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OverDrive Reports Library Borrowing of eBooks Up 16%, Audiobooks Up 34% in 2016

Stats from the AAP show that some publishers are seeing a decline in ebook sales, but when it comes to usage in libraries the news is very different.

OverDrive reports this morning that:

readers borrowed 196 million digital books, an increase of 21 percent over 2015. Of the 678 million visits to library and school websites, readers borrowed more eBooks (+16%) and audiobooks (+34%) from their local and school libraries digital catalog compared to last year.

The record growth can be attributed to several key factors, including:

  • More libraries hosting digital Book Clubs using the OverDrive platform. More than 200 digital Book Clubs in 31 countries and on six continents took place last year. Some of 2016’s most popular eBooks (see below) were featured in OverDrive’s Big Library Read program, a worldwide digital Book Club.
  • More people discovering audiobooks. People live life on the go and readers are increasingly using audiobooks through their daily exercise routine, doing work around their house or while traveling. The number of people who used OverDrive Listen for audiobooks jumped 67 percent in 2016.
  • Younger readers are reading more and increasingly embracing public library Children’s and YA eBook collections.  2016 saw a 19 percent increase in children’s eBooks borrowed.
  • Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French, and other non-English readers are discovering the growing eBook and audiobook catalogs now available from their libraries with nearly a 40 percent increase in non-English books borrowed.

Highlights of record-setting growth from the OverDrive global network:

  • Total digital titles borrowed from libraries & schools: 195 million (+21%)
    • eBook circulation: 139 million (+16%)
    • Audiobook circulation: 55 million (+34%)
  • 49 library systems achieved at least 1 million digital checkouts
  • Visits to OverDrive-powered library & school websites: 678 million

The most popular ebook titles in libraries in 2016 were Julie McElwain’s A Murder in Time, followed by The Girl on the Train and John grisham’s Rogue Lawyer.

The most checked-out audiobooks were The Girl on the Train, All the Light We Cannot See, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

OverDrive has additional data which they are sharing at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Atlanta.

image by brokentrinkets


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Steve H. January 10, 2017 um 3:06 pm

Washington DC and Maryland libraries have really picked up the pace on ordering ebooks. The Kindle process is simple.

Sean January 10, 2017 um 9:30 pm

Over the holidays, I was really impressed with how my father-in-law was using over-drive from his local library to checkout ebooks on his Apple iPad.

Mark Williams International January 11, 2017 um 5:14 am

Your take on this (the OverDrive quote specifically) is depressingly identical to that of Michael Kozlowski over at GoodEreader.

I would expect Kozlowski to conveniently ignore the fact that OverDrive reported downloads of self-pubbed titles to be up 40%, but surprised you didn’t pick up on this, Nate.

With StreetLib, PublishDrive and Smashwords getting our indie titles into the OverDrive catalogue itself, and Kobo via KWL about to do the same this year, there’s an interesting story behind the story of many OverDrive-supplied acquisition-librarian gatekeepers still acting on dated prejudices and keeping self-pubbed titles out of the system on principle, despite consumer demand.

Which begs the question how much higher the self-pubbed downloads figure might be if indie titles got a fair crack of the whip.

Nate Hoffelder January 11, 2017 um 6:50 am

It was a press release with the usual end of year stats.

I reported on it neutrally.

I do not see the problem.

George January 11, 2017 um 9:34 am

Well that increase in E-books is not a surprise really, they are much cheaper than physical books and they don’t occupy much space. Not to mention how much easier it is to search for E-books of your preference.

~B January 11, 2017 um 11:28 am

Library eBooks are generally pretty expensive (3-4 times the cost of the consumer version for some publishers), limited in number of times they can be checked out before needing repurchase for others.

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A Murder in Time, was offered as part of the big library read. Top of the fold billing plus unlimited checkouts for a set amount of time. While it might be literally a top download, I believe it had an unequal advantage.

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