback edition of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.
Step 2: Place book with spine facing down onto a flat surface
It’s important to use a flat and sturdy surface. Using a soft surface like a mattress or carpeted floor might result in a cracked spine, which is what we’re actually trying to prevent.
Step 3: Open up the front and back covers and flatten onto the surface along the creases
Paperbacks usually come with a natural fold along or near the spines. Follow along those as a guide.
Step 4: One by one, open a page on each side
Technically it’s fine to open up a few pages in one go but I don’t like uneven gaps to form between the pages, so I’m more meticulous by opening only one page at a time.
Step 5: Continue with Step 4 until the spine curves and the pages fan out, then open up a few pages at a time
After opening up about 10% of the book, the spine should start curving. Leave it that way. Don’t force the spine to remain flat on its back. You want the spine to curve.
Step 6: Keep going until you reach the centre, taking care not to fold the spine
Be very careful to maintain the curve along the spine. Don’t be too forceful in opening up the pages. If the spine threatens to fold/snap in the centre, then let the centre pages be. The book probably has been bound too tight.
Step 7: Flip the pages front to back a few times
Flip through front to back and back to front. This will even out the pages of the book while loosening the spine some more. Now when you open up the book to read, the spine will curve instead of crack.
Done and Ready to Read
There you have it — a paperback book with a spine that won’t crack too easily. I’ve been able to open my books normally while reading without worrying too much about cracked spines. Following these steps won’t completely prevent cracks but they keep them to a minimum and in the very least make them lighter and not so visible. If the spine still feels stiff after breaking it in, repeat the above steps once or twice more.