Stationery Sunday: Upsizing old books to maximise your social life

There’s a line of thought that enters the student mind each year when one is faced with the prospect of paying for those lengthy, greatly unanticipated reading lists in place of a crate of beer. The words “how much will this cost?” and “no chance!” generally tend to enter my mind when pasting each helpfully listed – though, frightfully deceiving – item code into Amazon: one book at £4.99 is student friendly, we agree. You lecturers have caught on. A fiver is – what? … A pint and a half of cider? Well, times that by 12 across two English Literature classes and suddenly we have ourselves a problem.

When purchasing gruelling ‘compulsory’ texts – because paying for items on the ‘recommended reading’ list just isn’t worth the lack of intoxication – a common route to invest in is the second-hand bookshop market. Heck, with eBay sorting out your stationery for less than a fiver and Amazon now hosting an independent ‘used books’ section, the novelty of traipsing through every Oxfam bookshop within the city centre just isn’t necessary anymore – or time conscious of you to do so, despite how ‘studenty’ it might make you feel. Delivered to your door in two-days-time, your reading list will have been conquered for half the RRP – but what if beneath that layer of dust the crumbling textbooks simply aren’t going to hold on much longer?

This Stationery Sunday is suitable for all readers and aimed at books which have seen better days. If the crinkled spine is really all that’s putting you off, or simply the iconic yellowing appearance of second-hand books is just beneath you, then think again. Cover them up with pretty paper – your wallet will thank you at the weekend.


How to… upsize used and damaged books to maximise your social life

You will need: a book with an UGLY cover; a large piece of paper; scissors; tape; decorations.

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Step 1.1: find that book!

Today, I’m going to be using a text from my first year English class at university: Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, a pretty grim text, if you ask me, with an even grimmer cover. Students of literature especially flock to second hand book stores to avoid disappointment in the library when the limited supply* vanishes like hotcakes. When textbooks go for £30 at cheapest, it’s best to seek alternative copies, and actually more beneficial than you’d imagine! Textbooks are generally used mainly by those studying – it is likely you’ll come across a diamond pretty easily, one with lots of scribbles, interpretations and ‘turn to page 123 for your fate’ jokes…

*three copies for a class of 204 students. I rest my case.

Step 1.2: pick a pretty paper!

As simple as leftover wall paper or wrapping paper, or as intricate as craft specific papers: I got mine from paperpizazz.com (actually, my mum did in the mid noughties!)

Step 2: wrap!

Fold the paper along the edges of the front and back covers. Secure with tape – preferably something pretty – like my washi! Using scissors, carefully snip twice – once where the front cover meets the spine, and once where the back cover meets the spine. Repeat this for the top and bottom of the book. Fold each panel into the bottom and top edges of the book allowing the paper to engulf the inside of each cover. As though you are wrapping presents, fold the corners of each and secure with tape for a seamless, tidy finish.

Step 3: Trim the spine!

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Stand the book (pages down) and allow for the spine panels to stick out horizontally. Using scissors, carefully snip the horizontal panels off making sure to stay as close to the spine edge as possible without accidentally trimming the pages. You should now have a fully covered book – ugly cover, what?

Step 4: Re-write the title!

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This is the part where you can let the creative juices flow! In whichever way appeals to you most, recreate the book title and author name for the front cover so that you can identify the book without ever having to unwrap it or open the cover. Some ways to make this look good are using transfers, using letter stamps, calligraphy, alphabet stickers… the possibilities are endless! Just ensure that you spell everything correctly to avoid making the entire thing look cheap.

Step 5: Write the name on the spine!

As simple as before, using whatever tickles your fancy you should re-create at least the book title so that you can quickly grab it from a bookshelf. This can be as simple as writing it in BLOCK CAPITALS.

Step 6: Personalise…

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For extra sass, insert a bookplate inside the front or back cover detailing the DATE you made your new cover – for prosperity – and YOUR NAME. For extra creativity, avoid the shops and make your own!

I hope you enjoyed this Sunday’s addition. Look forward to some cracking store reviews and ‘Top 10s’ later in this week.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Read previous Stationery Sundays here!

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