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BooksFood & DIY

How to inscribe a book for a friend

Book lovers, beware. This post is about writing things on books. With permanent ink. 

If you love to give away books you may have encountered the predicament of book inscriptions.

Are they really worth it? Do they ruin the book? Is it considered sacrilege?

I would say it depends on only two factors. One, if the receiver of the book prefers to keep their collection in perfect conditions. And two, if the book in question is a rare or very special edition.

In any other case I would say you should go for it. Giving books as a gift is an awesome way to connect with someone else and share an experience with them. And if we are talking about mass-produced books, an inscription will only make them more special and personalized for the owner.

If you are uncertain on how to inscribe a book, this is the process I like to follow:

1. Date

This is always the first step because by writing the inscription we intend for this book to be saved as a keepsake.

2. Name of the receiver

Write the name of the person like this was a letter, so when they open the book for the first time and see someone scribbled on it, they will immediately know it’s for them. Also, if far away in the future they get rid of the book and it ends up in a goodwill or second-hand shop, the person who buys it will have an interesting story to read. And we wouldn’t want to deprive that stranger of such an important bit of information as the name of the previous owner.

3. The reason why you chose the book

This is the body of the inscription and the most important step. Here you can tell them why you chose this specific book for them. Maybe this is your favorite book and you want to give them your old copy because it taught you this or that, or they have been wanting to read it and you got it for their birthday because they are awesome, or they are not feeling well and you wanted to make them laugh with a funny read. Just think of it like you were writing a greeting card.

I love it when I’m browsing a second-hand shop and I find a book with a cute inscription. It has encouraged me to give away more books because of all the good wishes! Maybe this will encourage your friends too :).

4. Tell the story

If you are giving away your own copy, tell them the story of how you got it or how long you’ve had it. It could make it more special for them. If you previously read it, you could tell them who is your favorite character or a quote you like, this way they have something to look forward while reading. If you haven’t read the book you could just tell them how you got it, it was a midnight release, if the package got lost in the mail or if you went to pick it up at the store and accidentally bought the one that came with a stain in the cover.

I think this step is not necessary for all books, unless you have an interesting or funny story to tell.

5. Your name

Obviously. Just think of that stranger that could potentially buy this book years from now.

6. Add a little gift

This is not part of the inscription at all, but I like to add little gifts with a book. Like a hand-made bookmark, sticky page markers or a pen to make annotations.


Do you like to inscribe books? What do you write in them? And please share any cute story from second-hand books! I love those 🙂

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