what’s a book between friends

About a month ago Wave posted about the illegal downloading of ebooks. This led to an interesting discussion about piracy, the impact it has on the industry, especially on authors and small epublishers, the ways it can (or cannot) be dealt with as well as attitudes towards ebooks themselves.

I was particularly fascinated by one of the topics which generated a number of comments. This related to the loaning of ebooks to friends with most people – authors included – seeing a clear distinction between illegal downloading and letting a mate borrow an ebook.

One of the reasons why this caught my attention was due to what I think are the inherent similarities in sharing an ebook and in mass (so-called) filesharing. It seemed/s to me that it is precisely because they are comparable which makes loaning ebooks such a taboo subject.

Yes, one is stealing and one is associated with what has traditionally occurred with print work; but if they are so different why doesn’t anyone talk more openly about them, especially the latter? Is it because of the negative connotations? Does something most wouldn’t think twice about doing if it was a print book now make you feel like a criminal?

I’ll be honest; I lend ebooks to friends in the same way I swap books with them. Although others may disagree, I don’t think what I’m doing is illegal or unethical.

To put it into context for you – there are about 5 people who I allow (yes ‘allow’ – I’m an OCD, control freak) to borrow print books from me and I have two friends with whom I share ebooks. With regard to the latter, I do so knowing the ebooks I lend them will never go beyond their hands.

To me, it’s a question of trust. Similar to the way you trust a friend to return a print book in the same condition it was when they borrowed it.

The fact of the matter is that readers for generations have always lent each other books and most of us are very responsible about it. Should we stop now just because books are also produced in digital format?

I’m curious about how you feel. Do you loan ebooks to friends or is it something you object to? Would you share a print book but not an ebook? Do discussions about piracy make you feel guilty? Why do you think we don’t talk more openly about this?

I understand this might be a sensitive topic so I’ll leave you with something to keep in mind when commenting:

“Don’t flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become.” Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Kris’ translation: That means you can disagree with me – or others – and, as long as you’re civil about it, I’m not going to get pissed.

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
This entry was posted in ebooks, reading, serious randomness, Wave. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to what’s a book between friends

  1. orannia says:

    Hmmm. I have to be honest, I've never thought about lending the few eBooks I have to anyone. There's only one person who would want to read my eBooks and she doesn't believe in lending them. The problem I see is that you hand a print copy over, and your friend hands it back. But an electronic copy can be copied, and copied, and copied (only if your friend is untrustworthy of course). Sorry, I haven't really answered the question, have I?

    Oh, and I only have two people I will lend my print books too, and both know how pedantic I am about the books' condition 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    Same with me, I don't lend out my ebooks. Most are m/m and the others are kindle books.
    Some print books I only lend to my two sisters and one brother because they know how neurotic I am about my books. Some I will not lend at all.
    A horror story for me…
    I went out of the country and my husband lent about 30 of my print books to the wife of one of his friends. I nearly had a heart attack! I only lend one or two books at a time! She has brought all but 12 back and I swear my heart skips a beat when I think about it. To make things worse my husband had propped the bed with some of my hardcover books! And all he had to do was call and get a replacement, but no, he took my books… we are only in the second year of marriage so he did not understand but he does now after I was done with him…
    I know I kinda strayed off the topic but I guess I needed to get that off my chest to someone who understands. So yes i only lend my books to a chosen few.

  3. Ingrid says:

    As I have not found anyone who would want to read my ebooks. I don't have that problem.
    Also I don't lent out my paperbooks.

    But it is as Orannia says, you don't know what will happen with your file. As for a paperbook, you can be sure that it isn't copied

  4. Tam says:

    Well, I only lend to people I can trust but I have very few books that I would be heartbroken if I never got them back so I am pretty liberal, but not too many people I know read the kind of books I read. LOL

    E-books I will lend only if I know they are not going to end up on a file-sharing site. In other words to one or two people. I think what kind of freaks people out is that if you lend a paper book, its gone, you no longer have access to it, whereas if I lend an e-book, its sort of like making a photocopy and giving it because you still have a copy. But I think as long as you aren't giving away a copy to 20 people its not a big deal. I'd have to be very sure it was only for personal use which is the case. I can only afford so many books a year, if I buy those, I'm not going to buy the 10 a friend lends me no matter what, there is a finite number (although I'm still figuring out what it is). I don't believe in file sharing, I think that is unfair.

