Is it possible to split up and rebind a very large book?
December 11, 2005 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to split up and rebind a very large book into three or four smaller books? (Yes, I know this was asked a year and a half ago, but my question is a little different.)

A few years ago, my New Year’s resolution was to read the entire Norton Anthology Of American Literature. I was helped enormously by the four-volume edition, in which the two humongous anthologies are split into four reasonably-sized books.

In 2006 I’ll conquer the English Literature anthologies, which a teacher friend recently gave me. Now, I know there’s a multi-volume edition available (for example) but I think I’d rather just read the free copy I was given.

So let me suggest something that may be heretical to many of you. I would like to cut each volume into three separate books. My thinking is that, much like the American Literature anthologies from a few years ago, the book will become pretty torn up and un-rereadable over the course of accompanying me for a few months, so I might as well pre-emptively destroy them and at least make them a little easier to carry around.

Though I will entertain arguments against this plan, what I’m really asking is this: Right now my idea is to slice them out with an Exact-o, then reinforce the spine with duct tape. Ha! Surely there must be a better way.

Is there a way to re-bind a book like this at home? (Perhaps in some sort of kit from, I don’t know, a craft store?)

It doesn't have to look good at all. It just has to be durable enough to survive three months of my life.

Hey! Before you say “double post” look at this: I saw this earlier thread, which bears a few distinct differences to my question: namely, my book is a perfect bound paperback, not a hardcover, and the pages are Bible thin. I got the impression from that thread, though, that a commercial book binder is out of the question, since it seems to be almost as expensive as just buying the separate volumes.

Thank you in advance for entertaining this ridiculous question.
posted by Ian A.T. to Education (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Most Kinko's-type places will bind pages for you with one of those spiral plastic binder thingies. It costs about a dollar per binding, and they're reasonably durable. You could easily label the spines with some stickers and a Sharpie.
posted by Dr. Wu at 12:03 PM on December 11, 2005

First of all you are in for a treat in 2006. Having enjoyed most of the English and American, I have to say I enjoyed the English more. Good shite.

If your paper back nortons are the same as mine, they have very flexibly gummy spines and you could easily just chop them into 3 without rebinding. I would suggest adding a cardstock cover for each and reinforcing everything with tape. Duct tape is not the best choice, IMO. I have used clear packing tape to repair mine repeatedly and it works great without getting messy or ever coming undone.

But if you're talking about slicing the pages out a few at a time with an exacto, I don't think that will work. Take it to a Kinkos or something and they can put it on a cutting machine that will slice the spine off at one stroke with minimal eating-into the other pages.

You can then have the "perfect-bind" the pages into as many sections as you want. "Perfect binding" is a brand name for an inexpensive kind of binding you can get at photocopy places nowadays. It comes out pretty much exactly like a paperback book.

That's probably what I would do in your place.
posted by scarabic at 12:05 PM on December 11, 2005

Yeah, sorry if I wasn't clear...I meant that I'd slice through the spine with an Exact-o until I had three 900 page sections. Each section will still have the binding still connecting the pages together. Does that make sense? Like if I'd ripped the book in thirds, then wrapped some tape off the spine and on to the final page?

But what you're saying is I should have the spine itself cut off and then perfect bound, right? (Sorry...I'm a little slow.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:38 PM on December 11, 2005

Knowing the Nortons, I'd take the cheap and cheerful approach. Chop into three down the spine, keeping the binding; glue on a cardstock cover (attached at the edges, rather than to the entire spine); then add a vinyl slipcase or some other reinforcing/waterproofing cover.
posted by holgate at 1:35 PM on December 11, 2005

have the spine itself cut off and then perfect bound

Yeah. Copy shops have a guillotine-like machine which first compresses the book between two plates to hold it perfectly still, and then lowers a straight blade with a lot of force. It will shear right through a phone book easily.

And you could always do this after trying your exacto method. If your tape-and-paper method doesn't hold together, just take your 3 falling-apart sections to a copy shop for the above procedure.
posted by scarabic at 2:06 PM on December 11, 2005

I cut down the spine of my copy of incr Tcl from the Ground Up because it was too unwieldy to use at work. I used clear packing tape to tape the edge pages. You can find bookbinding glue if you want to get fancy. I didn't know about the easy binding, thanks.

I often would appreciating have my hefty reference books chopped up into small sizes. It can be such a pain lugging them around.

(and it's not just ref. I agree that the NAs are pretty huge. So is The Year's Best Science Fiction anthology that comes out each year. (highly recommended!))
posted by furvyn at 5:03 PM on December 11, 2005

I've done this with a couple of thick paperbacks (Mandela's autobio, Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters) to read on the subway. I used the X-acto-and-clear-tape method, and I used extra paperback covers for the missing front/backs (I worked at a publishing company), but card stock should work fine. Don't bother with fancy re-binding. But make sure to tape the inside cover to the first or last page, too, not just the outside.
posted by rikschell at 6:25 PM on December 11, 2005

You might check University Products--specifically the library supply division. They sell that ultra-gummy, ultra tough spine reinforcement and repair tape made by 3M. Next time you're at the library, check it out on the spines of the newer/nicer paperbacks: that's the clear version.

It works way, way better than garden-variety clear/duct tape, though if you're using it to attach a cover or repair a cracked spine you should put something on the inside too.

I know that I'm suggesting that you spend $15-$20 to avoid purchasing a $65 book, but you'll have lots left over for future repairs. I'm too hard on my books, and I keep a roll of this around to postpone the inevitable until the end of a semester or reinforce damaged library/rummage sale acquisitions.
posted by pullayup at 6:52 PM on December 11, 2005

I actually work at a Kinko's and can vouch for the methods of cutting the spine off of a pre-existing book and then re-binding using one of our several methods.

Depending on how thick your covers are, I would recommend going in and asking for either a tape bind or a velo bind.

A tape bind is a piece of tape with a special heat-activated glue that holds the pages together. A velo bind is a type of bind where small holes are punched in the pages every 2 inches or so and a plastic strip holds the whole thing together. Those options will be the least-expensive and the most durable.

If nothing else, though, have Kinko's do the cutting. It will take them 5 seconds to do with the guillotine what might take you an hour or more to do with an xact-o...and with a million times more accuracy and uniformity.
posted by ThFullEffect at 3:57 AM on December 12, 2005

Hey, guys...thanks for your help! I marked Scarabic as best answer because I'll probably just do the free and raggedy version before inevitably taking it into Kinko's for the slightly less-free and more professional version.

However, everyone gave me good advice, and I really appreciate it.

Pullayup's links to library tape made me realize that both my girlfriend AND my sister are librarians, and maybe I could have asked them about all this first. D'oh.

Wanna hear something bizarre? I was walking down the street about fifteen minutes ago and there was a box of books with FREE written on it. Inside was an exact copy of Volume 1. Weird! So, now I have one "gimme" if I (as is likely) screw it up the first time.

Thanks everyone!

(TheFullEffect: Can I write to you about an off-topic Kinko's-related question? If so, my email's in my profile. Also, I want to make you a tantalizing business offer concerning my father, a deposed Nigerian prince...)
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:01 PM on December 12, 2005

I'm late getting to this. Sorry. If you're interested in bookbinding/repair supplies, check out They cater to librarians, folks who obviously do on occasion just what you're doing. I get lots of great supplies from them.

If you're looking for genuine bookbindery stuff, check out They have all the supplies you need and they also teach bookbinding classes.
posted by tamills at 6:49 AM on March 20, 2006

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