Contract for Potential Book Borrowers

injured book, book band-aid, damaged book

Tragic image thanks to The Harry Ransom Center

Lending a book to a friend always seems like a wonderful idea. You get to feel like a magnanimous literary Yenta and your friend enjoys the privilege of reading the free book that you carefully selected just for her.

But there is a dark side. I’m all too familiar with that moment when I accept a book I’d lent out and discover that it doesn’t look anything like it did when I last held it. Rips, spills, broken bindings; many are the mishaps that can befall a borrowed book. I understand that creases are a part of life, but when I lend you one of my books, I am trusting you to care for it as if it were your own.

The uncertainty ends today.

For the protection of your books and mine, I offer the following document. Never again will we hold a returned book in our hands, wondering why it is in two pieces when previously it was only one.

I ______________, (“the borrower”) hereby apply to borrow a book from ___________ (“the owner”). I recognize that book borrowing is a privilege administered on a case-by-case basis by the owner, and that borrowing one book does not mean I will be permitted to borrow future books. By signing below, I agree to be held responsible for the following conditions.

A.  Befouling

The borrower must make every effort to keep the book free of foreign substances, smells, and/or objects. This includes, but is not limited to: food; drink; drink-like foods (soup); food-like drinks (smoothies); bodily fluids; anything that was previously attached to a human or animal, such as hair and fingernails; particles of anything crunchy, recognizable or not; bookmarks with stupid sayings; cat pictures that the owner will not find adorable; and personal notes that are not interesting to the owner.

B. Right of Refusal

The owner has the right to refuse to loan any book at any time. It is not necessary to provide an explanation; however, if the owner does offer an explanation, the rejected borrower does not have the right to take offense and/or argue. Valid explanations may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1.  “I don’t want to.”
  2. “I haven’t read that yet and I want to read it first.”
  3. “I might want to read that soon.”

C.  Structural Assault

The borrower must make every effort to avoid damaging the book. Damage, for the purposes of this contract, includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  1. Rips, tears, cuts, burns, holes, crinkles, wrinkles or other assaults committed against pages, cover, or book jacket.
  2. Breaking of previously unbroken bindings.
  3. Dogearing of pages when the owner has not graded prior permission to dogear.
  4. Highlighting, underlining, or writing of notes, even if the notes are erased before return.

D.  Duration of Borrow Term

The borrower must make a good faith effort to return the borrowed book within a reasonable amount of time. For the purposes of this contract, a “reasonable amount of time” is 2 months.

E. Reparations

If the borrower intentionally or unintentionally fails to satisfy any of the above conditions, he or she must perform one or more appropriate actions from the list below in order to be considered for future book borrowing and/or friendship.

  1. Apologize profusely to the owner.
  2. Apologize profusely to the owner with conciliatory accessories such as wine and/or a cookie.
  3. Replace any lost or substantially damaged books.

I hereby accept the aforementioned conditions and promise to treat the owner’s books with love and respect until I see them safely home.

Borrower’s signature


Owner’s signature




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