    I always wonder how authors feel about used book sales. My daughter's school used to have a used book sale and we raised $5000 and there were thousands of books. Not a single author saw any money from that and there are many used book stores again, where authors see no money and I regularly dump books I no longer want at the charity shop for resale. Is it better or worse than lending a trustworthy friend an e-book?

  5. Jenre says:

    I'm currently loaning out my paperback historical romance collection to a friend of mine, usually 3 or 4 books at a time. She's very reliable though and has always brought them back in a good condition.

    I haven't loaned my ebooks to anyone. Firstly because most of mine are in mobi DRM format and can't be read on anyone else's device, secondly because I don't really have anyone to lend them to and thirdly because I feel a bit guilty doing so for the reasons Tam mentioned. It is a bit like photocoying the book and giving it to a friend, which isn't something I would dream of doing.

  6. K. Z. Snow says:

    Everybody concerned needs to be realistic about this and exercise decency combined with common sense.

    Lending e-books is indeed a matter of trust, just like lending print books. If you're not absolutely certain that your reading buddy is a person of conscience who won't be passing a file around to every moron who wants it, then don't effing lend the thing out.

  7. Kris says:

    Orannia: Can I be nosy and ask… does your friend not lend them precisely because of issues associated with the format??

    Suzi: Would you lend ebooks if you could?

    30 books!! Does your hubby now know that lending out your books without permission and using hardcovers for furniture are grounds for divorce?? I think I would have seriously hurt him. Nice restraint.

    Ingrid: It sounds as though you wouldn't loan your ebooks anyway if you don't let anyone borrow your print work?? Would that be right??

  8. Kris says:

    Tam: So you think why it freaks people is the uncertainty factor associated with what happens with an ebook being outside of someone's control? Kris the Control Freak can certainly understand that and I guess that is where the trust factor comes in. No way in hell would I lend a book to someone who I didn't know well and more imnpotantly knwo that they have the same respect for books that I have.

    Jen: If you had an ebook in a more universal format and a friend you knew liked the same genre and who you trusted, would you loan the ebooks then Jen?? Or would you feel guilty because it is essentially a copy??

  9. Kris says:

    “If you're not absolutely certain that your reading buddy is a person of conscience who won't be passing a file around to every moron who wants it, then don't effing lend the thing out.

    EXACTLY!!! Respect, honest and trust are the key things here. If you don't have any of those with the person who you're considering lending an ebook to then don't be a fucking idiot. Go back and tell that person “sorry, but NO!”

  10. Anonymous says:

    In these days of straightened economic circumstances (ie, we're all watching our budgets) couldn't lending e books be seen almost as advertising? My book budget will only buy so many books, and so I usually go for authors that I know. Sometimes it takes someone saying “Here, read this, this is really good” to start reading new authors.

    Of course this only applies to limited lending, not wholesale sharing.


  11. K. Z. Snow says:

    I myself think that's okay, Rikki. It would be horribly hypocritical of me to rant against financially strapped readers. In fact, I wouldn't ever do it.

  12. Sean Kennedy says:

    I think there's a difference between 'lending' an ebook to a friend and mass filesharing. Technology has just advanced as well. We were pirating when we used to tape an album for a friend, weren't we? Nowadays we'll burn a CD for a friend, and yes, there is the possibility for that being burned over and over again – but where does one draw the line?

    You'll get into a slippery slope where you could even start arguing that libraries shouldn't even exist. People have always 'shared' things. Yes, it burns me when I see my book on filesharing sites – but that's because it's mass sharing. Friends lending each other books, big deal.

    Unless of course, they're books I own. Because my family in particular have been known to destroy hardbacks just by looking at them on my shelf.

  13. Kris says:

    I agree with K Z, Rikki, and think lending books is perfectly understandable given the tight budgets people are living on, especially when it comes to what for all intents and purposes is increasingly becoming a 'luxury' item.

    As you said, there is a ginormous difference between borrowing a book from a friend or trying out a new author in this way and the downloading books in their 100s and 1000s from a filesharing site. Only one in turn significantly impacts the financial circumstances of another person.

  14. Kris says:

    Sean: You've seen your books on filesharing sites?? Bastards!

    Can I say something along the same lines as one of your comments – and in the hopes that it won't get me stoned to death?? Piracy has always happened and will always happened. To me, I'm not sure it was realistic to think that it wouldn't occur with regard to ebooks. Doesn't make it right by any stretch of the imagination. What it means is thinking of strategies to make mass filesharing less attractive. Not an easy issue to try to deal with, but thinking outside of the box and being proactive is definitely needed.

