I’m afraid I’m in the opposite camp as you, Beth Bruno . To me, books are sacred objects. Do defile and desecrate them is sacrilege. It is something I never, ever do! If I feel the need to take notes then I will get a notebook or piece of paper and leave my notes on that with a page number of the book the notes refer to. But I will never, ever write in or mark up a book.

For one thing, I don’t want to ruin the reading experience of the next reader of that book. Once I saw a book that I had been looking for at a used bookstore. I really wanted the book so I bought it without looking through the book. When I got home and started reading the book I was so extremely disappointed and disgusted to find out that the previous reader had excessively marked up the book with highlighter and notes. The notes showed that the previous reader was reading the book from a totally different perspective than I would. The notes showed that previous reader just didn’t get what the author was saying. I was so disgusted I threw the book away and ordered a brand new copy so that I could read the book without all that distracting gibberish of the previous reader.

When I read a book I consider it to be a very intimate personal experience between myself and the author. For someone to force their way into my intimate experience is just plain RUDE! Say you are making out with your significant other. Suddenly, someone forces themselves between you two, pushing you apart in order to force their opinion into the situation. That is just as rude as marking in a book.

I don’t care what others think of a book. I have a mind of my own and can make my own decisions. I want my reading experience to be strictly my own. I don’t do three-ways. And I don’t care for others to rudely interject themselves into my personal reading experience.

I used to own a bookstore that sold both new and used books. I had a rule that I would not accept any used books from anyone if they had been highlighted or marked in. The second a book is marked in it loses at least 90% of its resale value. There are many, many people who will not buy a book if it has been desecrated by highlighting or any markings. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one. (Now when I consider buying a book at a used bookstore I will ALWAYS check through the entire book to make sure there are no markings. If there is so much as one word highlighted I will not buy the book. The book has been desecrated and the reading experience for the next reader is ruined.)

It’s just plain rude!

With all this being said, I acknowledge that if you buy a book you can do whatever you want with it. You can desecrate it, you can run it over with a tractor, you can burn it. You own it. It’s your right to do whatever you want.

Personally, I have too much respect for books to desecrate them. And I have too much respect for subsequent readers to interfere with and ruin their personal reading experience.

A really, really good book is like a work of art. To highlight or mark in it is akin to painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. You might get a thrill out of painting that mustache but it truly ruins the experience for the next person who wants to view the Mona Lisa in its pristine form the way the painter intended the painting to be viewed.

Earthling — Lifelong novelist & essayist — https://whitefeather.substack.com/

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