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 …
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!)
From 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.