Ebook Checkouts Set New Records During a Pandemic

Ebooks Checkouts Set Record
Posted on 04/03/2021
Dan Owens

It was just over a year ago that Neill Public Library had to close its doors due to COVID, and within just a few days one thing was extremely clear- the popularity of our Washington Anytime Library ebooks and e-audiobooks immediately increased dramatically, and just kept on going throughout the year. As soon as we closed, Washington Anytime Library checkouts jumped more than 20%. Books for youth particular proved to be incredibly popular- usage increased more than 100% at the beginning of the pandemic, and continued to be incredibly popular throughout the year.

Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of Neill Public Library, we were even able to increase our spending on ebooks and e-audiobooks during the pandemic, shortening wait times for popular titles and delivering much-needed materials at a time when we couldn’t deliver them any other way.

The Washington Anytime Library comprises 46 smaller and mid-sized libraries around the state, including Neill Public Library and Whitman County Library, too. The consortium has been providing readers 24/7 access to eBooks and audiobooks for over a decade. Overall, Neill Public Library helped the Washington Anytime Library surpass 1.7 million digital book checkouts in 2020—an all-time record.

What were the top books checked out by Neill Public Library patrons last year? For ebooks, the top spot was occupied by the mega-hit Where the Crawdads Sing, a mystery and coming-of-age story by Delia Owens. Second place went to The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming placed third.  Educated, a memoir of growing up in northern Idaho by Tara Westover, took fourth, while Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first in that series, took fifth.

The top audiobooks looked a little different, and you’ll notice a theme. Leading that list was the first Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), with Tara Westover’s Educated coming in second. Third was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book in the Harry Potter series. The timely and important So You Want to Talk About Race came in fourth, while fifth was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second book in that series. For those who don’t know, the amazing audiobook narrator Jim Dale voices the Harry Potter series, and his talents continue to propel the series to the top of audiobook lists everywhere.

At the end of the day, membership in the Washington Anytime Library consortium has always provided an important and cost-effective way for Neill Public Library to provide much needed resources for our patrons. That became even more true during the pandemic.

To access digital books from the Washington Anytime Library’s digital collection, readers and listeners need only a valid library card from Neill Public Library. Don’t have one? Give us a call Monday through Friday and we’ll set one up for you over the phone. Then visit https://anytime.overdrive.com/ or download the Libby app to borrow eBooks and audiobooks anytime, anywhere.

Dan Owens, Adult Services Librarian