The Etiquette of Lending & Borrowing Books

There should be one, shouldn’t there? Well, I’m assuming there isn’t one since I don’t think I’ve heard of one, so pardon my ignorance if there is!

Anyway, I’ve come up with my own rough draft of the etiquette.

When it comes to lending books…
1. the owner is responsible to choose trustworthy borrowers, who will care for the borrowed books and return them in time and in the condition it was borrowed in.
2. the owner should keep track of the borrowed book and take required action to get it back from the borrower as soonas possible.

When it comes to borrowing books…
1. the borrower should be committed to reading the borrowed book; otherwise, what’s the point of borrowing a book you don’t intend to read?
2. the borrower should be responsible for the care of the book. He should care for it better than he would care his own books, as this book does not belong to him. (This means do not open the book till the spine is creased, if it’s still in pristine condition! My bookish pet peeve, grrr.)
3. the borrower should read the book as quickly as possible, so as to be able to return the book as soon as possible to the rightful owner. This also prevents the borrower from being responsible any longer than he should be.
4. the borrower should be polite enough to inform the lender an estimate date he will return the book, and apologise if he returns it later than expected.
5. the borrower should show appreciation for having the book loaned to him, as it is not just a generous gesture intended for the borrower’s literature benefit , but also a show of trust for the lender towards the borrower.

Anything else you’d like to see added in the code of etiquette, readers? πŸ™‚

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shannon
    Jun 04, 2008 @ 06:44:15

    Good effort, but I still have to abide by my one rule of book lending: Never lend a book you wouldn’t give away.

    nylusmilk: that’s a rather pessimistic view of book borrowing / lending… it goes back to the first rule i mentioned above, i guess… you have to make sure the borrower is trustworthy. i mean, nobody lends a book out not expecting it to be returned!


  2. cjwriter
    Jun 05, 2008 @ 04:26:22

    Couldn’t agree with your list more! I can’t think of any established etiquette, so I might just have to adopt this. πŸ˜‰ The only ones I would add would be that a) If the book is damaged or lost then the borrower should compensate the owner or buy a new copy; I don’t see why the owner is responsible simply because they trusted someone. And b) The owner shouldn’t be too attached to the book; they shouldn’t “expect” the borrower to love it or to put extra pressure on them to read it. They’ll just hate reading it otherwise.

    I do agree with Shannon, though. I lend very few books that I’m not prepared to give away or would expect back in a similar condition; it does depend on how much you trust the person but if it’s a book you really treasure and will break your heart to see it come back damaged, maybe you’re not ready to lend it. That happened with my best friend; I gave her a book two years ago, one of my all time favourites, and I still haven’t got it back! Of course she gets all of hers back promptly. Maybe I need to reevaluate the friendship. πŸ˜•

    nylusmilk: oh, good additions! i would be mighty pissed if my book came back dog-eared when it wasn’t when it left my hands, though i don’t know if i have the courage to suggest it being replaced since it isn’t badly damaged. the pain in my heart is still there, though! and i admit, sometimes i do push a book too much. πŸ˜›

    well, to me the concept behind lending books is that you expect it to be given back (condition of book notwithstanding). so if you feel the borrower is not trustworthy enough, then don’t lend it. so far, i’m very cautious to who i lend my books to; aside from lending them, i will occasionally remind them to return, that does the trick usually. as for your best friend, she sounds like she forgotten about it? a reminder wouldn’t hurt. πŸ˜‰


  3. museditions
    Jun 06, 2008 @ 13:14:30

    I like your rules very much. The last book I lent never came back, and the friend I lent it to became “not a friend” in the meantime, so I don’t expect to see it again…It’s been about 10 years.
    I don’t lend books anymore, although I’m occasionally persuaded to borrow them if a friend REALLY thinks I’ll like it. But what if I don’t, as was the case with the sequel to The Notebook (you discussed the original recently). I really, really liked the first book, but really, really didn’t like the sequel.
    I’ve never been very good at sharing. I’ll give, I’ll receive, but don’t like to share. πŸ˜‰ So, I guess I’m in Shannon’s camp at the moment…

    nylusmilk: i like them too. πŸ˜› if only practising would be easier! oh, there is a sequel to the notebook?? i didn’t know that! *googles that* ooh, interesting. i’ll be reading more of his books if i come across them, just so i can see if it lives up to it hype.

    i love to share, but nobody seems to want to borrow my books! i think my rules are too strict for them. πŸ˜›


  4. dylan
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 01:38:59

    I lent my friend a copy of The Road a few months ago. When asked for it back last night, he told me that he’d given it away. Now, we both read the book and neither of us really liked it that much, so I told him that I would like a book of equal price that I could decide upon or the money I spent on the book. He told me that I was taking advantage of the situation. The thing is, I felt offended that he gifted the book behind my back. Long story short, he ended up giving me the money I spent on the book and now thinks that I unfairly gained. What do you guys think?

    nylusmilk: well, it was your book to begin with, so your friend didn’t have the right to give it away, even though you said you didn’t like it. the point was that it belonged to you, and if anyone should be giving it away it should be you, not your friend on behalf of you. this is how it looks like to me based on what you’ve said.


  5. aloi
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 17:58:03

    i agree with everything! i’m pessimistic abou lending things out too – better be safe than sorry. right shannon?


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  8. Mom
    Jun 01, 2010 @ 09:11:45

    Here is a different situation I’d like feedback on. I gave a new hardcover book to my mother. She read it and commented that my sister would like to read it too. I said to give it to my sister to read and I would read it later. But my sister insisted I read it first. It took me a while since I was reading something else, but I finished it in April. A friend was over and expressed interest in the book, so I let her borrow it. Now my sister is furious, calling me “thoughtless” “how could you do that” and it seems is not going to be speaking to me. I feel wronged because she never said anything like-send it to me as soon as you are done (she lives in another state and we don’t see each other much), or I can’t wait to read that. I can see her point that I could have asked her before letting my friend read it, but I don’t see that it is such a big big deal that she wait a little longer. What do you think?

    nylusmilk: well, she was waiting for the book… maybe she overreacted but i do understand where she is coming from. maybe she felt you didn’t care that she was waiting to read the book? it’s like waiting in a queue – if someone from behind were to cut in front of you, wouldn’t you be upset? most of the time i would be.

    i hope she isn’t keeping a grudge still. πŸ™‚ it’s just a book after all.


  9. Christina
    Mar 25, 2012 @ 21:29:14

    I’d add: don’t lend someone else’s book!! and if you do, and the person to whom you lent it loses it or fails to return it, REPLACE IT!!


  10. Christine
    Mar 26, 2012 @ 12:51:54

    my friend just moved 500 miIes away, packing up my books with nary a caII or text to see if that was cooI with me. (when I Ient, about a month and a haIf ago, he had the option of moving, but was intending to stay). He says he’II maiI them back, in a week, but…I’m upset. It seems Iike common sense to me that you DON’T pack up other peopIe’s things when you move cities. This was a first-time Iend, but I made it cIear that one in particuIar is extremeIy significant to me. It aIso takes maybe five hours to read (If Not, Winter-transIated poetry, with the ancient greek on the facing side, incIuding Iots and Iots of gaps and spaces).

    Maybe I’d add a ruIe: make sure the person you Iend to is more important to you than the book.


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