Controversial Opinion: I Don’t Care If You Cut Up Books for Crafts

Turning Books into Crafts

Every once in a while, I see a humorous meme or reaction on social media of someone reacting with horror to the idea of cutting up books for crafts. (Example here.)  I think the horror ties into a couple discussions that have shown up in the book blogosphere, such as the discussion of books as sacred sparked by Marie Kondo’s Netflix show where she (*gasp*) suggests removing books from your home that don’t give you joy and the discussion of waste and consumerism that showed up awhile back as a reaction to people burning books for the “aesthetic” on Instagram.  The idea is that books are  valuable (emotionally and monetarily), and cutting them into pieces is, therefore, a crime.  I completely agree that books are valuable, but I don’t care if someone shreds a whole pile of them for a craft project. Here’s why:


1. These are not rare manuscripts.

This is not the Middle Ages, and people are not cutting up the one available copy of a text.  While I in no way want to dismiss the fact that many people do not have easy (or any) access to books and many people do not have the disposable income to purchase books, the fact remains that printed books have basically never been quite as affordable and widely-available as they are now.  Someone cutting up a book for an art project is probably cutting up a $10 USD paperback of which there are thousands more copies in the world.  Turning a mass market paperback of  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe into a craft is not preventing other people from accessing and enjoying the story.

There are also a lot of books (in the US, at least; I am not speaking for everyone) that are so widely available they have trouble finding homes.  If you walk into any thrift store, you will find dozens of copies of Fifty Shades of Grey that people no longer want…and that are not currently selling because the market is so saturated.  Buying one for $1 and turning it into a craft is a decent way of recycling a book that otherwise might not be  used in any way at all.

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2. Often people use books that were damaged/unreadable anyway.

A lot of bookworms treasure and take care of their books, so I think it often gets overlooked that books can, in fact, become so damaged that they are not really readable.  Take library books, for instance.  Libraries frequently go through their collections and “weed” books that are too damaged to circulate.  Maybe they’re ripped or stained or missing tons of pages.  These books are often sent to be recycled, but someone taking a damaged book from their library (or their own collection, or wherever) and turning it into a craft is also a nice way of giving the book new life.

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3. People can do what they want with their Property/ money.

I completely support donating books and supporting charities devoted to literacy, and Krysta and I both post about ways to do that here on the blog.  However, at the end of the day, I think people have the right to spend their money as they wish.  Generally, I do think that people are using cheap used books or very damaged books for their crafts (in which case they have the right to do what they wish with their own property), but if someone actually wanted to go out and buy a brand new (say, $25 USD) hardcover book to cut into pieces and turn into art, they have the right to do that.  In the end, this is not particularly different from spending that money on fancy patterned cardstock at a craft store or other art supplies.

What do you think? Should people turn books into art? Have you ever made a craft out of a book?

Briana

43 thoughts on “Controversial Opinion: I Don’t Care If You Cut Up Books for Crafts

  1. Krysta says:

    I don’t care if people make book crafts, either. I know we often treat books as sacred but, as you mention, books used for crafts are often ones that are falling apart and would be recycled another way, anyway. And they are not typically irreplaceable texts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maddie A. says:

    I’ve actually used books for an art project. I cut up my copy of Twilight to make a bouquet of paper flowers and I really liked how it turned out. Of course, the book is damaged but even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t feel bad because I know I’m never going to reread it. Like you said, people can do what they want with their property 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  3. MoMo @ Remnants of Wit says:

    When my copy of Prisoner of Azkaban fell apart, I had fun using it to make bookmarks and cutting out the illustrations. But I don’t know if I could take a pair of scissors to a brand-new book! Not that I have a problem with other people doing so, or that I wouldn’t make crafts from an old, worn-out paperback… I guess I’ve just been trained to try to take care of brand-new books, haha 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      That does sound really fun! I also had an old, damaged HP book that I put to other uses. HP is also a great example of a book where there’s such an overabundance of copies that it seems silly someone would really care if one were cut up. You can buy HP at like every thrift store and yard sale.

      I’d be a little nervous about cutting up a new book, too, unless I specifically bought it to do that, in which case I would just keep reminding myself it was like buying fancy craft paper. :p

      Liked by 1 person

  4. TeaPartyPrincess says:

    I love seeing what people create with books, some of it is incredible!
    Someone spending their own money on a book isn’t taking it out of the hands of someone who could otherwise read it. A lot of people I think are too protective of books, holding them up almost like a sacred object.
    Another way to look at it is that the artist is supporting publishing, they’re buying a book to use in their craft.
    Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Agreed! I also love the point about supporting the author and the publishing industry if you’re buying books. It doesn’t really matter if you read it; you’re providing financial support that means other people will be able to continue to read and write!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kristina Peterson says:

    Hahaha, you put a smile on my face! I have read comments from people who were upset that books were used for crafts. I like to think of it as an upcycle for books that would have been thrown in the garbage. I have thought when books are used for crafts or art it is a way of promoting the written word.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Exactly! I think most books used for crafts are damaged or were not going to be read by the owner anyway, so turning them into something else beautiful is actually a great idea! I also think it does promote writing and literacy because it helps people see very visually that words are beautiful, or it can spark a discussion about the book used in the craft.

