Top E-books, Audiobooks Borrowed from Public Libraries in 2020 Reflect Interest in Social Justice

Remote learning, a renewed interest in social justice reform, and the quarantine lockdown measures during a pandemic contributed to a global increase in e-book and audiobook usage.

As the global pandemic closed buildings and led to widespread remote learning, readers turned to their local libraries more than ever for digital books. OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for 64,000 libraries and schools worldwide, released 2020’s most popular ebooks and audiobooks downloaded from the public library. Readers borrowed and read these digital books on the award-winning Libby reading app.

Many of these books address social justice issues and land within the top 10 for the first time. These lists are based on record circulation in public libraries around the globe.

Top 10 E-books from Public Libraries Worldwide in 2020

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  3. Educated by Tara Westover
  4. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  5. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
  6. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  7. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  8. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  9. The Guardians by John Grisham
  10. Blue Moon by Lee Child

Top 10 Audiobooks from Public Libraries Worldwide in 2020

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  4. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  5. Educated by Tara Westover
  6. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  7. So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  8. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  9. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
  10. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Top 10 New Fiction E-books, Audiobooks from Public Libraries Worldwide in 2020

  1. Walk the Wire by David Baldacci
  2. Camino Winds by John Grisham
  3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  4. The Guest List by Lucy Foley
  5. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  6. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
  7. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
  8. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
  9. Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
  10. Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Top 10 New Non-Fiction E-books, Audiobooks from Public Libraries Worldwide in 2020

  1. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
  2. The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
  3. Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
  4. Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump
  5. Open Book by Jessica Simpson
  6. Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
  7. The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton
  8. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
  9. A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker
  10. Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby

Top 10 Juvenile / Young Adult E-books, Audiobooks from Public Libraries Worldwide in 2020

  1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
  3. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  6. Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic by Michael McCreary
  7. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  8. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  9. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  10. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

What is OverDrive? Serving a growing network of 65,000 libraries and schools in 84 countries, OverDrive delivers the industry’s largest digital catalog of e-books, audiobooks, magazines, and other content through award-winning apps. The Libby reading app for libraries is one of Popular Mechanics’ 20 Best Apps of the Decade, while the student reading app Sora is one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Libby app from Overdrive is available from over 20,000 public libraries around the world. Through Libby, users have free access with a valid library card to e-books, audiobooks, comic books, magazines, and cookbooks.

For more information on how to borrow digital e-books and audiobooks from your local library, visit the library locator page on the OverDrive website: overdrive.com/libraries.

33% Growth for Digital Books from Public Libraries and Schools in 2020 Sets Records

Social justice and remote learning were key factors in a year over year growth of e-book and audiobook usage from public libraries throughout the United States.

Librarians and educators achieved record levels of digital book circulation in 2020. Readers worldwide borrowed 430 million ebooks, audiobooks, and digital magazines in the past 12 months, a 33% increase over 2019. This significant growth was influenced by the pandemic, social justice, and remote learning. Data were reported by OverDrive (www.overdrive.com), the leading digital reading platform for 65,000 libraries and schools worldwide.

Social unrest and widespread civil protests had a profound impact on the world and libraries expertly responded. Digital books about social justice and those written by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) or by a member of the marginalized community from which it depicts (Own Voices) experienced 165% YoY circulation growth. White Fragility, So You Want to Talk about Race, The Hate U Give and others became top 10 titles checked out during 2020.

The most significant genre growth in 2020 was children’s and YA fiction and nonfiction because of remote and hybrid learning. In addition, more than 2 million checkouts occurred through Public Library CONNECT partnerships and the Sora student reading app. More public library and school partnerships than ever enabled students to use their school credentials to borrow e-books and audiobooks from both their school and the local public library.

2020 digital book lending records from the OverDrive global network:

  • Total digital checkouts from libraries and schools: 430 million (+33%).
  • E-books borrowed: 289 million (+40%).
  • Audiobooks borrowed: 138 million (+20%).
  • Children / YA genre checkouts: 111 million (+79%).
  • E-book and audiobook placed on hold or waitlisted: 187 million (+44%).
  • 102 public library systems around the world (+72%) achieved more than 1 million digital book checkouts.
  • Includes 26 systems over 2 million checkouts, 10 over 3 million, 6 over 4 million, 2 over 5 million, 3 over 6 million, 2 over 7 million, and 1 over 8 million (full list available soon).

