What We Do to Books

By GEOFF DYER

There has always been a lot of discussion about the effect that reading books has on us. Far less attention has been paid to the effect that we (the readers) have on them (the books). I don’t mean on the reputations or royalties of the authors who wrote the books but on the actual physical objects themselves.

Illustration by Stephen Doyle

As a kid I borrowed books from libraries. When I was a student I often bought used books, some with other people’s annotations in pencil. These could be erased, but I occasionally settled for a book with the previous owner’s name and notes in ink…

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