SINGAPORE - Though public libraries closed their doors from April 7 and only reopened on July 1, they kept bibliophiles engaged during the circuit breaker period by offering a wide selection of e-books and audiobooks on their online platforms.
According to the National Library Board (NLB), there was a 150 per cent increase in e-book loans from April 7 to June 1, compared with the same period last year, accompanied by a 70 per cent increase in the number of e-book borrowers.
And the most-borrowed e-book was fantasy best-seller Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling.
An NLB spokesman said the board had rolled out a series of digital offerings that catered to readers of all ages, to stay relevant and visible during the circuit breaker.
"We made sure there was something for our patrons of all ages - from e-books and courses for adults to digital storytelling sessions to help parents engage their children at home. Seniors, too, could access plenty of new books in mother tongue languages and online programmes specifically tailored for this age group."
The organisation also improved its mobile app's user interface to ensure a smooth online experience.
The closure of libraries combined with the convenience of borrowing e-books attracted many to NLB's app.
For student Elizabeth Goh, the convenience of reading on her tablet was a definite draw.
"It was quite a different experience because I'm used to physical books, but it's definitely very convenient. I can just search for whatever I want, and if it's unavailable, I can be put on the waiting list," the 18-year-old said.
She also found the app's recommendations useful. She came across The Dutch House by Ann Patchett - in which a brother and sister are evicted from the grand house they grew up in by their stepmother - in NLB's collection of Pulitzer prize-nominated books and enjoyed it.
New to e-books is 16-year-old student Niveydithaa Saravanan. The book lover turned to NLB's e-books to tide her over the circuit breaker period, and read classics such as The Republic by Plato and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
She said: "My mum told me to download it so that I would stop complaining about reading the same books over and over again."
The top 10 most borrowed e-books during the circuit breaker
1. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling
2. This Is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn
3. Lee Kuan Yew: The Man And His Ideas by Han Fook Kwang, Sumiko Tan and Warren Fernandez
4. The Blur Sotong by Wang Shijia
5. Tanoshii: Joy Of Making Japanese-Style Cakes & Desserts by Yamashita Masataka
6. Delightful Nyonya Treats by Philip Chia
7. Fetch-22: Dog Man Series, Book 8 by Dav Pilkey
8. Becoming by Michelle Obama
9. Dr. Seuss And Philosophy: Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! By Dr Seuss
10. For Whom The Ball Rolls: Dog Man Series, Book 7 by Dav Pilkey