It’s Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary in Canada. To celebrate, the Toronto library is offering a download of the first book

“To mark the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter being published in Canada, the Toronto Public Library is making the ebook version of the first book in the iconic series available for instant download for two weeks to anyone who has a library card.

It’s great news for a series that is still flying off the shelves at libraries, says Senior Collections Librarian Maria Cipriano, both in print and digital.

Harry Potter fans line up at the Midnight Magic Event in 2016 to celebrate the launch of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Harry Potter fans line up at the Midnight Magic Event in 2016 to celebrate the launch of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  (TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY)

Normally the library has only 45 copies of the The Philosopher’s Stone ebook available to check out, and Cipriano says anyone who wants to read the series, even in a digital version, are going to find themselves on a waiting list. Since they added The Philosopher’s Stone ebook in 2012, it’s been checked out more than 4,500 times.

If The Philosopher’s Stone was a person, it might be going into its third year of university.

“The kids that read that book way back when are now adults (and) are introducing their children to the book,” Cipriano said, adding the books are checked out by adults and children alike.

“In troubled times, I think people do like to go back and reread books they loved as children.”

The series is still being discovered by new readers too. Cipriano herself only read the books for the first time around three years ago, after listening to the Jim Dale narrated audiobook on long car rides to the cottage.

“We now have a whole house full of Gryffindor scarves.”

The series is special to Cipriano for a personal reason: her son, who has autism, wasn’t interested in reading anything outside of picture books until listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks on those family trips. After that, she said, he wanted to read the physical books himself.

“It was a major victory,” Cipriano said. “We tried numerous books, but that was the only one (to get his interest). He was Harry Potter for Halloween last year.”

Even though ebooks are digital, there is still a limited amount of them that libraries can “lend out” for temporary download due to licensing agreements with the publishers of the book. The two-week unlimited download period for The Philosopher’s Stone that has been allowed in order to celebrate the anniversary is rare, and exciting to Cipriano, especially for such a beloved book.

“It resonates. We’re always going to have that book in our collection,” she said. “Some books are a flash in the pan. This is not one of them.”

Ebooks didn’t exist when the series originally came out. And although the characters of the wizarding world are stuck in the 90s, Cipriano is sure they would find ebooks magical.

“I think Hermione would embrace it wholeheartedly,” she said of the bookish girl who became one of the series’ most beloved characters.

“She is a hero in the library world.”

Library card holders can take out the book instantly, with no waiting list, from Aug. 27 to Sept. 10.”