Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bad Borrowers

See this is what happens.

I lend books. I'm okay lending books. I lend to my friends. I lend to acquaintances.

My library is even catalogued in the sidebar of my blog so you can take a look around and if you really want to read a book and can come by and pick it up ... yes, you can borrow it.

Most of the people who borrow books are fine and return them relatively quickly and in good condition.

I'm happy that I lent the book because it gives me warm fuzzies of the heart and wins some new friends for my favourite authors. It gives the book an occupation, and it feels happy about giving someone pleasure instead of having to skulk around on my shelves in the company of authors it probably doesn't like.

But I am sentimentally attached to the books I love, and feel very upset when friends don't return them.

And frankly I'm not good at asking for them back. When I do ask, I sometimes get a scowly snarl, a blank stare, the excuse "I haven't finished it yet," (months afterwards!), or a story about it having been passed to another friend or significant other who is so deeply into it that they can't bear to return it yet.

Sometimes I get an outright denial that the person has borrowed the book even though I have recorded the loan in an exercise book. And even though the book has my name and the words:
Each Book is precious, please return
stamped on the flyleaf.

The worst case was when a colleague asked if she could borrow Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient after hearing me go on about how good it was.

I lent her my copy and it didn't come back and didn't come back and every time I reminded her about it, she said impatiently "Yes Yes," but the book still didn't appear.

After asking her again several times she snapped at me "I can't find it. it must be somewhere in my study. I'll look it out when I have time."

She didn't.

As I so often do in these cases of books not coming back, I decided to write off the loss and buy a replacement copy. But since the copy was a gift from another friend, and I had enjoyed the feel and weight of it in my hand I decided to buy the same edition. A first edition of, of course, of a Booker winner.

I nearly died when I looked it up on Amazon and found that a replacement from Abebooks would cost me £100 even without the postage.

I sent the ex-colleague the news in an email. She ignored it.

I consoled myself by buying a manky paperback edition and told myself not to be so bloody materialistic.

Some of my books I know will be returned soon. Some will take a while but will come back. Others I will probably never see again.

Sometimes that's not really an issue as I won't read the book again, or I can pick up another copy at Big Bookshop or Skoob, sometimes it is a big sentimental heartache of a deal. I have at least one book unreturned that fits into that category. ("I'll have it back to you in a week," said the borrower some months ago.)

Well, I have decided to do some chasing up so don't be offended then if you've had my books a while and I call you up for them to be returned.

And meanwhile you can share your stories about lending and borrowing books!

(P.S. I seldom borrow books because I am very very bad at giving them back myself.)


Anonymous said...

ah you forgot one aspect of this story.

sometimes some ppl try to return the book to you, but you never call them when you're visiting their office! :P


bibliobibuli said...

haha .. guilty conscience already! scruffy old copy that one dear viz. if i lost it i'd be happy to buy a new one.

i know this one is my fault more than yours. and actually i stay away from your office because malini keeps chucking books for review in my direction.

bibliobibuli said...

and besides i still want to borrow some dvd's from you!

Amir said...

In 2000, I lent the 1987 edition of Salleh Ben Joned's SAJAK SAJAK SALEH (only 500 copies were printed) to a poet who then loved it to death and quoted it to everyone...and then lost it.

Yes, Rahmat Haron, I am talking about you!

But ... if one were to be positive ... at least he really liked the book.

animah said...

Oh oh. I'm going to get a call....

bibliobibuli said...

"master and marguerita" - it's in your bedroom in the big big pile of books. you can renew it for another couple of months.

Anonymous said...

Master and Margarita is the book on my To Read list on Facebook!

erm, now that you say you're also bad at returning things, i'm hesitant about lending you my DVDs! :P


anasalwa said...

I feel a lot better now knowing I'm not the only one get very, very upset when the book I lent to somebody didn't make its way back to my bookshelves.
Once, I lent I Wonder as I Wander by Langston Hughes to a friend who is also a reader. She promised to return the book in two weeks. The third week I asked her about the book. She said she would return it in a week. After five weeks, I called her and she said she was bringing it over to my place the next day.
She handed the book the next day. My heart sank when I saw the book. Dog ears and pasta stains on the pages. I was very upset and I told her I was disappointed that she didn't take care of my book. Shrugged off her shoulder as she walked toward the door, she said, Ït was only a book."
I threw the book at her and it hit her calf. Of course she was upset and angry at me. We didn't talk for four months until one day she called me and apologized.
She waited a few second before she said, 'aren't you going to apologize to me?"
I said,"No, I will do it again, if you ruin my book." That was the last time we talked to each other. The thing is nobody mess with my books.

bibliobibuli said...

viz - you can borrow it as soon as animah is done with it.

and i promise to be good with your dvd's if you are kind enough to lend them to me.

