Annual public library loans figures reveal the UK’s most borrowed e-books for the first time

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman has been revealed as the UK’s most borrowed e-book of 2018-19, with Sally Rooney’s Normal People, Circe by Madeleine Miller and Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt among the Top 10, according to the latest figures on public library borrowing compiled and released by Public Lending Right (PLR).

Administered from the British Library, the Public Lending Right scheme gives authors and other contributors the legal right to payment from the Government each time their books are borrowed from a UK public library.

For the first time, the annual public library loans data – released today for the period covering July 2018 - June 2019 - includes figures on e-book borrowing as well as print books, audiobooks and regional borrowing. The release coincides with a remarkable surge in e-book borrowing from public libraries as physical spaces remain closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Libraries Connected last month estimated a 358% increase in the number of people borrowing e-books during the first three weeks of lockdown in England.

Continuing the trend of previous years, the list of most borrowed print titles is dominated by thrillers, with James Patterson taking the title of most borrowed author for the thirteenth year running. Children’s literature continues to feature heavily across UK print borrowing, with Roald Dahl, Julia Donaldson, Daisy Meadows, Francesca Simon and David Walliams appearing among the top ten most borrowed authors. This continues another long-term trend, highlighting the crucial and enduring role libraries play in supporting children’s literacy and sparking a lifelong love of reading.

Culture Minister, Caroline Dinenage, said: “It is brilliant that, thanks to digital services, so many people can still engage with their local library and enjoy the nation's most popular titles. E-books are a fantastic way to entertain and educate, especially as we spend more time at home." 

Tom Holland, Chair of the PLR Advisory Committee, said: “If PLR is to stay the same – to paraphrase Lampedusa’s famous quip – then it has to change. This year’s figures show just how successfully it is achieving this. As it ever does, it is disbursing funds to a wide range of authors and contributors, and ensuring that they are properly remunerated for the borrowing of their books from libraries. Equally, the fact that the first payments for the remote loans of e-books were made this year demonstrate that PLR is swimming with the fast moving currents of the times. An unchanging mission, fuelled by a readiness to change."  

For more information on the 2018-19 borrowing figures as well as the regional figures, visit

Top 10 most borrowed authors (2017-18 ranking in brackets):

1. James Patterson (1)

2. Daisy Meadows (2)

3. Julia Donaldson (3)

4. Lee Child (10)

5. Francesca Simon (4)

6. David Walliams (8)

7. M C Beaton (7)

8. Adam Blade (5)

9. Roald Dahl (6)

10. Danielle Steel (11)


Top 10 most borrowed print titles:

1. The Midnight Line: (Jack Reacher 22) by Lee Child

2. The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams

3. NYPD Red by James Patterson

4. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

5. Past Tense: (Jack Reacher 23) by Lee Child

6. Dead if You Don’t by Peter James

7. Night School: (Jack Reacher 21) by Lee Child

8. Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves

9. Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

10. Origin by Dan Brown


Top 10 most borrowed e-books:

1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

2. The Midnight Line: (Jack Reacher 22) by Lee Child

3. This Is GoingTo Hurt by Adam Kay

4. Circe by Madeline Miller

5. Origin by Dan Brown

6. Still Me by Jojo Moyes

7. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

8. Normal People by Sally Rooney

9. Blood Road by Stuart MacBride

10. Killing Floor: (Jack Reacher 1) by Lee Child


Top 10 most borrowed children’s authors:

1. Daisy Meadows (1)

2. Julia Donaldson (2)

3. Francesca Simon (3)

4. David Walliams (6)

5. Adam Blade (4)

6. Roald Dahl (5)

7. Jeff Kinney (9)

8. Jacqueline Wilson (8)

9. Liz Pichon (15)

10. J K Rowling

Notes to Editors

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

The Public Lending Right (PLR) scheme is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and run from the British Library. British authors also qualify for payment from a number of other European PLR systems. These include the Irish PLR system which is now 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.

The annual public library loans data released by PLR is based on loans attributed to these authors and titles. As well as reflecting the popularity in public libraries, the rankings reflect the constantly changing PLR Sample, and can also be impacted by the availability and quality of bibliographic data used when compiling the lists.

For all the latest news follow PLR on Twitter @PLR_UK.

For more information:

Ash Khan
The British Library

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+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

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