Public libraries hit record levels of digital book circulation in 2020 as readers worldwide borrowed 430 million ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines, a 33% increase over 2019. Ebooks saw a particularly high rise in lending with a 40% increase compared with 2019.
The growth was fuelled by the Covid pandemic, and growing interest in social justice and remote learning, according to the figures from OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for 65,000 libraries and schools worldwide.
Social unrest and widespread civil protests had a profound impact on the world and libraries responded by stocking digital books about social justice and those written by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).
The most significant genre growth in 2020 was children’s and YA fiction and non-fiction because of remote and hybrid learning. In addition, more than two million checkouts took place through Public Library CONNECT partnerships and the Sora student reading app. Library and school partnerships enabled students to use their school credentials to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from both their school and local public library.
OverDrive’s lending figures for 2020 include:
- Total digital checkouts from libraries and schools: 430 million (+33% over 2019)
- Ebooks borrowed: 289 million (+40%)
- Audiobooks borrowed: 138 million (+20%, lower growth rate due to less commuting)
- Children/YA genre checkouts: 111 million (+79%)
- Ebook and audiobook holds/waitlisted: 187 million (+44%)
- 102 public library systems around the world (+72%) achieved more than one million digital book checkouts.
In 2020 overall, OverDrive added more than 20,000 new libraries and schools in 12 additional countries, bringing the total to 65,000 in 84 countries.