Libby app and Bookmobile tour help OverDrive drive 14% growth in library lending for ebooks and audiobooks during 2017

Leading library ebook distributor Rakuten OverDrive says 2017 saw record-breaking downloads of ebooks and audiobooks, with a total of over 225 million digital books over the year representing 14% growth from the previous year.

A record number of 59 public library systems each served over one million digital books to their local communities last year, led by major growth at Toronto Public Library (4.6 million digital checkouts), Los Angeles Public Library (3.7 million) and the National Library Board of Singapore (1.5 million).

Last year saw the widespread launch of OverDrive’s new ‘one-tap reading app’ Libby which features an ebook reader and audiobook player. Ebooks and audiobooks can be downloaded to a device or streamed and any book can be sampled.

However, OverDrive’s growth in digital book lending slowed from 2016 when there was a 21% increase in borrowing compared with 2015 with a combined total of 196 million digital books covering ebooks and audiobooks.

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

  • Total digital titles borrowed from libraries and schools: 225 million (+14% over 2016)
  • Ebooks borrowed: 155 million (+11%)
  • Audiobooks borrowed: 68 million (+24%, outpacing ebooks for the fourth consecutive year)
  • Ebook and audiobook holds/waitlisted: 83 million (+24%)
  • 59 library systems (+20%) had over one million digital book checkouts, including 14 which had over two million checkouts, seven over three million, and two over four million

The most popular ebooks borrowed from libraries in 2017 were:

  • 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

The most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2017 were:

  • 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

The top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre were:

  • Adult non-fiction 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

OverDrive says the key factors that influenced libraries’ digital growth in 2017 included:

Ebook and audiobook catalog growth and curation. OverDrive’s catalog for libraries reached record levels, topping four 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 Libby app. OverDrive says the wide release in 2017 of the company’s new app offers the fastest and easiest way to borrow digital content from libraries.

The 2017 Digital Bookmobile tour. This traveling exhibit relaunched 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 on February 5.

Increase in young readers. Libraries continued to reach new audiences as juvenile and young adult ebooks and audiobooks — including the industry’s first digital Read-Alongs (synchronized ebook with audio narration) — seeing growth of 9% over 2016).

Rakuten, which owns ebook retailer Kobo, bought OverDrive for $410 million in 2015.

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