Books Magazine

Discussion: Book Borrowing Etiquette

By Literaryexploration @Lit_Explorer
Have you ever lent out one of your favorite books, only to never get it back? What about that time you let a friend borrow your copy of Harry Potter and they returned it with a water stain on it? Or that time you lent out your entire Sookie Stackhouse Series and it took them more than a year to return them all? We've all had that experience that makes us a little bit jaded when it comes to lending out books. I know I have. The thing is, how do you politely tell a friend that you have some ground rules when it comes to borrowing? How do you tell a friend who has proven themselves unreliable when it comes to borrowing that they can't borrow anything anymore? As crazy as I am when it comes to my books, I try to be understanding and a little less controlling about my stash, but my books are my babies and I need people to follow certain rules when it comes to borrowing them.
So, as a fun discussion today I thought I'd share some book borrowing etiquette tips, as well as some rules I simply follow myself out of respect for those that are nice enough to let me borrow their books.
1. Give my books back in one piece.
I can't tell you how many times I've gotten my books back without a dust jacket, with pages torn, with the cover bent, and all other sorts of horrors. This is one reason why I rarely lend out my signed copies anymore. I'm sorry, but I pay good money for the books on my shelf and I'm expecting you to treat them with the same respect you'd treat your own books. If you don't treat your books with much respect then don't borrow my books. EVER. For this reason, when I lend out hard cover books I always take the dust jacket off before letting you go home with it.
I understand that accidents happen. So don't eat around my books. If you get stains on the pages I'm going to be pissed. Don't drink anything around them. Seriously, I've gotten books back that have had WATER spilled on them and the pages are completely warped from water damage. I get it, it's just water, what kind of damage can it do? TONS. If you're not careful it can ruin something that isn't even yours.
Don't bend the spine. Don't dog-ear the pages. Don't tear the pages. Don't bend the cover. Don't lose the dust jacket. I know, when you're reading a paperback book it can be hard not to bend the spine. But those creases that happen when you're not careful drive me crazy. I'm going to put the book back on my shelf and have to stare at those horrible, ugly crease marks whenever I face my shelf. And it's going to remind me of how you RUINED that gorgeous cover.
2. If you ruin/lose it, replace it.
You borrowed my book because you didn't want to buy it yourself. That's fine, but if you lose it or you ruin it, you should be a decent human being and buy me a new copy. I actually had a co-worker who borrowed a book from me, got fired, and disappeared. She never returned my calls, texts, or anything and I never saw my book again. I also had a friend who moved while she was borrowing my books and lost them during the move. She then proceeded to tell me that she never had the books in the first place. You did, I wrote it down.
If you ruin my book, I'm going to ask you to buy me a new one. I'm not going to beat around the bush, I'm going to say, "Hey, you spilled coffee on my favorite quote in The Hunger Games!! You better order me a new copy RIGHT NOW. You can keep this nasty one." Seriously, I've said crap like this before. Just because it's a book, and not something more expensive doesn't mean I'm not expecting it back. I had a friend who spilled water on a book and immediately went out and bought me a new copy. She was very apologetic and didn't even tell me about ruining it until she had a replacement. That is called BEING RESPONSIBLE. She doesn't get to borrow books anymore, but still :)
3. Read them in a timely manner.
If it's going to take you longer than 1-2 weeks to read a book you're borrowing than hold off on it unless we've talked about it. I admit, sometimes I hold on to borrowed books for longer than 2 weeks because life gets in the way. But I always, ALWAYS, let them know that I'm going to have it for a bit before I even have it in my hands. I need to set up that understanding so no one gets mad. If I tell you I've already read the book and you can hold on for it a bit, then fine. If I tell you I haven't read it and I need to soon then you better have it read and returned in about 2 weeks. I have no qualms about asking for books back before you've read them.
Unless I have other commitments, I always push borrowed books to the top of my reading list and I'm expecting you to do the same. If I ask you if you if you've read the books yet, take the hint and get to reading. I'm getting impatient at having my books far away from me for so long. I'm not going to lie, your inability to give my books back in a timely manner will effect our friendship.
4. Don't ask to borrow something if we haven't talked about it before.
I've had so many people I don't know well (or at all) ask me to borrow books and it just makes things awkward for everyone involved. I had someone ask me on Formspring if they could borrow a bunch of my ARCs. I wanted to respond with, "I'm sorry, WHO ARE YOU?" Usually, if someone hasn't offered to let me borrow something I won't ask. I don't know how attached other people are to their books, but it just makes me uncomfortable asking to borrow things when I don't have an established relationship with someone. My recommendation is to wait until someone offers to let you borrow whatever you want from them, or if they respond to your cries of request on Twitter. I've been known to beg at Twitter to borrow things, but I never ask people directly. I just put it out there... "Hey, anyone have a copy of Insignia they wanna let me borrow? Please?? Pretty please??" This way, no one feels obligated, no one feels uncomfortable, everyone is all good!
Obviously, these are just my personal opinions and experiences, but I think a lot of people feel the same way. I'd love to hear about your experiences and some of your book borrowing etiquette tips!

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