What is Proper Book Borrowing Etiquette?

You finally get to borrow that great book from a friend and can’t wait to rip into it…But before you turn a page, make sure you follow these 3 easy steps to make sure you handle book borrowing properly.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #171

In the age of bookstores shutting their doors faster than directors passing on Lindsey Lohan, a great book is like a rare artifact. Now, I say this as an iPad and iPhone owner, who downloads eBooks all the time. However, that does not mean I don’t still LOVE the feeling of a good book in my hands. And when I find out a friend has one I haven’t read, I always ask if I can borrow it.

Proper Book Borrowing Etiquette

Asking to borrow a book is a great way to build a tighter relationship with friends, since you can talk about the book together.  Yet, have you ever let someone borrow a book and it comes back in shambles?  I have.  It’s highly unmannerly to treat a person’s property as a coaster, a doorstop, a placemat, a note pad, or anything else other than, well, a book!

So let’s turn the page on another etiquette faux pas, and dive right into my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips on proper book borrowing etiquette:

Tip #1 – Books Are Not Plates

Have you ever let someone borrow a book only to have it returned looking like it was used as a child’s bib? I have no idea why people think it’s acceptable to use books as serving platters. Last month I lent a coworker borrow a book I’ve had for years. It wasn’t a classic but was one that I looked forward to reading again – as well as allowing others to borrow. When I got it back, it looked like the table at an all-you-can-eat buffet, after a high school football team celebrated a victory with Sloppy Joes. I could literally spot the different types of food stains to a point where I could create my own food pyramid. It was appalling.

When you let someone – let alone an adult friend or colleague – borrow a book, you assume you don’t have to lay down the law about taking care of it.  But sometimes they need a reminder. There a two ways to make sure that your book comes back as you lent it:

  1. When you hand it to them, causally say something like: “I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. It’s one of my favorites. I don’t even drink coffee around it!” By saying this, you remind the borrower how much you like the book, so perhaps it’s not a good idea to read it during “Taco Tuesdays.”

  2. If you are unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a bad book borrow, I would say something like: “Gosh, I don’t remember these odd stains being on the book when I gave it to you. Did you lend it out to anyone else?” This way, they will be forced to fess up and rectify the situation with a new book in exchange.

Tip #2 – Borrowing Does NOT Mean GIVING

Unless you have plans to lend the book to someone else, or read it again soon, time limits on lending a book are not strict. However, I recommend inquiring about when you do expect to get it back. Don’t think of this as a burden on the person or a way to rush them – not all of us read at the same speed. I’m guilty of this. I grew up with a learning disability and even today do not read as fast as many others. Still, there comes a time when you have to wonder: “Am I ever going to get this book back?”