4 Reasons To Lend Books (and the ONE reason not to!)

Lending booksPeople differ on this point, so let me state my position upfront: I’m happy to lend out my books.

I don’t keep a list, other than a sketchy, forgetful one in my head. Going by the publisher’s list prices, I have at least $96.89 worth of books loaned out right now. (I feel like I’m forgetting one, but who knows?) Now that I add it up, that figure surprises me a little, but I remain unconcerned. Here’s why.

1. I love discussing books with friends.

Might sound kinda strange from someone who’s never participated in a book club meeting, but I do. Discovering that another person has read a book that I have read establishes an immediate context between us. We’re insiders. We’ve both been receivers of the same thoughts. And it’s especially great when it’s not a bestseller or critically acclaimed, because now we have something uncommon in common!

Since there are limitless reading choices and finite time, from time to time I will attempt to speed this process along. “Have you read such-n-such? No? You can borrow mine!”

2. Word-of-mouth matters to authors.

Discoverability is one of those writing/publishing industry buzzwords that doesn’t mean much to readers, at least on the surface anyway. Does the book have broad distribution channels and good visibility? Is it easy to promote? How will readers to hear about it, so they can become interested and buy a copy?

All questions that authors (and not necessarily readers) need to consider. However, my stance as a reader is that if you like an author, you should support their work so that they can continue to produce it. Word-of-mouth was around long before “click-to-share” got cool. When you loan a book to someone who otherwise might not have read it at all, you’re a potential fan-maker for the author by increasing their exposure within your circle of influence. Awesome! Way to do your part!

3. You can always buy another one.

Along the same vein, there’s always Books-a-Million/ Amazon/ Barnes & Noble/ Smashwords/ Goodwill/ your local neighborhood new-and used shop/ etc. (though choosing between them is frankly a debate for another day). The truth is that sales matter. A lot. In fact, this is one of the reality-checks that newbie authors hear when we start getting serious about the publishing world. A bad sales record can dog one’s writing career like little else.

So, concerned over getting the book back from the borrower? Buy a new copy and let it go. Now you’ve given a gift and supported a career. Fistbump.

4. People are more important than books.

Here’s my heart on the matter. I like books. I like reading them, holding them in my hands and flicking pages with my thumbnail to be certain I’m turning just one. I like owning them. I like how they look pretty on my shelves and I enjoy organizing and reorganizing them. (By author… by title… by genre… by already-read/yet-to-read status… by color….) I’ve borrowed exactly one book from my local library in the last two years, and I liked it so well that I bought a copy. Yay books.

The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. -Ecclesiastes 12:11-12

I like books, but I love people.

No book is worth breaking a relationship, or uttering the words “you owe me,” or allowing possessiveness to trump whatever sense of goodwill, sharing or concern motivated the loan in the first place.

Love is a verb, and we show it in what we do. Putting trust in people is always a risk, and sometimes loving means getting burned. For someone like me, never the most outgoing or social person in the room, lending a book is a good fit. While my mouth says, “Here you go. I hope you like it,” my heart says, “We have a connection, and in honor of that, here’s a symbol of my trust. If you break that trust, it can be a symbol of forgiveness instead.”

Which brings us to the one reason NOT to loan out books.

You might not get them back.

Whether that matters is, of course, up to you.


In other news …

I have a bright shiny new Privacy Policy in place, and what better way to celebrate than with a giveaway?

The Opposite of Art by Athol Dickson is not a brand-new release, nor has anyone asked me to hold a giveaway. It’s just that good a book. Leave a comment as your entry and next Tuesday I’ll announce a winner. (Open to United States mailing addresses only!) (This giveaway has ended! Thanks!)

The Opposite of ArtFrom Goodreads: A great artist is cast into the icy Harlem River by a hit-and-run driver. His heart stops, and he sees something that defies description. Presumed dead by all who knew him and obsessed with the desire to paint the inexpressible, he embarks on a pilgrimage to seek help from holy men around the globe. But is it possible to see eternity without becoming lost within it? After a quarter of a century, when the world begins to whisper that he may be alive, two people come looking for the artist: the daughter he never knew existed, and the murderer who hit him on the bridge all those years ago.

Question for you: What kind of books do you like to read?

15 Replies to “4 Reasons To Lend Books (and the ONE reason not to!)”

  1. Another timely entry for me! I, too, love books. I’ve got books on shelves, in drawers, in every little nook and cranny. I’ve got mysteries, histories, self-help, helping others, etc. And that’s just the hardbound books. I think I’m reaching close to 500 Kindle book downloads. It’s shameful! would be content if I could just spend my days reading and writing. 😉
    I was just daydreaming earlier today about how I wished my husband was a carpenter and could build me wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves to create an in-house library!