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  6. nsfordwriter says:

    Agree, books should be used for art – and books are art anyway. An awful lot of books go for pulping every year without having been read. It’s nice that some people recycle them into art.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yes, I like the idea that books are art and can be turned into different art!

      I do think a lot of people are unaware of how many books are thrown away/recycled each year. I even saw a publishing employee say a lot of ARCs are disposed of without being sent to anyone for review. Books are magical, yes, but they are *also* just things, and things get damaged and thrown away.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nsfordwriter says:

        E-books at least can’t be thrown out just because no one wants them, but then you can’t make art of them 🙂
        I never thought of the ARCs, I mean they can’t be sold or donated to charity so… actually it’s depressing me how much waste there is, of resources and energy. Anyway, good post, thank you.

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  7. Loreen says:

    I think using old textbooks or out of date reference books for crafts is a good way use the books. No one needs an out of date dictionary or textbook.

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  8. Alex Masegian says:

    I hadn’t really thought about this before, so I’m glad to see you made a post on it! I’ve seen some of the controversy floating around about this, and I have to say — I agree with you. I’ve received some beautiful crafts made out of books by my friends, and I know that they used older, worn-out books to make them, so I have no problem with it! (Even if I didn’t know, I still wouldn’t have a problem with it. You’re not hurting the author, because you’re paying for the book — you’re not hurting people who don’t have access to the book, because you buying it in the first place means they won’t be able to buy it anyways, no matter what you do with it.)

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’m honestly not sure why people care if someone else cuts up a book, besides a visceral “books are sacred” reaction, which is very interesting because, in the Early Modern period, for instance, people cut up books all time time! Like, they cut out passages they liked and glued them into scrapbooks or other books, they moved passages around to places they liked better, etc. The written word and the book as an object was seen as much more participatory, so it’s just interesting to see how far away from that we’ve moved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alex Masegian says:

        That’s a great point — reading used to be a lot more interactive. Even writing in books (which is now somewhat frowned upon) was pretty common, and almost expected. To make a book your own, why shouldn’t you annotate and react to it as you read? Maybe we just need to normalize reading like that again, and that includes using our books in whatever ways we want to.

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  9. Bookish Rita says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I hate the purist view of books as sacred. I did a module over the history of books and preservation at university and we talked a lot about how books completely disappear from our records even if there are thousands of copies. But books such as 50 Shades of Gray or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have ~millions~ of copies out there. Not to mention ebook versions that may live on much longer than our physical books. If doing crafts with books makes you happy, then totally go for it and make those crafts!

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    • Krysta says:

      Exactly! If my copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe loses its binding, I don’t think I need to carefully preserve its sacred pages for posterity. There are copies everywhere! And sometimes bestsellers end up in piles in used bookstores because no one wants them after the popularity has faded. Is it better to let them languish there or to make something beautiful?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Annemieke says:

    A 100% agree. I won’t lie that it sometimes hurts a little but like you said, it is their money and property to do with that they want. Often they just get a beat up copy from good will or something.

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  11. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    I love this!! I have used books for crafts before and I totally agree with all of your points. For most of my crafts I use cheap books that I got for a dollar or two, but I did spend $25 on a nice edition of Pride and Prejudice for a special craft that I still have displayed in my room ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. anhdara13 says:

    The only reason I have not used books as crafts is because I’m a horrible artist! Lol. But like you say, it’s people using their own money, their own property, and most of the time, they’re using books that are already in not great shape, so honestly, let them do what they want!

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    • Krysta says:

      My bookish art skills have extended to doing blackout poetry with a book that had a broken binding. I’d love to do one of those things where you fold the pages down to make letters, but it looks so time-consuming and complex, even if you buy/download a template.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. awitchawakening says:

    Haha. This is so funny. Only yesterday I saw an instagram post of some cut up books turned into craft projects (book safes in this instance) and I was mortified! Argh how can they do that!?!? but that is a kind of gut reaction which is why I like your post. I’m all for recycling/upcycling/any kind of cycling so why am I offended by people using books this way!? Maybe because I am a writer and would be sad if someone did that to one of my (as yet unfinished let alone published) books but would I care if it was one of loads? Ha hopefully one day I will find out! Thoughts thoroughly provoked! Awesome post 💖

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Well, I think besides the people who use old, beat-up books for crafts, there are also people who use books that are really special to them. So maybe if someone makes a craft out of your book one day it will be because they really like it! (And they’ll need to buy a couple copies so they have one for the craft AND one to read!)

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Trisha Jenn Loehr says:

    I love upcycling damaged books in crafts. I used old, cheap, or damaged copies of Pride and Prejudice to make paper roses to use in my wedding bouquet. I loved adding that bookish touch.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’ve only ever seen people saying they are aghast at books made into crafts, as if it’s sacrilegious to cut up a book and any good book lover would be against this…but I really don’t care if people do it. :p

      Like

  15. Charvi says:

    I definitely support everything you just said! I myself have one or two damaged books that are pretty much unreadable and use them for bookstagram because really we’re texting them that way 🙂

    Like

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