Book Nerd Problems #13: Book Borrowing Etiquette

Posted June 28, 2013 by Debby in Book Nerd Problems, Discussions / 53 Comments

This is a periodic discussion feature here at Snuggly Oranges about the many problems one can run into as a book nerd.

#13. Book Borrowing Etiquette

As you probably know by now, this week, I borrowed Vampire Academy from Judith. At a certain point, I mentioned to her that I would very much have liked to throw the book across the room. But, of course, I didn’t. And I reassured her that I wouldn’t. Because that’s just bad book borrowing etiquette. YES. There is an etiquette to this. Someone’s doing you a favor by lending you their book, so you’ve got to teach it with respect! I mean, who here hasn’t gotten a book back with some form of damage done to it in the meantime? That just makes me go…


I mean, seriously. I am lending you this book. I am doing you a favor. Books are my treasures and likely, as I am lending it to you, this is one of my favorites. I don’t care if you hate the book, you treat that little treasure with respect. If you want to buy your own copy to burn afterward, so be it.

My Rules For Borrowing

Were it not for the fact that this would probably freak people the freak out and I like retaining some semblance of sanity among the people I know in real life, I would like to make this a contract and have people sign it before lending them a book. I am a control freak, yes. But anyway, these are the things I expect from people borrowing my books.

1. I will give you my hardcover books naked.

To be honest, I never read with the dust cover on because… well I used to, and the state of my Harry Potter dust covers upsets me. Since that is what is visible on the shelf, and I like my shelves to be pretty and not crinkly, you will get my book naked. And you will accept that. Keeping the dust covers for myself also serves as a nice reminder that I have a book out on loan. I’d hate to forget that I’m missing a book. AND it prevents you hooligans from using the dust cover flap as a bookmark.

2. You will return my books in a timely fashion.

There’s some leeway on this, but I don’t like to be missing my books for a long period of time. If you borrow a book from me, I would really like to see that you actually make reading it a priority. Because seriously, once again, I am doing you a favor. Now I understand that if I lend you The Casual Vacancy, okay, I might not get it back for four months because it’s a heavy read and you’re busy with school and exams and stuff (true story). But I lent you The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and after four months, I still haven’t gotten it back? Are you kidding me? It’s like 140 pages!!! (Also a true story.)

I will be asking for progress reports. Just so you know.

3. No dog-earing pages.

No. Never. You may not. Ever. Maybe there are some people who don’t mind this very much, but do you SEE any dog-eared pages in my copy? Then don’t do it yourself. If you need a bookmark, I have a selection of about 200 to choose from.

4. No eating or drinking around my books.

You want a snack? Good for you. Take a break. Have a snack. Drink your drink. Then wash your hands and continue reading. Seriously, no more greasy marks on my pages, no more crumbs or splashes of liquids… This isn’t your property, and, yes, as an OCD perfectionist, those tiny little marks do bother me. I mean, you return it with damage like that? How dare you? 

5. In case of paperback books…

I’m already not really a fan of paperbacks because they are more fragile. But what’s a girl to do when some books are only released in paperback? (I’m looking at you, Lux series.) All the other rules also apply, but… No bending back pages, thereby cracking the spine. Don’t stuff it in your bag where all your junk can damage it. Treat the thing with respect, will ya?

6. No lending it to other friends as well.

This is a personal favor to you. At least ask my permission before you give it to someone else. I don’t care if you think it’s the most brilliant freaking book on the planet, there’s still a procedure for this. I mean, this other party, whoever they may be, I kind of need a background check, and they have to sign this contract too, you know?

7. No annotating, no throwing around, no stuffing in bags.

This should all go without saying, but seriously. You need to treat this thing like it is your first born child. I want it back in exactly the same state as I gave it away. Accidents happen, of course, but… accidents can also be prevented. I’m watching you. You give me back a damaged book?

Let’s Talk!

