Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Lender Nor A Borrower Be

With all the reams dedicated to the pros and cons of Kindle, I’m sure someone else has covered this elsewhere, but if they have I haven’t come across it. Anyway, what I’m wondering is this: What’s going to happen to the borrowing and lending of books?
  As I understand it, you won’t be able – even if it were legal to do so – to zap your latest fave from one e-reader to another. And a lot of readers take great pleasure in not only recommending a new book, but also pressing it into the hands of family and friends with the breathless command to read it now, this very minute, lest the unfortunate ignorant should fall under a bus the following morning and die without knowing true joy.
  Personally, I want to staple such people’s eyes closed. But that’s just me. And lots of people love to lend and swap books, to the extent that there’s a thriving black market in swappable books out there.
  So what’ll happen if the e-readers ever tumble over the tipping point? You’ll hardly be in a position to lend your Kindle, will you? Kind of defeats the point of having one if you keep loaning it to people so they can read books on it. And what about second-hand bookstores? Will there be some electronic equivalent, whereby a Kindle user can download pre-loved books at a fraction of the Kindle price?
  I don’t have a Kindle, at least not yet, but if I do invest then the whole lending-borrowing thing won’t be an issue, because I hate lending books. In fact, I do it only on very rare occasions, with people I can trust, and those rare occasions are enough to remind me why I don’t lend books. Mainly, it’s because no one ever returns a borrowed book.
  There are subtle reasons for this. In some cases, the borrower starts to read the book, and doesn’t like it, and then can’t return it for fear of calling the lender’s taste into question. Or the opposite occurs, and the book is so terrific that the borrower simply can’t countenance the prospect of living without the book on his or her shelf. Or, worst of all, the book is so terrific that the borrower, without asking permission, lends it on to someone else, with rave reviews. And why wouldn’t they? If you don’t love the book enough to hoard it in the first place, why should you love it enough to want it back?
  No, as with money, the best thing with books is to be neither a lender nor a borrower. If you love books, truly love them, then you’ll end up losing good friends in the fall-out and end up like me, with so few friends that you end up blogging in a pathetic attempt to generate on-line relationships.
  And all that is without opening the can of worms as to why, when people are supposed to be your friends, and family, and know you better than you know yourself, etc., they insist on lending you books you wouldn’t read were they the only books left after a nuclear holocaust. And oh, the horror, the horror, of the book-shaped Christmas gift in its shiny wrapping …


Dana King said...

I have at least solved the horror of the book-shaped gift. My Bleoved Spousal Equivalent and The Solew Heir both have access to my Amazon Wish List, whiere I have prioritized the books. There are always a lot on it, so they can be secure in the knowledge I'll get something I want, and I'll still be surprised.

I, too, rarely lend bokks. I'll send books to my mother when I finish them, with labels in the front if I want the book back. Mom has never disappointed me.

Michael Malone said...

I stupidly gave a friend some books to take with him on holiday. His missus spilled suntan lotion all over them. I'll buy you replacement copies, he offered. No, it's alright, don'tworryaboutit, I seethed. Lesson learned.

seana said...

I guess I have to disagree. I work in a bookstore, but I would love people to give me books pretty much any time. I don't want things off my wish list, because those are things I could think of myself. It makes me quite happy when people give me things they love, or that they think I'd love, even if they are totally wrong about my taste. I am not saying this in some sort of insanely cheery way, but in these cases, it really is the thought that counts.

Of course, if it was some kind of hate tract, I would not be pleased. But I suppose the gift would be that I then knew who I had--mistakenly--been dealing with.

Declan Burke said...

What you need to factor in here, Seana, is that I'm an old curmudgeon. Beware Greeks bearing gifts, etc.

Cheers, Dec

seana said...

Oh, I know you're a curmudgeon--I read your blog. And actually I disagree only for myself. I think it might be just that I so rarely get books as gifts because people realize I can probably get most things I want where I work anyway. Which is true. But I can't get most things I don't know I want, if you see what I mean.

As to lending, I'd say hold on to your favorites, but get second hand copies of the ones you love and give them away liberally to anyone with the slightest interest.

And the ones you're not so attached to, well, let them go. I have a theory that books love to travel. Maybe because they spent so much of their past existence rooted in the ground.

Donna said...

I buy extra copies of favourite books so that I can lend them out and still have the original on my shelves to run my hand over lovingly as the fancy takes me :o)

Only certain people can buy me books. Everyone else knows better...

Jm Diaz said...

My approach to kindle for now is: "Just say no!"
Maybe time will force my hand, but until then, I refuse.
As far as lending books, I quit. It easier than quitting smoking, and made me feel good to do so, not antsy like my departing nicotine chum.
A few weeks after parting with my paper bound treasures, I could hear my fathers words echoing in my mind: "I'm not sure who's dumber. The person that lends a book, or the one who returns it." Turns out, I was the dumber-er.

Wallis said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


seana said...

Uh, I know this may sound harsh, but Wallis/Susan shouldn't be trusted further than you can throw her.

She is, in fact, a scam. Changes her name, but apparently isn't imaginative--or programmed--enough to change the contents of her message. On my blog, "she" appeared as Jesus/Margaret. And I think she hit Adrian's as "Alana".

Yeah, I might be wrong. So Wallis, please say a word or two now, and I will apologize profusely...(but I'm not buying anything)