    Do you make your family replace the books they destroy?? I do. 🙂 Yes, I am that much of a bitch.

  15. Sean Kennedy says:

    Kris, you're right, and that's what I was trying to say. Piracy has always existed, it's just that technology has made mass piracy so easy. It's not sitting with your tape deck and trying to cut off the dj talking over the beginning and end of a song anymore, or asking your friend to tape the album thay have for you. It's silly to think people don't pirate – they do, we do, you do, I do. She bop, he bop, we bop, etc.

    I have been known to in the past, but people get so fricking antsy about it. “How dare you ask me to replace something I've destroyed!”

    What irked me about one post in particular on a file-sharing site was that my book was in amongst sixty others in one mass posting – the poster had obvious just copied their whole ebook library and put it up for everyone to take. I think that shows a lack of caring, that you will post EVERY author you have.

    It's not like we're Stephen King or Patricia Cornwell, as much as I sure would love their royalty cheques.

  16. Lily says:

    Another great topic Kris, although I'm late in reading it.

    I've lent print books to a few close friends who I knew would enjoy reading them and that I also knew would take care of my babies.

    Many times I also gave books either to a library or a used book store when it wasn't a favorite that I knew I wouldn't read again.

    As for ebooks I've never shared one but only because I don't know anyone who reads M/M but me. All my friends still only read het books no matter how much I pimp the M/M world to them. Lol, their loss 🙂

    If I had a friend, someone that I also would trust with a favorite print book, who wanted to read one of the many ebooks I have I'd lend it to them. But that's a friend who I know wouldn't put it up on the web for all to get. I don't agree with the file sharing to the masses.


  17. Ingrid says:

    Kris, I have issues with returning my books. You know when you lent then out but you have no clue when they will return.
    So obviously that problem does not exist in ebooks.

  18. Kris says:

    Sean: They can post 60 books at a time?! Holy shit! I had absolutely no idea that they would do that many. God, I must be completely naive – not to mention too possessive of MY books to even think of doing such a thing.

    “I have been known to in the past, but people get so fricking antsy about it. “How dare you ask me to replace something I've destroyed!””

    This is me: 'Have you bought my book yet?' 'When will you get my book?' You know I felt like reading that the other day and went to my shelves before I remembered it wasn't there.' 'Okay, just give me the money then and I will get it myself.' 'I don't want the paperback. I want the bardcover you destroyed. If you kept the receipt you can still exchange it.' 'Don't bother calling me or coming around until you bring me my book.' It works. 🙂

  19. Kris says:


    “If I had a friend, someone that I also would trust with a favorite print book, who wanted to read one of the many ebooks I have I'd lend it to them. But that's a friend who I know wouldn't put it up on the web for all to get.”

    That's it in a nutshell, Lily. It's really a matter of trust.

    “All my friends still only read het books no matter how much I pimp the M/M world to them.”

    Bunch of crazies. 😉

  20. Kris says:


    “Kris, I have issues with returning my books. You know when you lent then out but you have no clue when they will return.”

    I remember reading somewhere recently about a person who set up their personal library complete with a loan system and return dates so as to keep track of her books. I'm not sure I would go to that extent but goddamn it's tempting. 🙂

  21. orannia says:

    Kris – IIRC she said that it wasn't permitted/legal…or something to that effect.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I don't think I would lend out ebooks I feel too guilty. I usually give my siblings my kindle to read a specific book in a certain time frame while I read a paper book. So far it works…
    Yes my hubby now understands in no uncertain terms. I think I kinda shocked him with my reaction too.
    I did make him give me $200 for replacements.

  23. Kris says:

    It sounds as though you ahve a great system worked out with your family, Suzi.

    “I did make him give me $200 for replacements.”

    Ok. You are seriously awesome. I thoroughly approve. LOL.

  24. Tracy says:

    Late to the party once again…I lend my ebooks to 2 trusted friends. Both are women who would never fileshare anything. One of them is just too poor and can't afford to buy any books so I lend her my print as well as my ebooks…how can I resist a reading friend in need? I can't.

  25. Kris says:

    “… how can I resist a reading friend in need? I can't”

    Nope. I wouldn't be able to either.

Leave a Reply. I dare you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s