Enough of my ranting, what about you?
Do you have rules for borrowing books?
Do you have any book lending horror stories?

Let me know in the comments!

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    53 responses to “Book Nerd Problems #13: Book Borrowing Etiquette

    1. Mandy

      I do the exact same thing. Almost all my friends dog ear pages, or bend back the cover, or use the dust jacket flap as a holder. I even has one friend who's notorious for spine breaking. *shudder* All my hardcovers are lent out with a temporary dust jacket made of scrap paper. Don't worry, I feel your pain!

    2. OMG I so agree! So so so so so so so agree, yes to all of them. Can we make a Madam Pince appreciation club? Her rules ate the bees knees.
      I don't eat around my book so the person I lent my book to should not even think about it! Dog-earing can get you killed, yo. And the cover ruining is also a criminal offense and can get you like 20 to life.
      As for the dust jackets, I never read with them because it's awkward and they can totally get ruined.
      I understand all of these (OCD ftw) and I need to spread this shit around.
      I got one book back like it was involved in a gang bang and then I only lent one more, and got it back after months cause "meh it's too long". Da hell, give it back sooner then. Good thing it was unharmed.
      So yes, this post is just !!!!!!

    3. Amanda

      I think we might be the same people. Seriously. Everything you mentioned here, I say to people when I let them borrow a book. Yes, I actually give them rules…and I actually have considered writing out contracts, haha. I let a co-worker of mine borrow The Lightning Thief, and what do I get back? I broken spine and a cover that is practically bent all the way back. I wanted scream…and cry…and call the police. (Maybe not the police. Maybe.)
      My recent post Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

    4. Glad to see that I'm not the only one freaking about this!!!
      Well, my rules was almost the same as you, except that naked hardback, since I plastic-covered all of my books. Yep, I'm pretty much that OCD 🙂
      I have this one friend though (The one I swore I'll never lend my book to EVER again). She borrowed a 200-or-so pages book, returned it in about 3 months (Ugh), and then there was a little bloodstain on the last page. Seriously, you could bled somewhere else and not in my book.

      Terrific post, Debby! Gonna spread the word, 'cause I'm just that in love with this post!

      Neysa @ [B.O.O.K.L.I.F.E]
      My recent post Rush by Eve Silver

    5. I will never lend a book ever again all thanks to an old friend of mine waaay back in the past and what she did to the book I lent her. She returned me my brand new books tattered and the pages started browning, the corners were all bent and it looked like an old book. I was so mad at her and she didn't even realise what she did because it looked fine to her. Needless to say, I have never lent anyone a book ever again. I have trust issues when it comes to books 😛 I'm pretty OCD when it comes to my own books. I love the idea of lending your friend books but in theory it's great but in practice, I just don't trust anyone to be as OCD as me when it comes to books. It does get very awkward when a friend asks me if I can lend them this book and I go no because I just won't lend anyone a book.

      I love love love your use of gifs in each post, I approve of the A:TLA .gif here 😀
      My recent post Book Review: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (#63)

    6. starryeyedjen29

      Oh my goodness, this post is great! I'm pretty neurotic about lending books, too. But it's because the last few times that I have, I've been burned. My sis put my book in her bag WITH A 2 LITER OF SODA. That obviously didn't end well. And one of my bookish buddies borrowed an ARC and it got lost in the mail on the way back to me. 🙁 Great post….and I love all the GIFs!
      My recent post Judging a Book By Its Cover #29: A Kid's Perspective on Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

    7. Ha, I tell my friends and family that if they damage my book they will be buying me a new, shiny one. I'm willing to be a bitch. BOOKS ARE IMPORTANT. Also, I baby them so they stay nice, so don't fuck them up!

      "you will get my book naked." OH MY.

      SOMEONE DID THAT DUST COVER AS BOOKMARK THING WITH EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE AND I WAS NOT PLEASED.

      My dad is the WORST about that. He kept my copy of The Dream of Scipio for like a year. I finally just took it back because he obviously didn't want to read it. Fine if you don't, but freaking admit it!

      Ditto on dog-earing and humongous bookmark stash.

      Oh, I do eat around my books. And sometimes get a little mark on a page and hate myself. BUT I'M HUNGRY.

      Trade paperbacks are my favorites. Hardbacks are so heavy. And dust jackets. Why can't they just be pretty on the spine and cover, so I don't have to remove them all the time?

      YES. Don't just pass it along without word to me. Never ever.

      Rather than outlining all the rules, I just emphasize that they're on the hook to replace it if they make it look bad.
      My recent post Review: Zits: Chillax

    8. I love your rules! Unfortunately I'm guilty of a few of those, mainly stuffing books in bags. I make sure all of my purses are big enough to hold a hardcover and it's rare for me not to have a book in there. I usually swaddle them in a scarf or something though to keep them protected.

      My level of book lending anxiety greatly depends on the book in question. Example: I have 2 entire shelves of books I've picked up at library sales and other in-bulk situations that in general are books I've enjoyed, but aren't crazy attached to and I'm pretty OK with people doing whatever to those (short of dog-earing pages NEVER DOG-EAR MY PAGES)

      For books that I'm protective of, I generally hand them out with a stern lecture including points like 'treat this well or I'll kill you' 'return in a timely fashion or I will hunt you down and set you on fire' and 'if you don't love this book we can't be friends anymore' (my friends have pretty much stopped borrowing books from me, I wonder why)

      Sometimes if it's a book I absolutely adored and I know the person I'm recommending it to will love it as much as I did, I'll just buy a copy for them so I don't get lender's anxiety (this mostly just happens with my sister).

    9. ionaenglish

      My mum is the worst for book borrowing. She comes up to my room to borrow books and when I tell her not to fold the book back on itself she first looks at me like I'm crazy so I have to spend 5 minute lecturing her on how they're my books and I don't have to lend them to her and that she may think it's silly but it doesn't matter what she thinks because they're my property and I like my books (that I paid for with my own money) to look nice. After the lecture she finally agrees not to bend them only to forget a couple of days later and end up folding them back on themselves and breaking the spines.

      My copies of the hunger games used to look so nice until she and my little brother got their hands on them and because they're paperback they're now wrecked and it's really upsetting because it means that they don't respect your opinion or your property. Yes it's a book but if it matters to me it should matter to the people I'm lending it to because otherwise I don't have to lend it to them.
      My recent post Debut-a-Thon

    10. Honestly, I own so few books and all of them are my absolute favorites that I almost never loan out books. Those things are expensive and I’m possessive and other people are stupid. If someone wants to read my absolute favorite treasure of a book, then they can go get it from the library like every other bozo. I’m cheap, I only buy the books I completely fall in love with, so I have a very precise collection, and they are all mine. Mine!

      That being said, I once lost a book I had borrowed from a friend while moving. I looked everywhere for the thing, at both my new place and my parents’ house. I wasn’t missing anything else but that stupid book. I finally bought a new copy in secret and gave that back to my friend. Two years later, and I still have no idea where the original book went to…

    11. SO MUCH THIS. ALL OF THIS.

      I don't loan out books very frequently, because I foolishly sent BOXES of books to my ex. When he lived in NJ, and I lived in FL. Can you guess where those books still are? In storage. Because he couldn't get to them and whined it was too hard to retrieve them. I broke up with him five years ago. My heart was more broken over those books than any part of our relationship (that probably says a lot right there…)

      I also hate dust covers on hardcovers. I mean, I love looking at them, but I will never, ever, ever read with them on – or let anyone read the book with it on. I take those suckers off ASAP. They only stay on if the book is on the shelf.

      And for paperbacks, I cry with every crack in the spine. Okay, maybe not, but a part of me still cringes. I want my spine perfect.

    12. sarah c.

