The continuing rise in ebooks is illustrated clearly in new figures showing hundreds of libraries across North America set new annual records for lending digital books during 2015 while 33 library systems topped one million digital books circulated.
OverDrive, one of the leaders in digital lending for public and school libraries, says readers borrowed more than 169 million ebooks, audiobooks, digital periodicals and streaming video in 2015 — an increase of 24% over 2014. Digital audiobooks, in particular, grew at the highest rate of more than 36%.
The following libraries circulated at least one million digital books in 2015:
3 million or more digital books circulated
Toronto Public Library (ON) +31% growth over 2014
2 million or more digital books circulated
King County Library System (WA) +25%
New York Public Library (NY) +24%
1 million or more digital books circulated
Los Angeles Public Library (CA) +40%
Seattle Public Library (WA) +24%
Cleveland Public Library (OH) +26%
Hennepin County Library (MN) +14%
Cuyahoga County Public Library (OH) +37%
Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (OH) +39%
Calgary Public Library (AB) +15%
Broward County Library (FL) +20%
Fairfax County Public Library (VA) +31%
Phoenix Public Library (AZ) +38%
San Francisco Public Library (CA) +41%
Pikes Peak Library District (CO) +35%
Indianapolis Public Library (IN) +24%
Boston Public Library (MA) +27%
Mid-Continent Public Library (MO) +25%
The Free Library of Philadelphia (PA) +12%
Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative (FL) +31%
In addition to these city and county libraries, 13 library consortia circulated at least one million digital books in 2015.
OverDrive, which was bought by Kobo’s owner Rakuten in March 2015, claims to be the leading platform in distributing ebooks to 34,000 libraries, schools and retailers worldwide.
Self-published authors can get access to OverDrive library distribution through Smashwords, with authors receiving 45% of the library list price they set. It’s possible to be paid for a free title through the deal as OverDrive has a minimum price of $1.99, so a free book will be priced at $1.99. Erotica titles are not eligible for distribution through OverDrive.
The library figures show that ebooks are continuing to show strong growth despite reports from traditional publishers and their industry representative bodies that their ebook sales fell in 2015.
The fall in trad-published ebook business has been prompted by the return of agency pricing which has brought sharp increases in trad firms’ ebook prices.
There has been a major shift in ebook market share to the indie-published sector. A recent survey by AuthorEarnings shows a remarkable turn-round in ebook royalties, with self-published indies and titles published by Amazon’s imprints taking almost 60% of the Kindle market.