The Sora app also drove massive growth in schools’ digital content usage at a faster rate than expected. Since the app was launched in September 2018, schools rapidly adopted Sora for the classroom and at home. This adoption accelerated even more in 2020, with over 43,000 schools worldwide now utilizing Sora.

In 2020 overall, OverDrive added more than 20,000 new libraries and schools in 12 additional countries, bringing the total to 65,000 in 84 countries. OverDrive announced the acquisition of RBdigital in June of 2020 which resulted in hundreds of libraries and schools joining its network. Other significant changes: 9 new languages were added into the Libby reading app’s interface, including Spanish and French, and OverDrive’s industry-leading catalog expanded to include 3,000 digital magazines supplied by ZINIO.

Most popular e-books borrowed from libraries in 2020:

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  3. Educated by Tara Westover
  4. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  5. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2020:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  4. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  5. Educated by Tara Westover

Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:

  • Adult fiction: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Adult nonfiction: Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Young adult fiction: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Children’s fiction: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

What is OverDrive? Serving a growing network of 65,000 libraries and schools in 84 countries, OverDrive delivers the industry’s largest digital catalog of e-books, audiobooks, magazines, and other content through award-winning apps. The Libby reading app for libraries is one of Popular Mechanics’ 20 Best Apps of the Decade, while the student reading app Sora is one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Libby app from Overdrive is available from over 20,000 public libraries around the world. Through Libby, users have free access with a valid library card to e-books, audiobooks, comic books, magazines, and cookbooks.

For more information on how to borrow digital e-books and audiobooks from your local library, visit the library locator page on the OverDrive website: overdrive.com/libraries.

Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep”

After reading one of the later books in the Philip Marlowe series, The Long Goodbye, before heading back to the first installment, The Big Sleep, I was concerned it would be a cause of hindrance in the enjoyment of the series. Debunked, as the cause of my concern was unfounded! Both books stand on their own, respectively. There is very little of a connection between the plots of the two stories other than the appearance of the main protagonist, Philip Marlowe! A great place to start for any reader who is new to the series could not go wrong by starting at the very beginning with The Big Sleep. However, depending on the initial approach to reading any of Raymond Chandler’s writings, you could either read the novels first before his short stories or vice versa. By chance, I happened to have read a few of the short stories, Killer in the Rain and The Curtain, before I moved on to read The Big Sleep. Both of these short stories were integrated into the primary plot for the novel and slightly altered for the sake of cohesion of the story.

Even though I knew some of the events that were going to unravel as I worked my way through the book, it was still an enjoyable read. It was nice to see how Chandler was able to pull the two stories together and iron out the material to make it mesh well with one larger story. The novel was an easy read, and I enjoyed the witty banter of dialogue between the characters.

The only relevance the novel’s title has in connection with its plot could be directly associated with the catalyst of the story: General Sternwood. He is a dying, old man who hires Philip Marlowe to investigate a blackmailer who may ruin the family name. Sternwood is portrayed as someone who desires to be in control of everything in his life, but hesitantly accepts his inability to control the action and behaviors of those around him. It is with an internal observation Marlowe begins to wonder towards the end of his investigation if anyone’s opinion of our name and legacy should really matter, when it will no longer be of a personal concern once we are gone from this world.

The first 4 ½ minutes of the BBC Radio Drama adaptation.

There are a total of seven novels in the Philip Marlowe series written by Raymond Chandler; each one centers around an investigation prominently featuring the gritty sleuth with a decent work ethic, a questionable interest in booze, and a nose for getting on everyone’s irritable side.

Here is the complete list of novels, in order of their publication:

  • The Big Sleep (1939)
  • Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
  • The High Window (1942)
  • The Lady in the Lake (1943)
  • The Little Sister (1949)
  • The Long Goodbye (1953)
  • Playback (1958)

Also available in paperback from Bookshop.org

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