    1. I bet you get totally lost on Pinterest looking at creative shelving ideas, don’t you Linda! 😀 I haven’t jumped on the ebook train yet (just a matter of time I guess) but I did entertain a little mini-fantasy of lining my dining room walls with bookshelves the other day… Hehehe!

  2. I have always gone by the motto “if you aren’t willing to give the book away, don’t lend it”.
    I like all sorts of books but I tend to read young adult novels, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and historical fiction (in no particular order).
    I am currently reading Tracy Chevalier’s newest book The Last Runaway, an historical fiction about Quakers, slavery and the Underground Railroad. Ms. Chevalier’s most well known book is A Girl with a Pearl Earring which was made into a movie a decade ago. I have read all her books, and I highly recommend them for anyone who likes historical fiction. 🙂

    1. That motto is a good gut-check. It’s a lot easier to be willing to let something go upfront than it is to talk yourself into letting it go after the fact.
      I haven’t read any of Tracy Chevalier’s books. I’ll check her out. I’m with you on mysteries and historicals, but I find I only like sci-fi in TV & movies. I loved the Battlestar Galactica reboot, but techie writing loses me — not smart enough for it! 😉

      1. I loved the Battlestar Galactica reboot. There is a new Scifi show called Defiance which is supposed to premier sometime this spring. It looks interesting.
        I am with you on the Scifi novels that get too technical. I tend to read more middle of the road Scifi, not too technical but just enough to make it feel real. My husband recently introduced me to Ben Bova’s The Planets series. They take place in a fictional future of our solar system, once we have started to really explore and started to colonize the other planets. You can read the books in any order. Some characters reappear from time to time. Lots of different perspectives as Bova’s jumps forwards and back in his universe.

        1. I’ve seen the commercials for Defiance! Looks pretty interesting… I’m debating whether I’m willing to get sucked into yet another TV show. I might cave either way… 😀

  3. I always get excited when someone wants to borrow a book. I figure if I don’t get it back, at least they read it and maybe it will get passed on to someone else. I loaned a book to someone from work because she saw me reading it and was interested in it. I haven’t seen her since (I heard that she had to quit suddenly for health reasons), I don’t know her last name or have any contact info for her, and I know I’ll never see my book again. But it doesn’t bother me. I can get another copy cheap on Amazon. And I hope she got as much good out of the book as I did…

    There’s just something about loaning/borrowing books that can really connect people. I think I heard of a website once where you can borrow books from other people and loan your own books out.

    1. I loaned one to a co-worker once, and then she left the company. I shrugged it off and moved on, and when I decided I’d really like to have a copy again, I found a hardcover at the used bookstore for $4. It’s like you say, hope she got good use of it. No use creating bad feelings over it, right?
      I was disappointed when Goodreads retired their lending feature before I got a chance to try it, but oh well. I could definitely make better use of the great library system in my county, but I have a little weakness for buying my own copies… 🙂

  4. ohhhewwww…wellll….yes I supose you could borrow that book….
    I think my response to askers generally is a “tell” for how I really feel…but if it’s someone who I love and trust, they always get one on loan without hesitation. Now, my favorite pie pan? Never!

    1. LOL! You remind me of my mom. She’s always sending us home with goodies, and then occasionally having to request the return of her dishes/canning jars because we’ve got them all! 😀

  5. Loved this post! and I agree almost 100% with everything you have said, I love nothing more than lending people the odd book only to find out that they now love the author as much as I did. My only issue is when I lend books to people that I cannot replace, for instance I have a couple of signed copies that never leave my room but I have been known to lend my books with English covers out to people if I trust them enough, being in Canada its slightly harder to replace those ones if something happens to them. However all the rest of my books I will happily let people borrow, its odds on I’ve read them all about 100 times already…

    1. Definitely tougher to lend signed, old, rare, and less-replaceable books — but I would say those ones are also (potentially) greater relationship builders. That said, I have a poetry anthology published in the 1930’s, one of the few things I would classify as an heirloom from one particular branch of my family…. That one would be harder to let go. *ponders this*

  6. I always tend to think about how hard it would be to replace a particular book before I lend it. I generally don’t lend old books, but I don’t think twice before lending a recent book by a major publisher.

  7. Ready availability definitely makes it easier. I’m a sentimental sort, so what challenges me are the objects (books or otherwise) that mean something special to me. Of course, in the bigger picture it’s all just “stuff.” 🙂

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