Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Loan It or Give It Away?

Jennifer Thomas, over at PioneerLocal.com, declares that whenever she loans a book or DVD to someone she assumes she is "never going to see it again." And that she is too much of a wimp to either say no, in the first place, or to ask for her stuff back.
I hate asking for my stuff back. I hate making it sound like all I've been thinking about is that book, CD, movie, etc... that I loaned to someone months ago. I shouldn't feel bad -- it's really the bad borrowers who owe the mia culpa -- but I do. But at the same time, I hate losing those books, TV shows on DVD and movies. (Nobody asks to borrow CDs anymore.)
[...]
My unscientific guess is that 90 percent of people who borrow something, unless it's again, your car, are not going to return it unless prodded. And it won't always be in the condition you last saw it in. Three months seems a pretty reasonable borrowing time. If you haven't gotten back whatever you loaned out by then, then you're never going to, and if the person hasn't watched, listened to or read it by then, same deal.
[...]
There are people, though, who do say no. A close friend is in that group. She just tells people she doesn't let loan things. And if she does have a moment of weakness, she has no problem asking for her stuff back. She knows that people not only are bad at returning things, but that they're not always concerned about the condition they return it in.
Over the years, I find myself less and less willing to loan things like books and DVDs out unless they go to someone who knows me well enough to understand that I value the items and expect to get them back in the same condition they were in when I handed them over. That is particularly true with books because of something that happened to me a long time ago: a family member from out of town took six books off my bookshelf one day when he stopped by to see my wife while I was at work. Now you have to understand that the books on display were the ones I was proudest to own - only those earned a spot on the shelf. I was shocked when I got home to find that my wife just couldn't say know and had let the books be carted off. Well, they were returned about six weeks later reeking of the cigarette smoke in which they had been saturated for the entire time. I finally just gave up on trying to get the stink out of them and repurchased all six.

That was the last time I loancd out a book (20+ years ago) until last week. I was caught a bit off guard and loaned out a new hardcover I haven't yet read myself. I don't expect to ever see it again - unless I push the issue.

Do you guys loan out books - or do you prefer to give them away (as I prefer doing)?

25 comments:

  1. Sometimes, I really hate to, but have a hard time saying no.
    At the end of one semester, a student asked me if he could borrow Korea Bug. I knew without a doubt that I was never going to see it again, but even as my heart was sinking, I felt like I had to encourage a student who wanted to read something in English. I gulped and said yes. He took it and I haven't seen him since. I quietly purchased another copy, then won one at Christmas in a gift swap.
    I'll add that the people in the group I work with now are scrupulous about getting books back without being nagged.

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  2. Your post got me thinking! I hate lending my books too! People just don't have the same respect for someone elses book! But yes, I do make it a point to remind them that I want it back!
    Maybe ebooks will save us this particular torture :)

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  3. I just give the away. Or I say return it whenever, no rush. I've so many many books o my shelves that I just don't worry about it. I'm not talking about valuable books here, the collectible ones stay on my shelves.

    It's all just stuff in the end, as far as I'm concerned. I can get more.

    I just read a book by a librarian who claims putting books in a box with several sheets of Bounce will take out musty smells and cigarette odors. Should that problem ever arise again.

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  4. I never loan books. Want to borrow other things, including my husband? Have at it. (I know I'll get him back!) But I never loan books. And honestly, I don't like borrowing them either.

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  5. I never lend books anymore. If they want to read a book I own, they can go to the library or buy it themselves. Most of the books in my personal library are dog-eared and tattered, with my favorite passages underlined and my comments written in the margins. The ones that aren't in that condition are the ones I haven't read yeat. I would hate to lose any of them.

    I also never borrow books anymore because I'm one of those bad borrowers who never returns anything. (When we organized my library last year, I found at last 15 books that were not mine, but that I'd had for years.)

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  6. The few books I own are hidden upstairs in my husband's office, so it's not an issue. But I have the converse problem. His parents always want to lend us books. Books we have not asked to borrow. Books in which we have expressed no interest. They live 1,000 miles away.

    I have finally learned to ask, "Do you want this book back?" Because if they want it back, I don't want to be responsible for either mailing it to them or remembering to take it on the next trip. If it's something I really want to read, I can get it at the library. But don't force it on me and then call a year later and tell me you have to have it in three days. My wallet does not appreciate that.

