Library digital loans leapt by 22% in 2018 as audiobooks continued to outpace ebooks

Leading ebook library distributor Rakuten OverDrive says public library spending and usage of ebooks, audiobooks and magazines rose by 22% in 2018 with more than over 274 million digital books issued to cardholders.

The increase was the highest growth rate since 2015 and a record 65 public library systems each loaned over one million digital books to readers in 2018 as seven libraries reached the million-book milestone for the first time.Toronto Public Library saw 5.6 million digital loans — an all-time high for any library — and the National Library Board of Singapore, the top digital library outside North America, had digital growth of 113% over 2017. The fastest-growing digital library in the US was Washington County Cooperative Library Services (OR), which saw digital usage grow by 146%.

Harris County Public Library, Texas, reached nearly two million checkouts in 2018. ‘HCPL is finding creative ways to satisfy customers hungry for digital content, especially since Houston is a city of commuters that love audiobooks,” says Jessica Russell, Harris County Public Library Collection Development Manager. “To meet demand for new audio content, HCPL has shifted some budget funds to make more e-audiobooks available to all our customers, anytime, anywhere. Featuring these always-available titles in our curated collections has made them visible to customers and yielded incredible circulation numbers.’


2018 library digital book lending records from the OverDrive global network include:

  • Total digital checkouts from libraries & schools: 274 million ( up by 22% over 2017, the highest growth rate since 2015)
  • Ebooks borrowed: 185 million ( an increase of 19%)
  • Audiobooks borrowed: 88 million ( a rise of 29%, outpacing ebooks for the fifth consecutive year)
  • Ebook and audiobook holds/waitlisted: 107 million ( up by 28%)
  • Children/Young Adult checkouts/holds: 39 million ( rise of 27%)
  • 65 public library systems around the world (+12%) with over one million digital book checkouts, including 11 over two million checkouts, four over three million, five over four million and two over five million
  • New public library (digital) users: four million ( an increase of 15%)

Most popular ebooks borrowed from libraries in 2018:

  1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  2. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  3. The Woman in the Window by A J Finn
  4. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
  5. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2018

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J K Rowling
  2. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  5. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’engle

Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:

  • Adult nonfiction: Educated by Tara Westover (Random House)
  • Adult fiction: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press)
  • Young adult fiction: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)
  • Juvenile fiction: A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’engle (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

These are some of the key factors that OverDrive says influenced libraries’ digital growth in 2018:

Libby: Named one of Time’s Best iPhone and Android Apps of 2018, is the one-tap reading app from the library.

Digital book clubs: OverDrive pioneered digital book clubs, which leverage the power of digital by reaching more readers efficiently and maximizing social media and online discussions.

eReading Rooms and Guides: eReading Rooms, which are called ‘guides’ within Libby, provide curated content by theme, age level or format.

Magazines:  OverDrive’s new service introduced in 2018 offers a list of over 100 top-selling popular magazines that are simultaneous use with no platform fee or circulation cap and integrated into Libby alongside ebook and audiobooks.

Instant Digital Card: Readers can sign up for a library card and begin borrowing digital content from their local library in under 30 seconds from their mobile device.


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