Books Magazine

My 7 Rules Of Loaning Books

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

Last week’s post about The Book Borrower, one of my bookish pet peeves, seemed to have hit a nerve with a lot of people.

So I thought I’d dig a little deeper. Playing off last week’s post, I created some rules to help you navigate the muddy waters of loaning books.

Is it okay to loan books? Of course it is. But if you want your book back, you’ll need some guidelines. Here are mine:

Establish a book-loaning circle of trust, then never loan outside of it.

Who are the most trustworthy people in your life? That’s your book-loaning circle of trust, right there. If you wouldn’t loan them money, if you don’t trust them to be on time for your wedding, if they talk about you behind your back, then they don’t belong in your book loaning circle of trust.

Also, the book loaning circle of trust is an unforgiving place. One strike and you’re out. If a member of said circle of trust loses my book, then said member no longer belongs in my circle of trust.

NEVER loan prized books (first editions, books with notes, autographed, etc).

Look at that beautiful first edition, signed copy of The Grapes of Wrath. Wow. Your grandmother is a huge Steinbeck fan, and she has politely asked, in her fragile, grandmotherly voice, if she can borrow the book.

Are you kidding, grandma? No. Absolutely not. I don’t care if you knew Steinbeck in high school. Here’s $15. Order yourself a copy off Amazon.

This also applies to books with notes in the margins. The book can be replaced, but your notes can’t.

Be leery of people who ask to borrow your book.

Yep, like Granny.

Now, if they’re already in your circle of trust, then I guess it’s okay. But if you’ve never loaned a book to someone before, and this particular someone asks to borrow your book, then you might want to think long and hard before you hand over that book.

You could’ve just loaned your prized book to an untrustworthy, serial book borrower. These people have no shame. If you say no, they’ll move on to their next friend without blinking. Go ahead and let them do that.

Don’t loan to people you don’t see often.

 This should be common sense, but even common sense is worth mentioning every now and then.

You live in New York, and your buddy lives in Seattle. You loaned him Infinite Jest when he’s in town for the holidays. That was six months ago, and you honestly expect him to mail it back? Don’t kid yourself…you just gave your buddy a copy of Infinite Jest.

Now you should probably go buy yourself one.

Get a Kindle.

Y’all heard of these things? They’re some kind of fancy reading contraption. Seriously, I’ve always been open about my love for the paper book, but I’ve also been honest about the many benefits of e-readers.

From what I understand, books are easy to loan out on a Kindle because they do fancy Kindle things and the person you loan the book to is a recipient of those fancy Kindle things and everyone is happy.

Keep track of who’s borrowed your books.

Is this going too far? Maybe. I mean, you’re not a frickin’ library here.

But if you’re really intent on getting that book back, you’ll need to know who you loaned books to in the first place. And if you’re one of those book loaners who can’t say no, and you have 10 books loaned out at a time, then this is more important than ever.

Put a bright sheet of paper in your bookshelf where the loaned book once lived. Write the person’s name on that sheet. Or maybe use an Excel spreadsheet or some kind of fancy iPhone app. Or write the book borrower’s name in blood on your library wall. Whatever works for you.

If all else fails, don’t loan books.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to close up shop and quit loaning books. You may feel like a “bad guy.” You may feel “stingy” or “petty,” but screw that. You’ve been burned too many times.

If this is you, embrace saying no. Learn it. Say it over and over. No. No! NO! NOO!!!!!! Always feel free to give a book away if you’re in the mood or even buy a copy of the book for the book moocher, but don’t let yourself fall for the loaning trap ever, ever again.

I’m sure I missed some stuff. Everyone has different book borrowing experiences, so feel free to chime in with your own in the comments.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog