Survey of 75,000 patrons shows library e-book patrons purchase average of 3.2 books per month


Cleveland–November 15, 2012–An extensive online poll of library e-book readers finds that these patrons purchase an average of 3.2 books (both print and e-books) each month, and a majority would consider purchasing books discovered on a library website. These e-book borrowers also report that their digital content purchases have increased in the past six months. Sponsored by OverDrive with the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), the survey constitutes the largest study of library eBook usage to date, with more than 75,000 people responding.

Confirming earlier studies such as the Pew Internet Project’s “Libraries, Patrons, and E-books,” the survey found that a significant percentage of library users regularly purchase books they first discover at the library. In fact, 57 percent of those surveyed said that the public library is their primary source of book discovery.

Library e-book borrower:  Highlights

  • Public library is primary source of book discovery (57%)
  • Purchase average of 3.2 books per month (including print and e-books)
  • Would consider purchasing books discovered on library website (53%)
  • Visit both the physical library and download e-books (53%)
  • Digital book purchases have increased in past six months (44%)
  • Purchased book (print or e-book) after borrowing that title (35%)

Library e-book borrower:  Demographics

  • Female (78%)
  • Adults aged 40-64 (55%)
  • Household income $75,000+ (48%)
  • College degree or higher (74%)

“Book discovery and promotion have taken on greater importance for publishers and authors as the shift to digital continues, and this survey confirms the value of public libraries,” said David Burleigh, OverDrive director of marketing.  “With rising web traffic and enhancements to library websites (see YouTube preview), public libraries are becoming an essential part of the marketing strategy for publishers.”

“Library lending encourages people to experiment with new authors, topics and genres—which is good for the entire reading and publishing ecosystem,” said Carrie Russell, OITP program director.

The survey also found that dedicated e-book reading devices—including Kindle, Sony Reader and Nook—were the devices most used to read e-books from the library (84 percent). Desktop or laptop PCs (20 percent), smartphones (19 percent) and tablets (18 percent) rounded out the top four types, which reflects the rapidly escalating trend of borrowing on mobile devices recently reported by OverDrive.(In August, mobile devices accounted for 30 percent of checkouts and 34 percent of web traffic at OverDrive-powered library websites. Both statistics are up nearly 100 percent year over year.)

The survey took place between June 13 and July 31, 2012, at thousands of OverDrive-powered public library websites in the United States, with 75,384 respondents completing all or part of the survey. The intent of the survey was to gain insight into the borrowing and buying behaviors of library e-book readers and is not representative of the U.S. population as a whole. To see the full survey data, please visit OverDrive’s Digital Library Blog.

With more than two-thirds of U.S. public libraries participating in OverDrive e-book lending, 87 percent of the U.S. population has access to e-books and audiobooks through this service. Worldwide, readers checked out more than 34 million e-books and audiobooks with OverDrive in the first half of 2012—more than double the checkouts in all of 2011. To find a library with OverDrive e-books near you, visit


About OverDrive
OverDrive is a leading multichannel digital distributor of e-books, digital audiobooks, music and video. We supply a secure lending platform for 19,000 libraries, schools and retailers worldwide with support for all major computers and devices, including iPhone®, iPad®, Nook®, Android™ phones and tablets, and Kindle® (U.S. only). OverDrive has been named to the EContent 100 as a company that matters most in the digital content industry. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland.

About the American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy

The Office for Information Technology Policy advances ALA’s public policy activities by helping secure information technology policies that support and encourage efforts of libraries to ensure access to electronic information resources as a means of upholding the public’s right to a free and open information society. It works to ensure a library voice in information policy debates and to promote full and equitable intellectual participation by the public.


David Burleigh
OverDrive, Inc.
216-573-6886 x218


Jazzy Wright

American Library Association