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  7. I do not loan out books to anyone but my 17 year old son and when I give them to him I do so willingly and with the knowledge that I've "GIVEN" the item to him and I let go right then and there. I do not expect or want it back. But only my son. No other family. They ask. I say "My policy is to not lend out my belongings to anyone, not even family". It's hardcore but one of my main reasons....is because no one else in my family buy's books or DVD's I want to read or see and so they never will return the favor and I will end up mad at everyone for taking my things because that's what really happens.

    www.shishnit.org

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  8. Ms. Bybee, I think the big problem is that book borrowers don't attach the same value to them that book owners attach. Owners generally, IMO, have more respect for the book as an object of value. Why else would a borrower not make an effort to get a book back to its owner other than that they see it as of no real value?

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  9. That's a great point about e-books, Ishani. Love it.

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  10. Thanks for the smoke-removal tip, C.B. I tried several things...even freezing the books, but nothing worked.

    I give away lots of books for the same reason, C.B. but still sometimes have a hard time saying no on one I know I'll have to replace. It's gotten easier to say "no" over the years, however.

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  11. Ditto, Kristen. I don't feel real comfortable borrowing books from others because I worry about making them uneasy.

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  12. Wow, waterfall...quite a haul of free books. :-)

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  13. Strange problem, Gold Digger. I tend to talk up certain books to folks but I would never shove them out the door with a book in hand. I have, a few times, left a book laying around in a public place as a way of finding it a new home and clear some space on my shelves...kinda fun to sit back and watch he "claims" it.

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  14. Kristy, my brother is great about loaning out his DVDs and we have similar taste so that works well. He's also reading more these days than he has in years, so I generally swap book gifts for DVD loans.

    But he's the only one even on my short list.

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  15. I find it interesting how many people are responding to this topic. It's obivously a sensitive subject.

    The only other person I know who reads a lot is my mother, and I loan to her because she has enough respect for me to treat my books the way I wanted them treated, even though she doesn't treat her own that well.

    No one else really asks, so I don't know what I'd do. I know I'd want to say no, but I also know I'm a people-pleaser... if I did loan it out, there would be some strict words spoken first. :)

    And I hate borrowing - I'm always concerned that will be the ONE time I accidentally leave a book on a train or spill something on it, etc.

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  16. The Bounce tip is good. Charcoal is also another good smell-killer.

    Wow, Sam -- this thread has touched a nerve with readers!

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  17. I have a sign in my study that says "I don't lend books!" in large, red, bold letters. It is the first thing a person who enters my study see.

    I someone asks even after seeing the board, then I have no qualms in saying No. I don't load, I only give books. I give books that I have written (but those are mainly technical, so not many takers). For others, I only give the book, if the it is a person to whom I cannot say NO, and even then only if I am sure I can get a replacement.

    It is something that only book-lovers or collectors will understand. Nice post.

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  18. I agree with all. I don't lend unless I know for sure I will get back soon and in the same condition. That's to only a very few. Even then, I am very bad about reminding them "not to break the spine" or "be sure you use a bookmark" or "be careful eating while you read" or (the one my husband always tends to do) "don't leave it in the bathroom" (too much moisture). I tend to treat my books with reverence.

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  19. I forgot to tell you: I am adding your blog to my blogroll!

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  20. Sam, it's not that big a deal. I just say no. If I want to read it, I get it from the library. But they lend books to my husband, who doesn't read them, and then three years later, want them back RIGHT NOW. NOW. I want my husband to say no. JUST SAY NO to the parents! In everything!

    I buy books from Goodwill for traveling. When I am through, I leave them in the hotel or on the plane or at the airport. I don't want to carry them any more and I want someone else to be able to read them.

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  21. Sounds like you pretty much have it under control, Annie. I had to smile about what you said about your mother taking better care of your books than her own...cool, that.

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  22. You know, Bybee, I'm a bit surprised that people feel as strongly about this subject as I do...probably shouldn't have been surprised, though, because it makes perfect sense that people who love books as much as we do would feel that way.

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  23. Alexis, I like the idea of a sign...has to be very effective. I'm a bit surprised that anyone would ask to be made an exception to your rule.

    I prefer giving them away to loaning them because I don't want to get them back in a condition that will irritate me and make me think less of the person to whom I loaned them out...but the ability to replace them is always a consideration, you're right.

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  24. Judy, if anyone ever breaks the spine or dog ears the pages of a book I loaned them they had better just claim they lost it...another reason I prefer giving over loaning a book.

    Thanks for the add to your blogroll...much appreciated.

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  25. Gold Digger, I used to do the same thing with lots of books I read during travel...especially in foreign countries because I figured the finder would get a kick out of finding a free American edition of a book that way.

    Now I tend to travel pretty much only with e-books and my Sony Reader so I suppose those days are over.

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