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Hermit books

Tue 13 Nov 2001 by mskala Tags used: ,

The phrase "hermit books" describes any of 23 species of paper-based animals related to the familiar hard- and soft-cover books and also (less closely) to magazines, pamphlets, facial tissues, particle boards, and so on. The life cycle of the hermit book begins during spawning season in mid-October, when adult females release thousands of tiny particles of paper called /crufts/. Meanwhile the adult males release fertilizing /toner/, an inky black powder, which combines with the crufts on the library floor. Fertilized crufts soon grow into larvae, or /chads/, which live for a few weeks in a free-floating state before seeking permanent covers.

Hermit books do not have covers of their own, but must use the covers of other books. As they grow, they must repeatedly moult their old covers and find larger ones. The discarded covers are often seized by other hermit books, and the same binding may play host to many hermit books in succession; but in the absence of an empty binding, a hermit book may attack a book of another species, eat its pages, and seize its binding. Very small hermit books may sometimes share a set of covers, with each other or with a book of another species, but since each will eventually grow to consume all the space, they are generally unwelcome guests and quarrelsome neighbours, and may be vigorously ejected. Occasionally a hermit book may be found in something other than a normal binding. One large hermit book was once found in a laser printer's output tray! A closely related group of animals, the four species of Creeping Postal Reply Cards, have adapted to life between the pages of glossy magazines.

Hermit books do not make good pets because of their irritability, and they tend to be extremely dull reading, but they fill an important niche. They help return worn-out bindings to the library ecosystem; they provide homes for other opportunistic creatures including bookmarks and marginalia; and (being easily removed from their borrowed covers) they are easy prey and an important food source for larger species.

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