Whether a borrower or a lender to be…

I usually take a look at Twitter while I eat lunch and today this little gem, retweeted by publishing newsletter Shelf Awareness, caught my eye:


My first thought was, “Josh Malina is nicer than me.”

Now, in some ways I’m happy to lend books. If I loved a book, I want my friends to read it so that they can love it too – or so that we can argue about why we thought it was so good/not so good. Here in the DGLM office we often borrow books back and forth (DVDs too – in fact I currently have Lauren’s Sports Night DVDs, featuring the aforementioned Josh Malina – but I digress.) Books, staplers, post-its, everything is fair game in the office, right? Just don’t touch my peanut butter.

But sometimes I really, really love a book in a way that’s linked to a specific physical copy of a book. And then I’m verrrrrry reluctant to lend it out. Sometimes because I’ve scribbled notes all over it. Sometimes because I got it at an author event and it has a special inscription or signature. And sometimes, nonsensically, I loved the book so much that I want to hold on to the exact physical object that I held in my hands while I read it. The book is a physical symbol of that intangible and cherished reading experience.

I know this horcrux-like attitude doesn’t fit very nicely into the digital age. But the lending of books is a beloved part of the reading experience that hasn’t transitioned quite as easily to the e-books experience. It’s getting easier and easier to do it impersonally, whether you use the Kindle Lending Library, your city library, or subscription services like Oyster. It’s not so easy, however, for passionate readers to share e-books with each other like they could do with paperbacks – shared digital books often require both readers to use the same device or service, and usually come with time limits.

This is this kind of digital growing pain that has as much potential for excitement as for inconvenience. Think of the amazing new borrowing inventions that lie just around the corner! In the meantime, I’ll be separating my books into two categories: “Go Ahead, You’re Gonna Love It” and “Do Not Touch My Precious.”

Are you a free spirit when it comes to lending your books, or do you have precious no-touch copies like me?

 If you’re an e-book reader, what are your suggestions for improving options for e-book borrowing?  

9 Responses to Whether a borrower or a lender to be…

  1. Kellie says:

    I have always been a little envious of people who don’t care to lend out books because I find that, even when I want to, I am more likely to buy it for someone than to let them touch my copy. That being said, I do have a very short list of those that have proven themselves worthy of the honor of being able to borrow a book from me. However, even with them, I tend to hold on to the book a little harder than necessary while handing it over. I think its because I’ve been burnt too many times before.

    I did found a Personal Library Kit by Knock Knock (complete with old school library style checkout cards and stamp). Whether it helps to encourage me to loan out my books more or not, I’ve already decided that it will be mine.

    As far as the e-reader goes, I have one but rarely use it. I’m still of the opinion that holding a tablet and reading a screen are poor substitutes for the feel and smell of the real thing.

  2. sharon says:

    Yes, I also have a trust/do not trust mental list! And I do pick up spare copies of absolute favorites when I see them on the Strand dollar cart – I have two or three “library” copies of LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN – maybe I need that Library Kit!

  3. Lynn says:

    Kellie took the words right out of my mouth from beginning to end, so there’s nothing more to add. Thanks Kellie!

  4. D. C. DaCosta says:


    I’ve always figured friendship is more important than anything else, so lending a book is like lending money: I don’t expect to ever see it again.

    Maybe I just feel that way because nothing I own is irreplaceable. If nothing else, most of the real favorites are permanently seared into my memory and sitting down to remember is nearly as good as re-reading.

    • sharon says:

      That’s a really good attitude to have! I suppose I have a version of it myself – I WON’T lend you this book because I care about our friendship! : )

    • Kellie says:

      I agree with Sharon, that is a great attitude to have.

      I think my reasoning has more to do with respect. My short list of those that I lend to are only those that I am closest to. I know they know how attached I am and will respect my property. However, someone I barely know who wants to borrow a book doesn’t know about my over-attachness. I’ve had too many returned to me with bent covers and torn pages, if they were returned at all, and I always feel a little hurt. A fault, I know, but I can’t help it.

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