Sunday, February 27, 2011
Lazy Sunday Thoughts: The Benefits of Borrowing
"Neither a borrower nor a lender be..." -Shakespeare
Usually I wouldn't argue with The Bard but in the case of books I make an exception. Just a couple of days ago, it was discovered that Harper Collins was about to make things more difficult for librarians when it comes to e-books. (If you haven't read about it, please do.) While there was much discussion about libraries, there were some people who poo-pooed borrowing books from friends. This really burns my buttons. Lending and borrowing books (not to mention sweaters, shoes, sugar, etc) to my friends and family is my right as a consumer. I suppose the idea is that this situation is taking money out of the hands of authors. I completely disagree and have an example of how the opposite is more likely to happen.
A couple of years ago I lent my mother 2 or 3 Philippa Gregory novels. She hadn't heard of her before. Within a couple of weeks my mother handed them back to me. She loved them. I had no intentions of buying anymore of her books at that time. It's not that I didn't like the books, I just didn't think I'd be buying anymore in the near future. Now, here's the thing about my mother, once she finds an author she likes, she buys the hell out of them. Growing I up, I remember her having the whole Catherine Cookson library in her bedroom. Predictably she bought every Gregory as it was released and every backlisted book available (including the Wideacre series, which she lent me). So by lending 2 or 3 books to my mom, the author benefited by gaining a customer who bought approximately 8 or 9 books (sales!). Plus, she's guaranteed a customer who will buy any future titles. Why? Because I lent my books to someone who wouldn't have bought the books otherwise.
When I look back to the time in my life when buying books was a luxury I could barely afford, I think of the authors I discovered by borrowing from friends and family. My aunt lent me Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. When I could afford it, I bought my own copy and every book she wrote since. I was (and still am) hesitant to buy books by authors I don't know. Books aren't cheap. A paperback in Canada can be $10 or more. If I borrow a book from a friend or the library and I don't enjoy it, I don't feel like I've wasted my money (and I feel guilty about it). If I do enjoy it, I now have an author whose books I can buy and know I will like.
Borrowers are also buyers. We're not out to scam anyone. A borrower can be turned into a loyal buyer. It just takes getting the right book into the hands of the right reader.