Readersforum's Blog

February 14, 2013

The most borrowed library books of 2012

worthWith figures compiled too late for EL James to make an impression, borrowers favoured homicide over hanky-panky.

By John Dugdale

Has EL James done it again?” is what you inevitably wonder, when approaching the latest annual chart for UK library loans. “Did she dominate sales rankings as she did last year? Did library users show just as much appetite for porn as bookshop customers?”

A quick glance at the chart will show that the emphatic answers are no, no and no: not only is the Fifty Shades trilogy not at the top, it’s nowhere – as are last year’s other erotica hits. As a result, the borrowings table looks more blokeish and less sexy than the all-2012 sales chart, where the top 10 was female-dominated: overall, 65 of the authors of the 100 most-borrowed books are men.

Perhaps some librarians were reluctant to stock porn. The difference between buying (where titles can be acquired impersonally online) and borrowing (where users typically hand titles to librarians for checking out) might also offer a partial explanation.

The main factor, however, is presumably not primness or diffidence but the chart’s timeframe. The table, compiled by PLR – which distributed a total of £6.4m to 23,190 authors for 2011/12, at a rate of 6.20 pence per loan – covers borrowings up to the end of June last year, leaving little time for James’s books to make an impression after their publication in April.

So, instead of switching to sex and spanking in America, borrowers stuck with 50 shades of US murder.

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