Skip to main content

"The Whistler" by John Grisham was the Most Popular Library eBook Last Year

A couple weeks back Amazon revealed that the most read Kindle ebook this past holiday season was Dan Brown’s Origin, and now Overdrive says it was quite the popular library ebook as well.

Overdrive just shared a few details about library ebook use last year. eBook use was up 11%, and audiobook loans increased 24%.

While John Grisham’s book was the most popular, the most borrowed books included  What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton (adult non-fiction), Origin by Dan Brown (adult fiction), and The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti (YA fiction).

A total of 155 million ebooks were borrowed through OverDrive in 2017, and 68 million audiobooks.

press release

Rakuten Overdrive reported record-breaking downloads of eBooks and audiobooks in 2017. With a library card and OverDrive or Libby app, readers borrowed more than 225 million digital books in the past 12 months, representing double digit growth from the previous year.  A record number of libraries each served over 1 million digital books to their local communities last year, led by astronomical growth at Toronto Public Library (which reached 4.6 million digital checkouts), Los Angeles Public Library (3.7 million) and the National Library Board of Singapore (1.5 million).

This record growth was significantly aided by a number of library eBook innovations enhancing user discovery and engagement. In September, Google launched a new feature making it easier for users to find library eBooks in Google Search. In December, the new Libby app was named one of Google Play’s Best Apps of 2017.  In addition, dozens of cities, states and nations held popular “Digital Book Clubs” which promoted a book of local interest with simultaneous access for all readers, and online conversations and reader engagement with readers and authors.  Libraries served more readers on more devices including smartphones, tablets and PCs, as well as Kindle apps and devices (U.S. only).

2017 library digital book lending records from the OverDrive global network include:

  • Total digital titles borrowed from libraries & schools: 225 million (+14% over 2016)
  • eBooks borrowed: 155 million (+11%)
  • Audiobook borrowed: 68 million (+24%, outpacing eBooks for the 4th straight year)
  • eBook and audiobook holds/wait listed: 83 million (+24%)
  • 59 library systems (+20%) with over 1 million digital book checkouts, including 14 over 2 million checkouts, seven over 3 million, and two over 4 million

Most popular eBooks borrowed from libraries in 2017

  • The Whistler by John Grisham
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • Night School by Lee Child

Most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2017

  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Whistler by John Grisham
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Night School by Lee Child

Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:

  • Adult nonfiction eBook: What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • Adult fiction eBook: Origin by Dan Brown
  • Young adult fiction eBook: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti (an OverDrive Big Library Read selection)

Key factors that influenced libraries' digital growth in 2017:

eBook and audiobook catalog growth and curation. OverDrive’s catalog for libraries reached record levels, topping 4 million titles in more than 100 languages. In addition, libraries continue to engage more readers with curated lists and personalized recommendations.

The launch of the "one-tap reading app," Libby. The wide release in 2017 of OverDrive’s completely new app offers the fastest and easiest way to borrow digital content from libraries. With Libby, readers are always one tap away from the library, their bookshelf and the eBook or audiobook they’re reading.

The 2017 Digital Bookmobile tour. This popular traveling exhibit re-launched in early 2017 with a new experience inviting readers to discover – or rediscover – their public library. Traveling across North America, the Digital Bookmobile hosted 69 events in 63 states. The 2018 tour is set to launch Feb. 5.

Increase in young readers. Libraries continued to reach new audiences with their OverDrive platform, as juvenile and young adult eBooks and audiobooks — including the industry’s first digital Read-Alongs (synchronized eBook with audio narration audio) — enjoyed record-setting checkouts (+9 percent over 2016).

To find a library near you, visit or install the Libby app (iOS, Android, Windows).

Similar Articles


Randy Lea January 12, 2018 um 2:11 pm

Its really interesting seeing that if you remove cost from the equation, ebooks demand is growing. Just from the numbers Nate is quoting, we don’t know for sure if some of the growth is coming from new libraries offering Overdrive service, but I doubt that is the case to any large extent.

I’m lucky enough to live in an area where I can use multiple libraries, in my case 3. They all offer Overdrive, and they each offer a significantly different choice of books. If the specific book you want isn’t available from your library, you are out of luck. Many books have a wait list. My understanding is that Overdrive often doesn’t have the latest best sellers, and has few if any self-published books. Amazon offers everything, now.

Libraries offering audiobooks from Overdrive also have different catalogs, often with short waits. When Microsoft killed off their DRM scheme, Overdrive switched to standard MP3 files for all audiobooks. I’d like to hear from a publisher if the crash in tablet sales and move to big phones, and the bad experience reading on a phone, is behind the major growth in audiobook demand, and if the removal of DRM plays any role.

Readers can’t Digest-Week 167 (10-Jan to 16-Jan) | January 15, 2018 um 4:32 pm

[…] 3. “The Whistler” by John Grisham was the Most Popular Library eBook Last Year […]

Write a Comment