PLR data reveals the most borrowed authors and books in UK public libraries

The latest annual data released today by the Public Lending Right (PLR) office shows which books and authors proved most popular with library borrowers during 2016-17.

For the eleventh consecutive year prolific US thriller writer James Patterson was the most borrowed author from UK libraries.  He has held this title since 2006/07 and during that time his books have been borrowed over 22 million times.

James Patterson commented: “I’m delighted to be the most borrowed author in UK libraries for the eleventh year running and it’s great to know my stories are still so popular with the UK audience! I firmly believe that better readers become better thinkers and I think libraries are an integral part of any community as they are essential in helping to share and spread the joy of reading.”

During 2016-17 his books were loaned over 2 million times and his most popular title with library borrowers was Bullseye.


Top 10 most borrowed authors, 2016/17 (2015/16 position in brackets)

  1. James Patterson (1)                          
  2. Julia Donaldson (2)                          
  3. Daisy Meadows (3)                          
  4. Roald Dahl (9)                                  
  5. Roderick Hunt (4)
  6. Francesca Simon (5)
  7. M C Beaton (6)
  8. Adam Blade (7)
  9. Nora Roberts (10)
  10. Jacqueline Wilson (8)

Children’s authors again feature strongly with four of the top five authors belonging to this category.


Top 10 most borrowed titles, 2016/17

  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (hardback edition)
  2. Make Me by Lee Child (hardback edition)
  3. Night School by Lee Child
  4. Personal by Lee Child
  5. Make Me by Lee Child (paperback edition)
  6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (paperback edition)
  7. When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson
  8. Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer
  9. Bullseye by James Patterson
  10. The Last Mile by David Baldacci

Thrillers were extremely popular with book borrowers across the UK as confirmed above.  The Girl on the Train by British author Paula Hawkins hit the top spot for the second year running.  The hardback edition steamed in at number one with the paperback edition in sixth place.

PLR was established by Act of Parliament in 1979 and is run by the British Library from its site at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire. PLR gives authors the legal right to receive payment from government each time their books are loaned through the public library system.  In February 2018 PLR distributed £6 million to 22,108 authors at a Rate Per Loan of 8.20p.

In order to receive payments authors must register for PLR.  Writers, illustrators, photographers, editors, translators, narrators, producers, abridgers can apply via the UK PLR office. 

An exciting and new change to PLR came into effect on 1 July 2018 when the PLR office started to collect remote ebook loans data.  Any payments arising from the newly eligible loans will be made for the first time in February 2020.

Commenting on the changes Tom Holland, Chair of the PLR Advisory Committee, said: “It is excellent news that the Government is backing a PLR fit for the 21st century. This will be hugely to the benefit of authors, who are fully aware that printed books these days are not the only way of reaching their readers.”

Further details can be found on the PLR website: www.bl.uk/plr.


Media Contacts


Julia Eccleshare: 0207 412 7275 / 07824 350 481 or julia.eccleshare@bl.uk 

Susan Ridge: susan.ridge@bl.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. PLR is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and is run by the British Library from its site at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire. This year PLR distributed £6 million to 22,108 authors at a Rate Per Loan of 8.20 pence. Since its inception in 1979, PLR has distributed over £166 million to authors. PLR funding is currently set at £6.6m up to 2019.
  2. Authors are eligible for payment if their PLR earnings reach a minimum of £1. There is a maximum payment threshold of £6,600 for the top-lending authors.  This year, 195 authors received the maximum payment.
  3. The Digital Economy Bill 2017 extended UK Public Lending Right legislation to include remote loans of ebooks from public libraries in England, Scotland and Wales.  The collection of remote ebook loans data came into effect on 1 July  2018. Payments arising from the newly eligible loans will be made in February 2020.
  4. British authors qualify for payment from a number of other European PLR systems. These include the Irish PLR system which is administered through the UK PLR office on behalf of the Irish government.  Payments to UK authors from PLR systems in countries such as France, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are distributed by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS).
  5. The ALCS research, Authors’ Earnings 2018: A survey of UK writers shows median earnings of professional writers – that is those who dedicate over half their working hours to writing – has fallen by 42% in real terms since 2005 and by 15% since 2013. The median annual income of a professional writer now stands at under £10,500, well below the minimum wage. The number of professional writers earning their income solely from writing has fallen to 13.7% while the gender gap has increased with the average earnings of female professional authors only around 75% of those of the average male professional writer, a drop from 78% in 2005.
  6. PLR cannot be held responsible for errors or omissions in bibliographic or loans information supplied by libraries or other agencies or for incorrect information supplied by applicants.
  7. For all the latest news follow PLR on Twitter @PLR_UK.

For more information:

Ben Sanderson
The British Library
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e: ben.sanderson@bl.uk

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