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1st May 2022

Don’t judge a ‘blook’ by its cover

What links a viral story about German tax on period products and an exploding gift?
Don’t judge a ‘blook’ by its cover
Photo: Ausrine Naujalyte @ The Mancunion

A viral post from this year claimed that the German tax on books is much lower than the one set for period products such as pads and tampons, at 7% and 19% respectively. Therefore, a book was released which contained 15 tampons and was sold at a lower price than the packet would cost if it was sold as sanitary products.

Interestingly, I found that the original claim was true, but the law has been changed and now both items would have the same 7% tax – a win for book protests and a step in the right direction for ending period poverty.

The post inspired me to look into what other ways the book form was used for non-book purposes. Hiding objects in books is an old practice – many films use it as a way to smuggle in tools for escaping from prison or to hide valuables in a book-safe. However, while looking into this topic, I discovered “blooks” (“book-like” objects) that were exhibited at the Grolier Club in Manhattan a couple years ago.

A preservation librarian called Mindell Dubansky has been collecting “blooks” for over 20 years and this exhibition consisted of items from her vast collection. 130 “blooks” were displayed, less than a third of the entire Dubansky’s collection.

Some of the more interesting items include:

  1. an alarm clock (of course shaped as a book) by Lava Simplex, a company that is mostly known for their lava lamps, 
  2. “blooks” filled with paper caps that explode when opened,
  3. a small candle lantern which is surrounded by a book-like case.

But what is the purpose of blooks?

Some answers are quite simple – book lovers love books and there is a market for book merchandise. The best way to test this claim is to search for gifts for bookworms – you’ll find dozens of BuzzFeed articles, Pinterest posts and guides to finding the perfect gift for the Rory Gilmore in your life.

It’s clear that the “Tampon Book” was an item produced as a way to protest the fact that sanitary products were categorised as luxury items and luckily this categorisation was changed. Books and protests are linked concepts, as many manifestos are books or leaflets, but protesting by using the form or the concept of the book is a powerful idea.

And finally, hiding things in books (book safes or book flasks) makes a lot of sense – these objects blend in with the rest of the bookshelf and don’t require a secret location. They also make quite good gag gifts and therefore are popular with gift givers.

To many people books are objects worthy of respect and care – not everyone would use a book to replace a broken sofa leg. Owning objects that are shaped as books and using books as a way to protest suggests that we understand their power and worth.

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