Publishers and authors achieve record earnings from library investment in digital books



CLEVELAND – January 8, 2020 – Due to their creative efforts in curation, managing multiple lending models and engaging patrons, librarians helped drive public library circulation of digital books to record highs in 2019. Libraries and schools around the world enabled their patrons and students to check out 326 million ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines in the past 12 months, a 20% increase over the previous year. Publishers and authors benefited from the library’s role as valued discovery channel which resulted in record library sales of digital titles across all genres for all audiences. This data was reported by Rakuten OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for over 43,000 libraries and schools worldwide.

A record 73 public library systems in five countries loaned over 1 million digital books to readers in 2019. Achieving this unprecedented level of reader engagement: 45 city or county library systems and 28 regional or state consortiums. Eight libraries reached this million book milestone for the first time.

Notable digital libraries for 2019 include Toronto Public Library (the number one library in the world with 6.6 million digital book loans, an all-time high for any library), Los Angeles Public Library (the number one US library for the first time with 5.9 million) and the National Library Board of Singapore (the top digital library outside North America with 4.2 million). The fastest growing US digital library in the OverDrive global network was Sonoma County Library (CA), which saw their collection usage increase 214% in part by consolidating ebooks from other platforms. The Berlin Library (Germany) was one of the fastest growing outside of the US (+184%) due to increased investment in an expanding catalog of English, German and other world language content.

2019 digital book lending records from the OverDrive global network include:

  • Total digital checkouts from libraries and schools: 326 million (+20% over 2018)
  • Ebooks borrowed: 211 million (+15%)
  • Audiobooks borrowed: 114 million (+30%, outpacing ebooks for the 6th straight year)
  • Ebook and audiobook holds/wait listed: 129 million (+21%)
  • Children/YA genre checkouts: 59 million (+27%)
  • 73 public library systems around the world (+12%) with over 1 million digital book checkouts, including 22 over 2 million checkouts, five over 3 million, four over 4 million, five over 5 million and one over 6 million
  • New public library (digital) users: 5 million (+12%)

Most popular ebooks borrowed from libraries in 2019:

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Publishing Group)
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama (Crown)
  3. Educated by Tara Westover (Random House Publishing Group)
  4. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (Flatiron Books)
  5. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin Publishing Group)

Most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2019:

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama (Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group)
  2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group)
  3. Educated by Tara Westover (Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group)
  4. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (Thomas Nelson)
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (Pottermore Publishing)

Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:

Key factors and tools that libraries and schools used to drive digital growth in 2019:

  • Libby. Libby, the award-winning one-tap reading app from the library, was named one of Popular Mechanics’ 20 Best Apps of the 2010s and one of PCMag’s Best Free Software of 2019.
  • Apple® CarPlay. Libby’s compatibility with CarPlay allows readers to listen to audiobooks from the public library by connecting their iPhone to their vehicle’s sound system.
  • Library+School Sharing. Libraries and schools are partnering to provide easy and safe access to the library’s digital collection using Sora, the student reading app for schools. Sora achieved record student usage and ended the year as one of TIME’s 100 Best Inventions of 2019.
  • Lucky Day. Libraries can now serve more patrons faster with their OverDrive digital collection by designating copies of high-demand, waitlisted titles as immediately available.
  • Digital book club. Along with OverDrive’s global digital book club and dozens of local clubs, the company supported the American Library Association’s Libraries Transform Book Pick by connecting readers across the US with a featured ebook through their public libraries.
  • 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.
  • New content. Access to hundreds of new publishers in 2019 with notables including Marvel and Pokémon now available to libraries and schools through OverDrive’s catalog. Scholastic ebooks are also now offered to schools for the first time.

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


About Rakuten OverDrive

OverDrive is the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools worldwide. Named one of PCMag’s Best Free Software of 2019 and one of Popular Mechanics’ 20 Best Apps of the 2010s, the award-winning Libby is the “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, magazines and other digital media to a growing network of 43,000 libraries and schools in 76 countries. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio USA and owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten.

David Burleigh

Director of Brand Marketing & Communication