Hawai‘i Checked Out a Record-Breaking 1 Million Books Online in 2020

Beyond Harry Potter wizardry and romance, titles on these top 10 lists show surprising insights into increased reader demand that started last year and is still going strong.


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Public libraries are open again for in-person browsing, with time limits and new safety guidelines, but the popularity of digital checkouts is holding in 2021. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino



When the pandemic forced Hawai‘i state public libraries to close in 2020, then shift to book pickups and shorter hours, so many people opted for online books that our state set a record for more than 1 million digital checkouts last year.


The first Harry Potter book took the top spot for e-books and audiobooks in Hawai‘i, but the rest of the top-circulating lists include former first lady Michelle Obama’s biography, Becoming; Tara Westover’s Educated, a memoir of life beyond her survivalist Mormon family upbringing; as well as books that confront racism.


The Hawai‘i State Public Library System has provided all-hours access to e-books and audiobooks for years through OverDrive and the Libby app, which continue to grow in popularity, officials say. State librarian Stacey Aldrich says the rising number of checkouts shows how important public libraries are to our community.


And that’s continuing in 2021, she says, with the first quarter of this year showing an increase in digital checkouts of 29.5% from 2020, with 310,201 this year compared to 239,359 last year.


SEE ALSO: Check It Out: Hawai‘i’s Public Library System Offers Way More Than Just Books


Readers need a valid library card to access books on a variety of electronic devices that include Apple and Android phones and tablets, Chromebook and Kindle. No library card? Fill out an online application at librarieshawaii.org.


Library spokeswoman Mallory Fujitani says readers can also use the system to access the magazine collection and “lucky day collections” that allow readers to check out popular e-books quickly for a seven-day period. That’s shorter than the usual 21 days, with no renewal allowed. The “lucky day” books program began in October and books can be accessed and browsed through the Libby app. The new collection is designed to put high-demand books in the hands of more readers faster with the shorter reading times, she says.


SEE ALSO: Nānākuli’s First Public Library is (Finally) Opening This Weekend


According to the Hawai‘i State Public Library System, the top 10 e-book titles borrowed from the digital collection in 2020 are:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  2. Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
  3. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  5. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  6. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  7. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  8. Educated by Tara Westover
  9. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  10. Blue Moon by Lee Child


For the top 10 audiobook titles borrowed, the boy wizard still reigned but a broader mix of titles turned up:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  3. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  5. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  6. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  7. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  8. Educated by Tara Westover
  9. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


We asked if Hawai‘i reading habits mirrored libraries worldwide and found a mix of shared titles and regional differences from the worldwide top 10:

  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. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  7. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  8. The Guardians by John Grisham
  9. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  10. Blue Moon by Lee Child


For more information on checking out digital or audiobooks, go to librarieshawaii.org.