OverDrive Education reports growth in schools using ebooks and audiobooks and creates resources to help schools navigate government funding (ESF or ESSER)



CLEVELAND – June 24, 2021 – The pandemic’s effects on U.S. schools are far reaching and have led more schools than ever to shift to digital books for curriculum and student choice reading. As a result, more students are using ebooks and digital audiobooks, educators are integrating them into their classroom curriculum and publishers have expanded their digital offerings. OverDrive Education, creator of the leading student reading app for schools worldwide, Sora, reported data from the ’20-’21 school year highlighting this digital shift.

Digital adoption has steadily increased for several years and, on top of a massive surge in 2020 due to the pandemic, continues growing at an impressive rate. To highlight the acceleration of the digital shift, OverDrive Education reported that over 50,000 schools in 75 countries – an increase of 80 percent over May 2020 – allow students to borrow and read their school’s ebooks and audiobooks through the Sora student reading app. Tens of millions of digital books have been borrowed by students through Sora during the ’20-’21 school year, a growth of 139 percent from the previous school year. Lists of the most popular class set titles and subjects can be found below.

“During COVID-19, Sora became one of our go-to resources used across our schools,” said Jim Belair, Coordinator of School Library Services at Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES in New York. “This is our third year using Sora and we saw a 300 percent increase in usage this year over our first year. I attribute the increase to a variety of factors including training librarians and teachers, alignment to other eResources, ability to assign titles, accessibility features and the general ease of use. Perhaps the greatest surprise to me is the number of audiobooks used by our students.”

Along with reading for pleasure, the use of digital books specifically to support curriculum also grew exponentially and contributed to overall growth in student reading. Publishers expanded digital rights to align with schools’ needs and created a variety of flexible access models to maximize convenience for educators and students. For example, the digital Class Sets access model, a rental model which enables a title to be deployed to many students at a time with a typical 90-day access period, has grown 348 percent year-over-year.

Mindy Engler, Teacher Librarian at McKinley Senior High School in Ohio, added, “Our students and teachers loved having Sora on their iPads. Our #PupsRead initiative (a school-wide Sustained Silent Reading time), our Reading for Pleasure class, and the SSR and Independent Reading continued without interruption and even increased since we added Sora as a resource. We’ve only had Sora for a few months, but already it is a huge success with kids and teachers.”

To support school operations and student learning challenges caused by the pandemic, the federal government swiftly offered Education Stabilization Funds (ESF) to aid schools. The aid, also known as ESSER, CARES, CRRSA and ARP funds, covers a wide range of services and materials including ebooks and audiobooks.

One successful example of a state navigating the ESF process to meet digital demand is Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Massachusetts Library System needed to ensure every student has access to the right books, so they used ESF to increase state-wide access to digital books. To help other districts and states understand and use ESF, OverDrive Education created the K-12 Funding Champion Toolkit. Interested schools can access the full collection of resources, including an “explainer” PowerPoint, proposal template and case studies of schools that expanded their digital libraries using ESF.

Select 2020-2021 school year top digital trends:

Top in-demand digital Class Sets used in K-12 schools during the ’20-’21 school year:

The top five fiction subjects (ebooks & audiobooks) used in K-12 schools during the ’20-’21 school year:

  1. Comics & Graphic Novels
  2. Humorous Stories
  3. Social Themes
  4. Action & Adventure
  5. Fantasy & Magic

The top five nonfiction subjects (ebooks & audiobooks) used in K-12 schools during the ’20-’21 school year:

  1. Social Topics (Social Emotional Learning, Trauma, Grief, Prejudice & Racism, Friendship)
  2. Biography & Autobiography
  3. Comics & Graphic Novels
  4. History
  5. Animals

To learn how schools are expanding access to student choice reading options with Sora and their local public library, building equitable, inclusive and diverse digital book collections, best practices for using ebooks during an ongoing pandemic and more, visit https://company.overdrive.com/iste-presentations. Sessions on these topics and beyond are being presented at the ISTE21 Live virtual conference from June 27-30, 2021. Recordings of each session will be available to view for six months.

Learn more information about Sora and get started here.


About OverDrive Education – a division of OverDrive

OverDrive Education offers the industry’s largest catalog of ebooks and audiobooks for over 50,000 K-12 schools and millions of students worldwide. The company’s student reading app, Sora, provides access for every student to the right books at the right time. With 24/7 access to curriculum, class sets and pleasure reading digital books, Sora’s powerful learning tools and insights help meet the needs of students and educators. Sora was named one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019. Founded in 1986, OverDrive – the leading digital reading platform for libraries – and OverDrive Education are based in Cleveland, Ohio USA. www.overdrive.com/schools

David Burleigh
Director of Brand Marketing & Communications