(animah i just found your "incredible lightness of being" dvd in my machine - or rather the guys who came to fix out new tv did and were having agood oggle at all the naked ladies)

bibliobibuli said...

anasalwa - that is a story of true bookaholic passion, but i don't blame you for acting as you did. a book you love becomes part of yourself.

i gave my sister a pile of books one time i was back (i always do this for her) and a neighbour borrowed one and returned it with bent cover and coffee stains and i was so hurt on the book's behalf. bu i didn't say anything 'cos it wasn't my book.

Poppadumdum said...

I have a get-even way of dealing with people who don't return my books despite reminders - I use an excuse to visit their house and say hello, then borrow a really expensive book/rare CD/DVD from them and keep that until they remember to return MY book. When they ask, "Oh, where's my rare CD?" I'll say, "Oh, sorry forgot. By the way, my still with you."

Madcap Machinist said...

hm, it's in this pile somewhere...hey naked ladies!

sharkgila said...

I take pains to read without creasing the book spine, and it just pains me when a bend-spine reader returns a book. The last time this happened I took three days to get over it and that poor book spine image is still stuck in my head.

Sham said...

I always try to read borrowed books immediately so that I can return them to their rightful owner. I do get upset when I have lent someone a book for a few months and when questioned, they would often respond with a "Oh I have been so busy reading some other things."

Books should be shared and not hoarded at all, I agree but some people do need their knuckles rapped.

Sharon, I have one of your books. Will I get the pleasure of receiving a call ;)

bibliobibuli said...

sham - you are one of my best book borrowers. you read and enjoy them and stop by to compare notes which is fun. and you return them very quickly (and in exactly the same condition). please borrow more.

"Oh I have been so busy reading some other things." uggghhhhh!

sharkgila - it's such an emotional thing ... we do have a real relationship with our books and it is hard i think for non book lovers to understand

poppadumdum - that's a very good way to handle it

Mei said...

It's the same with me - people borrow books from me and they never come back. If they do, they come back in horrible condition. One friend even said she sat on my book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 ARGH! So no more borrowing. NO MORE!

bibliobibuli said...

i might make a bookmark with a borrower's contract on it which that person then signs!

Leon Wing said...

Hey, ppl, you can borrow books from me - e-books. I have the entire oeuvre of Martin Amiss in ebooks, except his newest House of Meetings, which I have in hardback. I have most of the classics, of cos, and some quite new ones, like Seven Lies, Theft, and more (and more). So I don't have any problems if nobody returns the ebooks.

lena said...

I'm somewhat hesitant at borrowing books to people because over the years they've come back in pretty bad condition (even if they ever did).

Although there are some people like my cousin or sister, who prove they're good borrowers - have the decency to not have it split in two or cause water damage that the pages crinkles up all icky .. ugh - then they're okay.

My brother? His friends? No way.

animah said...

Whoever knows where my Wind Up Bird Chronicles is, tell me now!! I grant you immunity.
Sharon, what were you doing in my bedroom?
For the life of me I forgot I had The Lightness DVD. Yay! It's like discovering RM50 in the pocket of a jacket you've not worn for a year.

Paulin Aro said...

Hi Sharon,
I've still got your Silence Of The Lambs which you loaned me a very long time back, after we did Red Dragon. Would you like it back anytime soon?... Do tell please. It's in my safe keeping, just haven't started with it yet.
Thanks!.. Paulin

bibliobibuli said...

animah - i will watch it and return it soonest!

paulin - hello stranger! we've missed you! please keep the book. i give it to you as a gift ... not much of a gift though because the pages are all yellowed and age-spotty. shall buy a new copy if i see a decent second-hand one.

irene said...

