A rare bit of good news for the nation's beleaguered local libraries: erotic fiction is being credited with a boom in e-book loans.

Surrey County Council has experienced a rise in loans from 16,231 in 2011 to 19,847 in 2012 with this January seeing the busiest month in the authority's e-book history with 2,469 loans.

The most popular e-book in 2012 was romance novel 'At the Argentinean Billionaire's Bidding' by India Grey, followed by 'Bedded By The Greek Billionaire' by Kate Walker in second, and 'Beauty And The Billionaire' by Barbara Dunlop in third.

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Helyn Clack, the council's cabinet member for community services, said that she believed readers were indulging in their "guilty pleasure" of reading erotic literature as they could borrow and read the stories incognito.

She said: "Erotic fiction seems to be going through a revival at the moment which is fuelling e-book borrowing.

"Romance novels are a guilty pleasure for some and they like the fact you can't judge an e-reader by its cover.

"And I think the popularity of e-readers and tablet computers as Christmas presents also helped make January our busiest e-book month."

She added: "The way people borrow and read books is undergoing a digital revolution, sweeping both the library world and the publishing industry.

"In Surrey we've been anticipating these changing trends to ensure people can experience the joy of a good read from the library, no matter how they choose to borrow a book."

Surrey was also revealed last year as a lending hotspot for the raunchy Fifty Shades Of Grey novel and its two sequels.