To lend, or not to lend: that is the question.
Book lending is a touchy subject amongst avid readers; often our fear or a lost or damaged book is at war with our desire to spread the book love to all our friends and family.
The answer to the question, “Do you lend books?” will differ from person to person. After thinking a bit about the books I’ve lent, and the people to whom I have lent them, I’ve come up with some basic rules of thumb.
- Never lend a book you won’t mind losing or getting back damaged – This applies to books I’ve had since childhood and wish to preserve, as well as signed books.
- Never lend to a stranger – I’ll probably never see him or her again, so why lend a book to a person when I’m practically guaranteed of losing it?
- If I’ve lent the person a book before and it was never returned, or returned in worse condition than when you lent it, I won’t lend to him/her again.
- If the person’s own books are in bad shape, I won’t lend them one of mine – If he/she mistreats their own tomes, there is no evidence to support that he/she will treat my book well.
- No bookmark necessary – If you mark your place with a dog-eared page, that’s cool. Just un-dog ear it before you give it back.
- Feel free to write in a book I lend you – But fair warning: if you use highlighters, markers, or any instrument other than a pen or pencil, and especially if the comments you write are inane, asinine, or otherwise pointless, prepare to buy me a new copy of the book.
So you’ve heard of Netflix, yes? Pay a decent fee, and choose from a gazillion movies.
Well now some amazing, wonderful soul has created BookSwim.
All you do is pick a plan, create your book wish list, and then wait. BookSwim sends you books, which you then read at your leisure. When you want another book, just slip the current one into the prepaid envelope and mail it back.
The cheapest plan is $23.95 per month (about the price of one new hardback book), and you can have up to three books at a time. Plan prices and book amounts increase from there, all the way up to 11 books per month for $59.95. No due dates, no late fees. Perfect.
The only downside (other than the fact that you can’t keep the book forever) is that you can’t write in the books — they are merely loaned to you, after all.
These policies are relatively lax — mine are harder on myself than on the people to whom I’m lending, and BookSwim’s is even easier than mine.
Monks, on the other hand (at least those of the earlier centuries) were not so chummy when it came to lending books. Irresponsible book borrowers beware:
“For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain, crying aloud for mercy, and let there be no surcease to this agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails…and when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.” -Anonymous curse on book thieves from the Monastary of San Pedro, Barcelona, Spain
The curse can be understood in a different light once you recall that it was written prior to the invention of the printing press.
Before Guttenberg and his Bible, books were written and copied by hand, and were therefore extremely rare and precious. A lost or stolen book meant lost or stolen knowledge, and sometimes that knowledge was unrecoverable.
…All the same, I’d love to have a stamp of that to imprint on the front inside covers of all my books.
More on lending
“I feel about lending a book the way most fathers feel about their daughter living with a man out of wedlock.” -Anonymous
“Never lend books — nobody ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are those which people have lent me.” -Anatole France
Do you lend books? If so, what’s your lending policy? Would you use BookSwim? Do bookworms really gnaw on entrails?