Cracked spines have become more common in the era of the mass market paperback. Narrow margins and disappearing text lend for a hard read and the obvious solution is to crack the spine so that the book can lay flat and you can read easy.

But not everyone is a fan of cracking the spine. Once the spine has been cracked, it’s really easy to keep pulling the book open in order to get it to lay flat. This gives the spine a more worn and weathered look. If you’re more into the vintage look of worn books, this might be perfect. 

Paperback books with cracked spines from the college library’s music section.

I’m not in the sect of readers who enjoys cracking spines. I try to be very careful (even with my MM books) to keep the spines in tact. I hold them gently and only allow for the slightest bend in order to read well.

Books with cracked spines are more common now that the majority of books are softcover. Hardcover books, though capable of having worn spines, aren’t often “cracked” unless the pages are side stitched or “saddle” stitched. Softcover (commonly referred to as “paperback”) books, however, are often glued to the cover with either burst binding or perfect binding methods. 

The glue that is used for softcover books is leaps and bounds better than it used to be when paperbacks first emerged in the 20th century. But glue is still susceptible to wear, and cracking spines weakens the bond across the edges of the pages. Hence why you see many old, yellowing books with pages—and even covers—falling out.

Cracks and bends can also be indicators of a well-loved book. Perhaps it’s a book that’s been with your family for a long while, passed down from grandparent to parent to child. Or maybe it’s your favorite book that you’ve had since you were in middle school, and you’ve read it so much that it’s just naturally starting to wear out. (This happened to my copy of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians.) 

Some readers are averse to cracking spines because it deters from the “bookshelf aesthetic” that they love so much. (I’ll admit, I like having a pristine bookshelf.) Some prefer not to so that the book doesn’t “pop open” when they put it down for a bit. Others don’t mind cracking the spine open so that they can read the text easier and aren’t too worried about keeping the book in perfect condition.

Do you crack your spines? Or do you prefer to keep them looking brand new? Leave a comment below!


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