I'm very bad at giving books back too. Sigh. I choose what to read based on whims and moods, so I might take aeons to get to the borrowed book. Plus I have so many on my TBR pile that I dare not borrow other people's books now.

I *do* have a few books that are overdue for return... *feels guilty*

Paulin Aro said...

oh thanks Sharon!...i'd been chronically ill long term. it's exhausting. hope to be able come back soon. meantime, keeping myself in the loop as much as possible. fret not :)

Sham said...

Blush, blush, thanks Sharon!!! I am definitely coming by to borrow more - perhaps you may need help arranging them in your shelves - I am free help - only need to provide me with good coffee

bibliobibuli said...

welcome! actually i need help covering books w. plastic. am thinking of getting some slave labour (e.g students) to do it

Sham said...

I can supervise the students with my whip ;)

KayKay said...

Ok sweet, my turn:

I have your:
1. Bonfire Of The Vanities
2. London
3. Birdsong

Although I'm not sure if they were given or lent to me:-)

bibliobibuli said...

kaykay - i gave you "london" and "birdsong". i can't even remember lending "bonfire of the vanities"! take your time with it ... it would otherwise be sitting on my tbr shelf for ages

camlok said...

Well, I did borrowed out a trilogy to a friend during the final year of my bachelor degree. He had the books for quite some time (around 3 months I think) before the finals. Since he did not manage to finish the books by then, we had to arrange for another time. After a few reminders he finally agreed to return the books during our graduation day (which is 9 months after the finals).

However, we didn't manage to meet up during the graduation, and a few emails later we still didn't manage to work out a schedule that fit both of us. Now that we've lost contact with each other (last I heard he's working in Kulim, while I'm working in Melaka) I've considered the books lost and have just bought the replacement copies.

As for borrowing books, so long as they are returned to me, with no coffee/food stains, dog ears and still in 1 piece I think would be pretty happy with it.

Happy note: Recently manage to get my sis to start reading fantasy....

Sham: Yeah I also try to read borrowed books as soon as possible, since most of the time those are books that's on my TBR list for a while.

Shark: Well, seeing that I don't really take much care on the book spine (I have a few well read books that has come off the spine in separate pieces), guess I'll have to take more care on borrowed books (though I don't do that much now).

Anonymous said...

Why do some people confuse "lend" and "borrow" ? anyway, maybe they lend them to the wrong people. Maybe yopu should consider imposing a deadline and charging a refundable fee.. that would help pay for anything not returned :)

PS. Shakespeare is still right after all these centuries :)

PPS. I'm not guilty of this cos you never lend me anything anyway :)

bibliobibuli said...

anon - i still want to lend you the jane smiley book but when my hard disk crashed i lost your contact details. actually i want to give the book to you.

and thanks for pulling everyone up about the confusion between lend and borrow.

you lend to someone and borrow from them.

camlok said...

Ops, *blush blush*

blame the 4am time.... and never check/preview message before sending it out.

bibliobibuli said...

no need for the blushes lah. english teachers find it hard to drop the habit.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you want to be pedantic, isn't an English teacher a teacher who's a British citizen ? :) someone who teaches English is a teacher of English, right ? :)

Anonymous said...

First time I recall lending a book and not having it returned?
I lent a volume about George Grosz to a woman I was fond of after she asked is she could borrow it. At one point I was visiting her home and there was the book was being used as a coaster on her coffee table. A well used coaster to say the least: wine stains, food stains and I'd swear her cat violated the book from the smell. I was shocked when I saw the condition as I could not imagine treating a book like this let alone someone else's property.
That was some years ago but it seems that most book lending experiences fall into these categories:
1. Book loaned - book never seen again. Person who borrowed book never seen again.
2. Book loaned - book returned after months or years. Book review from person who borrowed book " yeah..I never did get a chance to read it. "
3. Book loaned - book returned having been used as blunt object in a bar fight. Several bar fights.
4. Book loaned - book magically becomes property of person who borrowed it. Person who borrowed it becomes agitated when rescue attempt swoops book from offenders library shelve.
5. Book loaned - book magically transforms itself into a decorative piece at users home to emphasize the alleged size of borrowers intellect.
Of all the lending experiences I have there are possibly two or three book experiences. Otherwise, well, I promise I'm not making any of the above up. I am at a point where I no longer lend books to anyone.