Book clubs and young readers boost ebook and audiobook lending on OverDrive library platform

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Ebook and audiobook lending through libraries and schools boomed last year as leading library distributor OverDrive saw a 21% increase in borrowing to hit a combined total of 196 million digital books covering ebooks and audiobooks.

There were 678 million visits to library and school websites and there was a 16% rise in borrowing ebooks and a 34% increase in audiobooks compared with 2015.

OverDrive says there were several factors behind the growth, including:

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  • More libraries hosting digital book clubs using the OverDrive platform.

  • More people discovering audiobooks. The number of people who used OverDrive Listen for audiobooks leapt by 67 percent in 2016.

  • Younger readers increasingly using public libraries children’s and YA ebook collections as 2016 saw a 19% rise 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 2016 from the OverDrive global network:

  • Total digital titles borrowed from libraries & schools: 196 million (+21% on 2015)

◊ 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

There’s an interesting aspect to the three most popular ebooks borrowed through OverDrive’s platform in 2016 as none of the top three are available through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service. The trio are also mid-priced to high-priced for ebooks, ranging from around $6 to $11 to buy a Kindle edition.

murderintime1The book in the No 1 spot is also surprising as Julie McElwain’s debut novel — the YA/adult time travel crossover A Murder in Time — beats the phenomenally best-selling The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

 Most popular ebooks from libraries in 2016:

1: A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain (Pegasus Books)

2: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Penguin)

3: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham (Random House)


Most popular audiobooks from libraries in 2016:

1: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Books on Tape)

2: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster Audio)

3: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (Pottermore)


Top digital books at the library by genre:

  • Adult nonfiction ebook: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony)
  • Children/YA fiction ebook: This Is Where It Ends (Sourcebooks)
  • Children/YA non-fiction ebook: Demigods and Monsters (BenBella Books, Inc.)
  • Children/young adult fiction audiobook: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Pottermore)
  • Read-Along eBooks: Scaredy Squirrel at Night (Kids Can Press Ltd)

At present, the only way for self-publishers to get into the OverDrive library catalog is through aggregator Smashwords, OverDrive places the ebooks into a ‘self-published’ silo which makes discoverability difficult.

Unlike Kindle Unlimited, where you get paid for each page read of your ebook by each reader, OverDrive deals are purchase-only. Some of the big publishers charge libraries considerably more than the usual retail price to take account of the fact that the ebooks are likely to be borrowed multiple times.

OverDrive is owned by Japanese conglomerate Raukten, which also owns ebook retailer Kobo. The company paid $410 million for OverDrive in March 2015 and said it would be ‘exploring synergies we can provide wito Rakuten’s Kobo ebook business’.

70% of library users want self-published books in their library

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