Where is the proper spot to sign a book or leave comments?
July 26, 2006 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Where is the proper spot to sign a book or leave comments?

I am trying to figure out where the correct place to sign a book is. Not as the author, although, I wonder that as well. I am wondering where does a person sign a book when giving it away as a gift or when leaving comments (like thank you) when someone lends you a book? Does it differ with hardcover vs. paperback?

Finally, is it considered “tacky” to sign a book if you are not the author?
posted by birdlips to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I definitely don't consider that tacky. On several occasions I have pulled out an old book that I had completely forgotten was given to me and been quite charmed/amused/struck with reminiscence upon realizing that someone far in my past gave me this book and thought to write in it a short note.

As for where, I'd say the first completely blank pages in the front, and if there are none, the inside of the front cover.
posted by jckll at 8:12 AM on July 26, 2006

The author typically crosses out their name on the title page of the book and signs below that. In my limited author-signing experience.
posted by GuyZero at 8:19 AM on July 26, 2006

Not tacky at all. In fact, I make a point to always write a small note on the first page (the mostly-blank page with the title) whenever I give a book as a gift.
posted by suedehead at 8:23 AM on July 26, 2006

I wouldn't leave a thank you note in a book that someone lends you. You should just give them a regular thank you note.
posted by voidcontext at 8:24 AM on July 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

It depends on who you're giving the book to or who you're borrowing it from, and his or her sentiments as an owner of books.

If giving it away as a gift, I would prefer as the recipient that you enclose a card along with the book or write a note on an enclosed bookmark, instead of writing in the book itself. But you're giving the gift--you can do whatever you want, and as the recipient I'll be happy. It's the thought that counts. When I'm giving a book as a gift, I don't write in it.

I don't think I own a single book with handwriting in it that isn't by that book's author. (Except a paperback copy of Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clarke, a Christmas gift I got from a classmate when I was eight years old.) I do have several books I received as gifts for which a bookmark or a card was enclosed--in that case I keep the bookmark or card inside the jacket.

If I loaned a book to a person and it came back with writing inside, I'd appreciate the sentiment, but I'd never loan that person a book again. But I only loan out hardcovers (paperbacks are likely to come back to me with cracked spines), and I fully acknowledge my fastidious behavior in this matter.

If I were returning a book to someone and I wanted to communicate a message along with it, I would slip an index card inside with a note written on it. (As the recipient I'd appreciate that; why, I would not even be irritated if the index card were not acid-free.)
posted by Prospero at 8:30 AM on July 26, 2006

I believe the author should sign on the title page, but if it is a gift or something similar, you would sign the inside of the front cover. I don't have any citation for it, but i believe that is "The Way".
posted by indiebass at 8:40 AM on July 26, 2006

Previously on AskMe.
posted by SenshiNeko at 9:17 AM on July 26, 2006

My most cherished books have inscriptions in the front from the giver. It turns a regular book into a keepsake and a kind of time capsule.
posted by mckenney at 9:20 AM on July 26, 2006

I'd be seriously pissed if someone wrote anything (even a nice little thank-you) in a book I lent them.

However, I'm the opposite of Prospero -- I try to only lend out paperbacks, because they're more "disposable" in my mind. I'm therefore less likely to see red when they come back with the inevitable bent spines and dogeared pages.

To actually answer the question, I think an inscription in a book you're giving as a gift is perfectly appropriate, and turns an otherwise ordinary present into something to be treasured.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 9:42 AM on July 26, 2006

I'd be annoyed if somebody wrote something in a book I loaned them. However, I love when people write something in a book they're giving me as a gift. It's nice to have that little happy birthday or merry Christmas or whatever. I especially like it when the year is noted.

I also get kick out of used books with inscriptions from total strangers from, like, 1928. I have some books that were passed down which have inscriptions from my great-greats to my greats, neither of whom I knew. I also have one that my grandfather received as a prize in school with an inscription from his teacher. They make the book special by adding to its history.

Both as a gift-giver and as an author, I write on the first convenient blank space, which is generally either immediately before or immediately after the copyright page. When it's my book, I sometimes remember to cross out my typed name, and sometimes don't.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:27 AM on July 26, 2006

I'd also be somewhat annoyed if someone wrote a thank-you note in a book I loaned them. However, I do appreciate a thoughtful sentiment inscribed on one of the first few blank pages in a book given to me as a gift.

Prospero - never occurred to me to give an inscribed bookmark along with a book - that's a great idea - and it also solves the problem presented by writing in a book - what if the recipient already has a copy or doesn't like it?
posted by MeetMegan at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2006

Having stood near both the giftwrap station and the signing table a number of times at the bookstore where I work, here's what I've observed.

People inscribing books that they're giving as gifts write on the first white page. Inscriptions are one of the reasons we open the book you're returning - if it has one, don't try to return it. :)

Authors signing books sign not on the first title page (which has a smaller title and little else) but the second, fancier title page (which has a bigger title and the author's name). Our events coordinator generally has someone stationed at the signing table to put the dust jacket flap of the front cover on the proper page as a bookmark so the author only needs to open and sign.

Tidbits: Authors (nice ones, anyway) will typically sign extra books for the store to sell as autographed copies, with a sticker on the front saying its autographed. Not all of these copies necessarily sell, and on occasion they get returned to the publisher. If it's a really overprinted book, the publisher may sell copies to a bargain book broker, and so you will on occasion find autographed books in a bargain books section in your local bookstore. I picked up a Nora Roberts hardcover, autographed, for less than 4 bucks for my mother-in-law.
posted by booksherpa at 11:08 PM on July 26, 2006

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