Spine Creases and Occasional Markings

Do you write in books? Underline in Biro? Highlight with marker pens? Fold the corners down to mark a page? Is it YOUR book?

Let’s say it is. You bought it, you own it, you’re using it for your studies – why shouldn’t you write in it? OK, I’ll even admit that I may (occasionally) underline or highlight, although usually only if there isn’t a post-it within reach and I’m sure that I’ll keep the book.

But what if it’s not? My pet peeve is opening a Library book I’ve borrowed only to find that someone else has scribbled in it. Quite often it’s pencil, and, yes, pencil can be rubbed out. But why has it been left for me to do? I didn’t write in it!

It’s not even the lack of consideration that most annoys me (though it does annoy me), it’s the fact that I will now read the book how the previous person read it. I won’t be able to help myself – my eye will be drawn to the passage they underlined, I will stop and ask myself the question they noted against that difficult paragraph…

Sometimes that is the quotation I need, and it is the question I should ask; but generally it’s not, because I’m not tackling the same essay question, even if I’m studying the same module. While I enjoy a good discussion I think I’d rather have it in person (perhaps over coffee), instead of shouting “You idiot! That’s not the point!” at the graffiti in the book I’m reading.

The same applies when buying a book second-hand. I don’t dispute the right of the original owner to make notes in it, maybe they were expecting to keep it, but if you’ve underlined every sentence in a chapter, perhaps you should just recycle the book rather than sell it on?

By now you may have guessed what sparked my outrage. One of the books I ordered for my George Eliot module arrived today. Described by the seller as having occasional markings, it actually has occasional ‘unmarkings’. Even the Technician, who regards most books as a fire-hazard, was shocked by the indiscriminate highlighting, spluttering “Don’t they know how to take notes?” as he thumbed through it.

“What do you expect when you only spent a penny on it?” You might ask (had you known that). What I expect, however much I’m paying, is for the book to arrive in the condition promised by the description.

Since I probably don’t have time to return it and source a clean copy before I need it, I guess I’ll have to make do. Let’s hope the ‘unmarkings’ are the bits I really need!



  1. mrsbr says:

    My pet hate is library books that people have destroyed like that! Grr.

  2. I don’t like turned-down corners or highlighting or notes in the margins either. I am reading The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, and I got it at a used bookstore, but with all the highlights and notes I feel like I’m constantly wondering why the previous person highlighted certain things rather than being able to fully enjoy the book.

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