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.
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.
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?