A lot of Greensboro residents, along with others in certain areas of the state, are using their local library card and technology to consume free reading materials in a thoroughly modern way.

This week, the NC Digital Library – a library consortium consisting of the Greensboro Public Library and 22 other libraries in the state – announced a record setting 2 million e-book and audio-book checkouts in 2019, making it the 10th largest used public library consortium in the world in terms of total digital circulation.

In a press release, the NC Digital Library announced that this accomplishment “illustrates the continued growth and importance of library lending of e-books and audiobooks along with the creative ways libraries have served their communities with digital services,” and added that the NC Digital Library is one of 73 systems around the world – including standalone libraries and consortia – that have surpassed one million checkouts through the leading digital reading platform called Rakuten OverDrive.

Over the last decade, the number of audiobook and e-book fans has increased dramatically, and many people pay over $20 a month to Audible, the iTunes store or other services to listen to a couple of books that month.   Some of those customers may not realize that many of the latest audiobooks – as well as e-books for iPads and other devices – can be found for free at a digital library.

Rishara Finsel, the director of Transylvania County Public Library, said the 2 million mark hit in 2019 puts the state consortium in rare company.

“We are thrilled to mark this milestone,” Finsel said. “The libraries that make up this consortium are committed to promoting literacy, a love of reading, and access to books. Two million checkouts show how valuable that is to the readers in our communities.”

The libraries of the North Carolina Digital Library have been providing readers access to ebooks and audiobooks for several years now. According to the NC Digital Library stats, reader interest and usage has grown every year since the service was made available.

In 2019, the top five e-books borrowed through NC Digital Library’s digital collection were:

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
  2. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
  3. Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate
  4. The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
  5. Camino Island, by John Grisham

The top five audiobooks borrowed through the service were:

  1. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
  2. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
  3. Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis
  4. Educated, by Tara Westover
  5. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins


Only readers in select areas of the state – with Greensboro being one of those lucky areas – can access the service with a valid library card.

The very best part of it is that there are never any overdue fees. When your rental time is up, the ebook or audiobook is simply no longer available.