      I agree with your rules 100 percent! I am not a fan of paperbacks either. And dog earring pages irritate me so much.

    13. I don't lend books out any more. Nope. Never. Not happening again. I'm pretty sure I've told these stories before, but here we go.

      – During the Twilight phase and before the shitty movie, I bought and read the books. I passed them around to my friends. Back then I wasn't too careful with my books, but I still didn't like damaged spines. I got them back after they'd been to three different people, and the spines were AWFUL. They're currently hidden away at the back of my bookshelf for two reasons: 1) it's Twilight, and 2) THE SPINESSSSSSS.

      – Also during the Twilight phase, I bought and read The Host. I lent it to a friend, and she was carrying it around school one day and she dropped it. And the top of the spine ripped ;____________; She kept promising to buy me a new copy because she knew how upset I was, but five years later, here we are. The Host is also hidden.

      – I lent out some of my Argeneau books (by Lynsay Sands) to the same group of friends. It's a huge series so there were always at least three books out at a time, all with different people. I'm pretty sure there are a couple still out there, and I'm not really friends with two of the people any more so I'm in a predicament.

      – I lent my friend my HB copy of The Ivy last year. She still hasn't read it, but she keeps forgetting to bring it back when I ask. Next time I go to her house I'm going to have to physically remove it.

      Anyway, those are my sad stories. I can't talk about it too much because I will probably end up crying. So no, I will not lend anyone my books any more because people are arseholes. However, if any book bloggers lived closer to me then I'd totally consider it, after thoroughly checking out their own shelves first.
      My recent post Debut-a-Thon Day 3 + Challenge #3

    14. I totally agree with everything you mentioned here. Accidentally folding a page or the edge of the cover is already heartbreaking. Having other people do it to your books is unforgivable. I once lent The Lightning Thief to my friend and she returned it a month after with cracked spine. That totally made me rethinking about lending books and now I only lend them to people that I think could take care of them as much as I do.

    15. operativealyssa

      OH MY GOSH! I need to make my friends read this post because we have exactly the same sentiments when it comes to book lending. Before, I really am not that strict with my rules in borrowing my book but that was before the "incident" happened. You might wonder what that incident was. I have a classmate who borrowed my copy of I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I Have To Kill You by Ally Carter (which looks brand new, btw) and when she gave it back to me, the book looks like a survivor of the World War II (yeah, the state it was in was really bad) and after that incident, I never lend her my books. And only those chosen friends of mine can borrow my books now. But there are times when I would lie to my friends, telling them that I don't have a copy of the book just so they'd stop bugging me and because I don't want them to borrow it. I really get protective of my books (they are my treasure in life) especially those books that are my favorite. I'm willing to lie to my friends (even though it's bad to lie to them). 🙂

    16. Rita

      This has just summed up my feelings in one.
      My friend borrowed my Divergent books a while back and I have probably scared her with how much care I take of my books. Firstly, I strictly told her that there was to be "no dog-earing the pages as books are my babies and HOW DARE YOU hurt them." I went as far as giving her a bookmark.
      I don't usually give people rules since they don't borrow my books too often, but I do hope that NO ONE would do anything that might hurt my books. In fact, I expect it of them.
      Also, the giving back on time thing. I give people as much time as they need to read my books, but once they have been read, I want them back. None of the "I give it to you next time" thing because it'll just keep happening. And trust me, once I feel like you aren't going to give me my book back anytime soon, I'm not afraid to ask for it (in a polite manner of course :D)
      My recent post Books of Amber: Debut-a-Thon Updates

    17. tabithasbookblog

      THIS IS MY LIFE.

      I have a little checklist that I make people go over before giving it to them – I'm a freak about my books, and not in a good way. After a friend accidentally ripped a page in my copy of Anna – we had a lonnnnng discussion. I do basically all of the same things as you!

      1. Do not let people borrow books with dust jackets, if they want to look at the cover they can go to Goodreads(which I tell them)
      2. Bookmarks are provided, so they have no excuse to dog ear.
      3. Do not eat by the books or put it in a bag where food can leak (same friend, a bowl of pesto, and Where She went) – not a good combination.

      Great post!! I really only let one friend borrow my books, because she's the only one in my group who enjoys reading and she knows all my weird habits by now.

    18. Your post totally made me smile! While I'm a bit more relaxed about some of the items on your list, I am definitely in agreement with a few others. I never read with the dust covers on, I always want books returned in a timely fashion AND you have to ask before you lend them to someone else!
      My recent post A June Retrospective

    19. Geez, that's impossible. I don't understand people who can be so careless about books. x_x I'll have to be careful taking my books to work then!

    20. Ugh, this almost makes me happy that none of my friends are really readers. I don't have to worry about them wanting to borrow my books too often xD

    21. Haha, I didn't even think of Madam Pince but that totally works too.

      Glad you agree with the post 😀 It's good to know I'm not alone.

    22. Hahaha, well great minds think alike! Aw man, The Lightning Thief ruined, that's horrific. That's why I'm still saving up to buy the hardcover box set. That's one series I'll love forever and want to let others read, but there's no way a paperback would survive.

    23. I would probably plastic-cover my books because of my OCD but I also feel like that's such a shame because of STROKABLE COVERS OMG. Haha, but I guess that is a relief if you lend the books to others.

      BLOOD on a book? Holy crap. That's just. I can't even.

      Thanks 🙂

    24. Holy crap, that is a horror story. I can't believe anyone could treat a book so carelessly. I can totally imagine that that would keep you from lending books to others again. I'd probably do the same, if that happened to me.

      Same, people just don't get my level of OCD. But if I knew book bloggers in my vicinity I might breathe easier about lending my books.

      Thank youuu 🙂

    25. That's a pretty good rule, to be honest – them having to buy a new one. I should use that but it makes me feel all iffy. I guess I haven't had enough book lending horror stories yet.

      NAKED BOOKS MIHIHIHIHI <3

      Ugh, my dad was "reading" Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for like 3 years. Yeah. Finally accepted it was never going to happen and took it back. I'm still disappointed in him though.

      I'm actually not a fan of trade paperbacks at all… I'm a superficial book hoarder – books have to be as pretty as possible and STAY pretty, so it's hardcovers all the way for me. I don't mind the weight, since I usually read lying down anyway.

    26. Yeah, well with the stuffing in bags I mostly mean the CARELESS stuffing, when there's a lot of other clutter in there that can harm the book. I almost always have a book with me too, but like you, I protect it with scarves or something.

      Yeah, some books I have doubles of so I don't mind lending those at all (The Hunger Games and Lux). But I agree, dog-earing is still inexcusable.

      Hahaha, love your lecture 🙂

      TRUE. If I know the book and the person match really well I usually just give it as a gift. Happiness all around 🙂

    27. Oh man, that sounds awful. But mothers, huh, what can you do? Mine doesn't really listen to me either. Though with books she's rather careful, since she's an OCD bookworm as well.

      Awww, that sucks. I actually have a paperback AND a hardback box set of the Hunger Games so that I can lend the paperbacks to other people. For some series, duplicates like that are rather useful.

    28. Totally understand not lending! You're not alone. I don't have a super large collection either, and indeed, they're all my favorites, so I have to know the person rather well to lend to them.

      Ouch to your moving story! That sucks. Weird though, but with moving, certain things always just disappear without a trace. We had it with one of our favorite DVDs ever. Just vanished. *shrug*

    29. Oh my gosh, that is awful!! Bahaha though about the books being more heartbreaking. But I understand, I mean, those are lifetime treasures. I hope you manage to get them back sometime.

      I can't stand cracked spines. So horrifying. *shudders* You're not alone.

    30. Hahahahaha I also have Twilight hidden away in my room. Though I never actually liked them and just got them because they were cheap. But I've been meaning to sell them x_x

      I don't blame you for not lending anymore. *pats* Totally understandable. People just don't get it. *sigh* I don't understand how you can be so careless with a book. But same here! I don't mind lending to Judith or other Dutch bloggers. That would be totally fine with me.

    31. Oh I'm with you. Every once in a while I accidentally have a folded page or something and it kind of makes me hate myself because asdjfkl; OH GOD not the Lightning Thief!! See, that's why I'm saving up for a hardcover box set of those books. Because seriously, no cracked spines allowed.

    32. Though I understand the sentiment, I'm usually honest about things like that. I mean, if they're really my friends they should understand that books are my treasures and if I can't trust them with it, they're not getting it. Too bad about that book though.

    33. I think I'm going to do that now, whenever I lend someone a book, just put a bookmark in it. Should make it pretty clear, I figure.

      Haha, yeah, after a certain period of time, it's acceptable to just invite yourself over to their house and take the book back. No one likes being separated from their things for too long.

    34. aww, man, a RIPPED page? I can't even imagine how pissed I would be if that would happen to me x_x

      I think in the future I'm always going to put a bookmark in the book before I give it to them as well. Should get the message across. Dog earing is ABSOLUTELY not necessary.

      I'm the same in that there's only one friend of mine that really reads, and honestly, that's a relief. I can trust her for sure, so I don't have to worry too much.

    35. Judith

      I finally, finally, FINALLY get to comment on your post! YESSSSSSSS. Let me comment on everything because that's the kind of person I am:

      1. YES. Dust jackets must stay pretty. What if someone RIPS them? o_O I cannot handle that.

      2. This depends. If it's a book that's been on my shelves forever and I have no intention on reading it any time soon, I don't have to get it back immediately. But it IS important that I at least know you're planning to read it. Just give it back if you don't. I ain't no freaking library. (I laughed at myself for saying that, because I'm weird.)

      3. This shouldn't even be a point. People should KNOW THIS. Dog-earing is a big no for me, but to borrow a book from a friend and dog-ear should be ILLEGAL. IT'S NOT YOUR PROPERTY GTFO.

      4. I do this all the time, actually. I try not to touch my books while eating but *shrugs* when I'm hungry, I eat.

      5. YES YES YES. This annoys me so much.

      6. This happened to THG set, as I probably told you. My friend let her entire family read them and I cried (not really but I wanted to) because WHYYYY. It doesn't help that the silver letters on the Dutch one are ugly and now have cracks all over them.

      7. NOPE.

      I'm kind of getting angry right now, so I'll better stop. This is why I trust you with my books 😉

    36. Oooh. I am actually pretty bad about some of these and you would've gotten upset with me. I actually lent some hardcovers to a friend, and I swear, every one has come back with a screwed up jacket and only recently have I read from posts like these that tell me what I should do: i.e. remove the jacket! (Or never lend books to said friend again.) I dog ear pages, but never in someone else's book, and actually when I lend books to my mother, she undoes the dog-ears. It sucks. If someone's annotating YOUR book, they better not annotate it–at least permanently; I don't think I'd mind post-its that were removed prior to returning the book. And ew, yes, sometimes on ARC tours, I find grease/food stains in the books and am like… why? This isn't yours. Don't screw it up. But paperbacks are really hard to deal with, especially mass market paperbacks. It's near impossible not to ruin the spines on those books.

      This was wonderful. And now I know that if I lend you a book, you'll treat it properly :DDD
      My recent post Christina Reads Your Recommendations

    37. Oh god I can't even imagine the rage I'd feel if someone ripped the dust cover x_x

      I'm still waiting on Perks x_x luckily it's my cousin that has it, so I'll be seeing him enough anyway.

      *hugs* It's okay.

    38. Yeah, what you do with your own books is all on you, and that's fine. But I don't understand people who can be so careless with someone ELSE's property x_x

      Haha, thanks!

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