Readers using libraries to engage with digital books and authors in record numbers


CLEVELAND – January 8, 2019 – Rakuten OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for over 43,000 libraries and schools worldwide, reported that 2018 public library spending and  usage of ebooks, audiobooks and magazines reached record levels. Libraries served over 274 million digital books to card holders in the past 12 months, a 22% increase over the previous year which is the highest growth rate since 2015.

A record 65 public library systems each loaned over 1 million digital books to readers in 2018.  Achieving this level of reader engagement: 44 city or county library systems and 21 regional or state consortiums. Seven libraries reached this million book milestone for the first time. Notable prolific digital libraries for 2018 include Toronto Public Library (5.6 million loans, an all-time high for any library) and the National Library Board of Singapore, the top digital library outside North America, with growth of 113% over 2017. The fastest growing digital library of these 65 systems was Washington County Cooperative Library Services (OR), which saw usage of their collection grow 146%.

Harris County Public Library (TX) reached nearly 2 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,” said 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 (+22% over 2017, the highest growth rate since 2015)
  • Ebooks borrowed: 185 million (+19%)
  • Audiobooks borrowed: 88 million (+29%, outpacing ebooks for the 5th straight year)
  • Ebook and audiobook holds/wait listed: 107 million (+28%)
  • Children/YA checkouts/holds: 39 million (+27%)
  • 65 public library systems around the world (+12%) with over 1 million digital book checkouts, including 11 over 2 million checkouts, four over 3 million, five over 4 million and two over five million
  • New public library (digital) users: 4 million (+15%)

Most popular ebooks borrowed from libraries in 2018:

  1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press)
  2. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Press)
  3. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow)
  4. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Ballantine Books)
  5. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Anchor)

Most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2018

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

Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:

Key factors that influenced libraries’ digital growth in 2018:

Libby. 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, called “guides” within Libby, provides 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 — all from their mobile device.

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


About Rakuten OverDrive

Rakuten OverDrive is the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools worldwide. We are dedicated to “a world enlightened by reading” by delivering the industry’s largest catalog of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and other digital media to a growing network of 43,000 libraries and schools in 70 countries. Named one of TIME’s Best iPhone and Android Apps of 2018, Libby is the “one-tap reading app” for libraries. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio USA and owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten.

David Burleigh

Director of Brand Marketing & Communication