Borrowing books is good

Recently a fair few folks have apologised to me for reading my books, but not buying them. “I borrowed them from the library. Sorry!” “I borrowed them from a friend. Sorry!” “I just can’t afford to buy as many books as I want.”

Never apologise for borrowing a book. On the big scale, borrowing books is good because that’s what keeps libraries alive: the more people who borrow books from libraries the more likely they are to be funded. And the more libraries there are the more people who are reading. Most people can’t afford to buy every single book they want to read. I know I can’t. That’s why we have libraries. That is a very very good thing.

Borrowing books from your friends and talking about them is excellent because it helps strengthen friendships and build communities. Plus it’s one of the best ways of finding out about good books. I heartily approve of borrowing and lending books. Why, I even do it myself.

I also approve of books being loaned and borrowed because it helps my career. Every time someone borrows one of my books from a library that justifies that book’s existence there. And if it’s borrowed often enough and starts to fall apart, the library will order more copies. Or if it has an excessively long wait because too many people want it, the library will order more copies.1

Certain books I loan out to friends never return, so I buy another copy. There are books I’ve borrowed from friends, that I loved so much, I bought my own copy.

All of which helps the author of those books.

Word of mouth is the most powerful tool in helping a book sell. What better word of mouth could a book have than lots of people eagerly borrowing and lending it? If reading a book for free destroyed a book’s chances of success then why do publishing companies give away thousands upon thousands of copies of books in the form of Advanced Readers Copies (ARCs) every single year?

It can’t just be because they’re crazy. Though maybe I should ask Maureen? She knows everything.

To recap: borrowing books is good.

  1. I’m assuming a well-funded library. Sadly, that’s not always the case. []


  1. J on #

    So, I’m nerdy and want to read a lot of books so I can keep a physical booklist. Well, digital booklist more accurately. Excel spreadsheet. Separated into three columns:
    Number (As in, reading priority, which is, almost without fail, based on when it was added to the booklist. Exceptions are made when I attempt to read books before seeing movies, or attempt to read books before their authors show up at cons)
    Source of book

    Source is sometimes something like “own”, or, with Doctorow its “”, but, the VAST majority of them, including #14 How to Ditch Your Fairy and #28 Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, the source is “Franklin Library”. Really, what that means is, if a book hits #3, I go online, look up my library’s catalog, find it, and place a hold ONLINE. And, by placing a hold, it means either my library will hold it for me, or, they’ll order it from one of the libraries in their local network for free! (well, my tax dollars go towards it. I’m proud my tax dollars go to such a worthy cause). If that fails, I go on another website, and can search the catalog of EVERY LIBRARY IN THE STATE OF MICHIGAN. And, once I find it (I’ll have to get Battle of the Sexes this way. It’ll come from one of the University Libraries), they’ll send it to my Library, again, for free!

    I feel no shame in the fact that I rarely pay for a book. Why pay and leave it on your shelf when you can borrow it, love it, and give it back, have a conversation with your librarian about it (<3), and let other people love it.

    As soon as I get to college, I’m getting a job at one of the campus libraries.

  2. Brent on #

    I loan out your books, and others, to friends and students. Especially students. I have a hard time not trying to be a mentor instead of just a teacher when I have an inquisitive bright student. The best way I can think of to mold them into the kind of person I think is “good” is to have them read books I think are good. 🙂

  3. Emily on #

    But I like havign them 4 EVA!!!!

  4. Emily on #

    Wish i had more money!!!

  5. Andrew on #

    Speaking as a librarian, whilst I try to read or at least read about every great book that comes out as it does, it’s simply not possible. However, I do find out what books are more popular, simply by working at the desk, and seeing which books come in and out more regularly. It’s one of the easiest ways of finding out what my borrowers like.

    As for purchasing books for my personal collection… well, I end up spending possibly more than I should, but I do make a point of supporting Australian writers who aren’t necessarily best-sellers (yet…)

    And yup, after I’ve bought and read them, half of them end up being loaned out to friends. I have the kind of friends who aren’t so good at returning books, but that’s not a big deal, as long as they’re spreading the love. 🙂

  6. lili on #

    Also, in Australia we get lending rights. So for every copy of my book held in a school or public library, I get a little bit of money each year. Hurrah for Libraries!

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