Toronto Public Library Breaks Ebook Record

August 15, 2018 | Wendy B.

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On July 31, 2018, Toronto Public Library became the first library in the world to lend over twenty million ebooks.

"We've always said Toronto was a city of readers," says Maria Cipriano, the library's Senior Collections Specialist responsible for ebooks. "This proves it."

In 2007, Toronto Public Library started its first digital collection. There were 25 ebook titles, including Astrology for Dummies, a book on Joan of Arc, an eerily prescient (and somewhat ghoulish) book titled "Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse", and 17 travel guides.

A year later, the collection had grown to 1,500 titles, which had been borrowed nearly 30,000 times.  By 2017, it had reached over 170,000 titles, which were borrowed over 4.6 million times that year.  Cipriano, who has been responsible for the collection since 2011, says that ebooks, eaudiobooks and evideo accounted for about 18 % of the library's circulation last year.

She shared the twenty most popular TPL ebooks, but warns that the numbers can be misleading. "If a book costs less, it might circulate more, because we can buy more copies."

Asked what titles stand out for her in the top twenty, she says, "The pivotal moment for ebooks was Fifty Shades of Grey, in 2011." That title has been borrowed 9,305 times, coming in sixth on the list. Its combination of popularity and risqué subject matter drove public interest in ebooks as a format. "Because it was an ebook, you could read it on the subway without anyone noticing. If ever there was a book that was meant for ebook publication, it was that one." 

Here are Toronto Public Library's 20 most-borrowed ebooks of all time:


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins small

1. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (2014) - borrowed 19, 156 times


The Goldfinch  by Donna Tartt

2. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (2013)- borrowed 13, 876 times


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

3. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (2012) - borrowed 12, 633 times


The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

4. The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith (2013) - borrowed 10, 237 times


You Are A Badass audiobook by Jen Sincero

5. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero (2013) - always-available audiobook borrowed 9,916 times


Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

6. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James (2011) - borrowed 9,305 times


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

7. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (2014) - borrowed 9, 227 times


The Racketeer by John Grisham

8. The Racketeer, by John Grisham (2012) - borrowed 9,107 times


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

9. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (2014) - borrowed 8, 789 times


Inferno by Dan Brown

10. Inferno, by Dan Brown (2013) - borrowed 8,769 times


Game of Thrones by George R R Martin

11. A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin (1997) - borrowed 8,501 times


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

12. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak (2005) - borrowed 8,228 times


  Quiet by Susan Cain

13. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain (2012) - borrowed 8,085 times


All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

14. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews (2014) - borrowed 7,749 times


The Nest by Cynthia dAprix Sweeney

15. The Nest, by Cynthia d'Aprix Sweeney (2016) - borrowed 7,428 times


Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

16. Do Not Say We Have Nothing, by Madeleine Thien (2016) - borrowed 7,327 times


The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

17. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton (2013) - borrowed 7,123 times


Fifty Shades Darker by E L James

18. Fifty Shades Darker, by E. L. James (2011) - borrowed 7,055 times


Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

19. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2017) - borrowed 7,042 times


David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

20. David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell (2013) - borrowed 7,033 times


See borrowing statistics and watch ebooks borrowed in real time on our Overdrive dashboard.