Global shift to digital reading led by downloadable audiobooks and smartphones

CLEVELAND – Jan. 11, 2018 – Rakuten OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform available to millions of readers from over 40,000 libraries and schools worldwide, reported record-breaking downloads of eBooks and audiobooks in 2017. With a library card and OverDrive or Libby app, readers borrowed more than 225 million digital books in the past 12 months, representing double digit growth from the previous year.  A record number of libraries each served over 1 million digital books to their local communities last year, led by astronomical growth at Toronto Public Library (which reached 4.6 million digital checkouts), Los Angeles Public Library (3.7 million) and the National Library Board of Singapore (1.5 million).

This record growth was significantly aided by a number of library eBook innovations enhancing user discovery and engagement. In September, Google launched a new feature making it easier for users to find library eBooks in Google Search. In December, the new Libby app was named one of Google Play’s Best Apps of 2017.  In addition, dozens of cities, states and nations held popular “Digital Book Clubs” which promoted a book of local interest with simultaneous access for all readers, and online conversations and reader engagement with readers and authors.  Libraries served more readers on more devices including smartphones, tablets and PCs, as well as Kindle apps and devices (U.S. only).

2017 library digital book lending records from the OverDrive global network include:

  • Total digital titles borrowed from libraries & schools: 225 million (+14% over 2016)
  • eBooks borrowed: 155 million (+11%)
  • Audiobook borrowed: 68 million (+24%, outpacing eBooks for the 4th straight year)
  • eBook and audiobook holds/wait listed: 83 million (+24%)
  • 59 library systems (+20%) with over 1 million digital book checkouts, including 14 over 2 million checkouts, seven over 3 million, and two over 4 million

Most popular eBooks borrowed from libraries in 2017
The Whistler by John Grisham
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Night School by Lee Child

Most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2017
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Whistler by John Grisham
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Night School by Lee Child

Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:
Adult nonfiction eBook: What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Adult fiction eBook: Origin by Dan Brown
Young adult fiction eBook: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti (an OverDrive Big Library Read selection)

Key factors that influenced libraries’ digital growth in 2017:
eBook and audiobook catalog growth and curation. OverDrive’s catalog for libraries reached record levels, topping 4 million titles in more than 100 languages. In addition, libraries continue to engage more readers with curated lists and personalized recommendations.

The launch of the “one-tap reading app,” Libby. The wide release in 2017 of OverDrive’s completely new app offers the fastest and easiest way to borrow digital content from libraries. With Libby, readers are always one tap away from the library, their bookshelf and the eBook or audiobook they’re reading.

The 2017 Digital Bookmobile tour. This popular traveling exhibit re-launched in early 2017 with a new experience inviting readers to discover – or rediscover – their public library. Traveling across North America, the Digital Bookmobile hosted 69 events in 63 states. The 2018 tour is set to launch Feb. 5.

Increase in young readers. Libraries continued to reach new audiences with their OverDrive platform, as juvenile and young adult eBooks and audiobooks — including the industry’s first digital Read-Alongs (synchronized eBook with audio narration audio) — enjoyed record-setting checkouts (+9 percent over 2016).

To find a library near you, visit or install the Libby app (iOS, Android, Windows).

About Rakuten OverDrive and Libby
OverDrive is the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools worldwide. Libby is the highly rated “one-tap reading app” for libraries. We are dedicated to “a world enlightened by reading” by delivering the industry’s largest catalog of eBooks, audiobooks and other digital media to a growing network of 40,000 libraries and schools in 70 countries. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio USA and owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten.

David Burleigh, OverDrive Director of Brand Marketing & Communication