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Libraries across Tampa Bay are closed, but digital lending is booming

E-book readers’ tastes vary widely from Hillsborough to Pinellas to Pasco counties.

The doors to your local library are closed, but it’s doing a brisk business anyway.

To protect the health of all of their patrons and staff, public libraries in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties have been closed since mid-March. But the bountiful digital collections of the library systems are still available through their websites, and people are taking advantage of it by checking out e-books, audiobooks and more.

For many Tampa Bay area residents, the COVID-19 pandemic means tighter budgets and more time at home, so the free content offered by libraries is more attractive than ever.

Andrew Breidenbaugh, director of library services for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, wrote in an email, “We certainly have seen increased use of our e-books and audiobooks in the last month.”

That was echoed by Gary Earl, countywide services coordinator for the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative. “PPLC has doubled the annual budget during the crisis, so that more e-books would be available for our patrons,” he wrote. “Several of the member library staff have been busy at home doing the purchasing and selection. The preliminary numbers that we have run during the lockdown indicate that e-book usage has increased 49.42 percent over April of 2019.”

So what are people reading? We asked the libraries to compile top 10 fiction and nonfiction lists for e-books checked out in the month since the libraries closed.

The differences are startling. Not one book overlapped from one county to another.

Hillsborough County residents want the newest reads, it seems, with most books on the list published in 2020. The fiction list is led by Emily St. John Mandel’s novel The Glass Hotel, followed by a mix of recently published fantasy adventures (like Veronica Roth’s The Chosen Ones), mysteries and romances.

The Hillsborough nonfiction list is mostly brand-new books, too, with an emphasis on politics (Front Row at the Trump Show by Jonathan Karl) and dishy memoirs like Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You, Colton Underwood’s The First Time and Ann Glenconner’s Lady in Waiting.

In Pinellas, there are lots of bestsellers on the checkout list, but they’re not recent ones. “Only a few of the titles are currently on the print bestseller list,” Earl said. “My guess would be that people are looking for titles that are instantly available rather than waiting for it on a hold.”

So Pinellas readers are choosing fiction e-books that were published several years ago, most of them mysteries such as John Grisham’s The Rooster Bar and Michael Connelly’s Two Kinds of Truth. The Pinellas nonfiction list is dominated by memoirs, but most have been out for a year or longer, like Homes: a Refugee Story by Abu Bakr Al-Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung, Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.

In Pasco County, the fiction list has few new books, except for Lisa Wingate’s historical novel The Book of Lost Friends. There’s a mix of Westerns, with two books by William W. Johnstone, and mysteries featuring female characters, like Fern Michael’s Lethal Justice.

As for nonfiction, Pasco readers seem to be focused on the crisis at hand. Every book on that list has to do with health issues. Some are for adult readers, like The Patient Survival Guide by Toni L. Goldfarb. But most are for younger readers.

The No. 1 e-book on Pasco’s nonfiction list: Curious George Discovers Germs by H.L. Rey.

[ Penguin Random House ]

Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative


1. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

2. The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

3. Masked Prey by John Sandford

4. Texas Outlaw by James Patterson

5. The Sinner by J.R. Ward

6. After Sundown by Linda Howard

7. The K Team by David Rosenfelt

8. The Last Odyssey by James Rollins

9. The Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

10. Revenge by James Patterson


1. Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

2. Front Row at the Trump Show by Jonathan Karl

3. The First Time by Colton Underwood

4. Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

5. Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner

6. More Myself by Alicia Keys

7. The House of Kennedy by James Patterson

8. Conversations with RBG by Jeffery Rosen

9. Happiness Is an Inside Job by Sylvia Boorstein

10. Sociolinguistics by John Edwards

Pinellas Public Library Cooperative


1. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

2. The President Is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton

3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

4. The Fallen by David Baldacci

5. Origin by Dan Brown

6. Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

7. The Midnight Line by Lee Child

8. The Fix by David Baldacci

9. Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts

10. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn


1. Homes: a Refugee Story by Abu Bakr Al-Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung

2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F--- by Mark Manson

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama

4. Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

5. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

7. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

8. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

9. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

10. The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

Pasco County Libraries


1. Born to Die by Lisa Jackson

2. Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep

3. Lethal Justice by Fern Michaels

4. A Lone Star Christmas by William W. Johnstone

5. Fame: Firstborn Series, Book 1 by Karen Kingsbury

6. Dinner at the Beach House Hotel by Judith Keim

7. Beautiful Sacrifice by Jamie McGuire

8. Bloody Trail of the Mountain Men by William W. Johnstone

9. The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

10. A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones


1. Curious George Discovers Germs by H.A. Rey

2. Beating the Flu: The Natural Prescription for Surviving Pandemic Influenza and Bird Flu by J.E. Williams

3. The Patient Survival Guide: 8 Simple Solutions to Prevent Hospital- and Healthcare-Associated Infections by Toni L. Goldfarb

4. Disease Control by Susan H. Gray

5. The Doctor’s Office: A 4D Book by Blake A. Hoena

6. Engineering Solutions for Epidemics and Pandemics by Kara Rogers

7. Germs Are Not for Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick

8. Pandemics: Deadly Disease Outbreaks by Michelle Denton

9. Go Wash Up: Keeping Clean by Amanda Doering

10. Tourville Community Helpers at the Hospital by Mari Schuh

• • •

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