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.


  1. Amen! I love using my library to take a chance on authors I haven't read before. The only way I would buy a book of an unknown author is if the book is a bargain - $5 or less. Books can be expensive so I try to buy only those by authors I love or books my library doesn't have. Even then I might wait.

    What HarperCollins is thinking about doing makes me not want to buy or read books from them. If after 26 checkouts a library's license for a book expires, can you imagine how many times a library might have to buy a bestseller? It's ridiculous and will hurt libraries more than the publisher thinks. Libraries are being hit hard with budget cuts right now, I doubt they have the resources to buy the same books over and over again. Libraries might end up being less likely to buy ebooks from HarperCollins.

  2. I understand entirely. For example, just recently I lent the Fables series to a friend. Now she is talking about buying the back issues herself and then buying the new releases. That's about 20 books! She would never even have read the series if I hadn't pushed them on her. Now she loves them! I know lots of cases where this has happened. It's why the whole not being able to lend e-books bothers me. So maybe they won't end up buying that book right away, but if they love the book that I am lending they will likely wind up buying all of the future releases and any backlist and then down the road the book they have read... It's a chain reaction that seems to be being missed...

  3. "It just takes getting the right book into the hands of the right reader."

    And it often takes borrowing to get people to read, at least, in my circle of family and friends. Great post.

  4. As someone who just bought an e-reader (Nook) exactly for the reason of borrowing books from the library, I am extremely disappointed in hearing about HarperCollins' decision. I also hate that Nook's LendMe technology only allows readers to lend a book only once. If I hadn't borrowed certain books, I never would have been introduced to certain authors.

  5. Absolutely borrowers are buyers!! I share books with my sister in law all the time and we both have purchased additional books because of something we borrowed from each other.

  6. I completely agree. I've borrowed books from friends or the library that I ended up loving so much that I bought my own copy. And I've had other friends say the same thing. And same thing--once I discover a new-to-me author that I love, I'm highly inclined to watch out for their new works and take the risk of paying for them.

  7. Agree 100%. A friend lent me a Jodi Picoult and I then purchased seven more books off her back catalog.

    I HATE what HarperCollins is doing, and this is one of the problems I have with eReaders in general. My mom's family all shares one Apple account and one Amazon account so they can all read the books the other is reading. It works out quite well for them but as there are already six people in that pool and you are only allowed to download books six times, I cannot 'borrow' books from my family members. Such a shame.

  8. You're right. Some borrowers ever get their libraries to buy a book.

  9. Vasilly- I doubt it would work. Libraries won't be buying those books again.

    Kelly- All it takes is one book to hook a reader.

    Iris- It's a formula that's worked for years. I don't know why they want to mess with it.

    Unfinished- Ugh! Imagine if you could only lend a paper book once.

    Suzi- I'm seeing a pattern here.

    Amy- Yep, I've done that too.

    Ardent- It's definitely a disadvantage to owning an ereader.

    Kathy- I just recommended a book for my library to buy (an ebook too).

  10. Couldn't agree with you more. Maximizing profits at the expense of all else is terribly short-sighted.

  11. Well said. I absolutely agree. I usually only buy books that I have a very strong feeling I am going to like so if my friends and I did not pass around books, I'd not know which authors I am willing to take that chance on. BTW, love your blog!


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