Libraries saw digital loans pass the 500 million mark in 2021

Readers worldwide borrowed a total of 506 million ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines from public libraries in 2021 through leading library distributor OverDrive.

The total of more than half a billion items meant hit records for circulation while lowering the average cost-per-title borrowed, according to Overdrive, which adds that 2021 also produced a banner year of book sales and earnings to authors and publishers who supply digital books to libraries.

Karen Estrovich, OverDrive Senior Manager for Public Library Content, says, ‘Public and school librarians delivered extraordinary results for readers and students this past year through curation to specific audiences and data-driven purchasing.

‘Top-performing libraries utilized simultaneous access, cost-per-use and community reading programs to maximize access by increasing the number of available books in their collections. The success of library programs was aided by the Libby reading app’s  custom local library guides, skip-the-line feature for high-demand titles and dramatic interest in diverse content including digital graphic novels and magazines.’

Some features of digital book and magazine borrowing from libraries in 2021 include:

  • Libby added new users at a record pace in 2021 and now accounts for 60% of how readers borrow ebooks, audiobooks and magazines from public, academic and corporate libraries.
  • School circulation of digital books with the Sora student reading app grew by 65%.
  • Public library digital collections enabled 4.7 million books to be borrowed by students for self-selected reading on the Sora app, an increase of 117%.
  • 121 public library systems (+19%) in seven countries achieved one million or more digital book loans, while four school systems in two countries reached this milestone.

Most popular ebooks borrowed from libraries in 2021:

  1. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
  2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  4. The Guest List by Lucy Foley
  5. Nomadland by Jessica Bruder

Most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2021:

  1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  3. Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman
  4. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
  5. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:

  • Adult fiction: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
  • Adult non-fiction: A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  • Young adult fiction: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D Richards
  • Children’s fiction: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling

Indie authors and self-publishers can offer their ebooks for distribution through OverDrive by using aggregators such as PublishDrive, Draft2digital, and StreetLib.

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