Public Libraries and Schools Surpass Half a Billion Digital Book Loans in 2021
DEI titles, librarian curation, access models, OverDrive analytics and expanded catalog helped serve record number of readers in award-winning Libby app
CLEVELAND – January 5, 2022 – As the pandemic persisted in 2021, librarians and educators enabled readers worldwide to borrow 506 million ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines, a 16% increase over 2020. With a focus on equity of access to books for all, libraries achieved all-time records for circulation while lowering the average cost-per-title borrowed. 2021 also produced a banner year of book sales and earnings to the authors and publishers who supply digital books to libraries. Data was reported by OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for 76,000 libraries and schools in 94 countries worldwide.
“Public and school librarians delivered extraordinary results for readers and students this past year through curation to specific audiences and data-driven purchasing,” said Karen Estrovich, OverDrive Senior Manager for Public Library Content. “Top performing libraries utilized simultaneous access, cost-per-use and community reading programs to maximize access by increasing the number of available books in their collections. The success of library programs was aided by the Libby reading app’s custom local library guides, skip-the-line feature for high-demand titles and dramatic interest in diverse content including digital graphic novels and magazines,” she added.
Other data for 2021 library and school digital usage include:
- Libby added new users at a record pace in 2021 and now accounts for 60% of how readers enjoyed ebooks, audiobooks and magazines borrowed from public, academic and corporate libraries.
- School circulation of digital books with the Sora student reading app grew by 65%.
- Public library digital collections enabled 4.7 million books to be borrowed by students for self-selected reading on the Sora app, an increase of 117%.
- 121 public library systems (+19%) in seven countries achieved one million or more digital book loans, while four school systems in two countries reached this milestone.
- 400 third-party apps, websites and service vendors benefitted from integration with OverDrive, which fulfilled 15+ billion API calls supporting over 22,000 libraries.
Most popular ebooks borrowed from libraries in 2021:
- The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Publishing Group, St. Martin’s Press)
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Penguin Publishing Group, Viking)
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Penguin Publishing Group, Riverhead Books)
- The Guest List by Lucy Foley (HarperCollins, William Morrow Paperbacks)
- Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (W. W. Norton & Company)
Most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2021:
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House Audio)
- Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman (Dundurn)
- The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (Macmillan Audio)
- Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (Penguin Random House Audio)
Most popular magazines borrowed from libraries in 2021:
- Us Weekly (A360 Media, LLC)
- The Economist (The Economist Newspaper Limited)
- The New Yorker (Conde Nast US)
- HELLO! (Hello! Limited)
- HGTV Magazine (Hearst)
Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:
- Adult fiction: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Publishing Group, St. Martin’s Press)
- Adult nonfiction: A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
- Young adult fiction: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards (Sourcebooks)
- Children’s fiction: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling (Pottermore)
Many factors contributed to 2021’s record growth in digital usage.
Fulfilling Community Needs – DEI
- OverDrive’s Diversity Audits provide an analysis of digital collections’ cultural representation by comparing the library’s collection to award lists and current popular and historic content, all selected and reviewed by OverDrive’s staff librarians. Partner librarians then received a breakdown of their content by format and circulation as well as recommendations to most efficiently fill identified gaps.
Enabling Funding Support and Donated Collections
- OverDrive supported U.S. librarians’ usage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to expand their digital collections and better serve their communities through purchasing tools in OverDrive Marketplace.
- Libraries worldwide also benefited from new and updated Everyone Reads collections donated by OverDrive, including the Social and Emotional Learning Collection, Adult Fiction and Nonfiction bundle, Kids & Teens titles and Spanish Titles for Young Readers.
Expanding Flexibility through Multiple Access Models
- Simultaneous Use (SU), Lucky Day (also known as Skip-The-Line) and Cost Per Circ (CPC) access models enable libraries to circulate higher-interest titles more quickly, fulfilling more patrons’ demand faster than ever.
Increased Adoption of Libby Reading App
- More public library patrons around the world now enjoy digital books and magazines through the award-winning Libby reading app.
Acquisitions and Catalog Expansion
- OverDrive acquired Kanopy, the industry’s most-acclaimed video catalog serving public and academic libraries with an award-winning catalog of over 30,000 highly curated films.
- OverDrive expanded its catalog to include suppliers specializing in educational courses, feature films and streaming concerts, online yoga and music lessons, and more. Suppliers include Universal Class, Craftsy, The Great Courses, ArtistWorks and others.
- OverDrive strengthened its curriculum focus to better support school partners through the acquisition of net. TeachingBooks’ supplemental learning materials include a wide array of book-specific resources.
- In November 2021, OverDrive received the President’s “E” Award for Exports for outstanding contributions to increasing U.S. exports.
- Libby the library reading app was named PCMag 100 Best Android Apps for 2021, Pocket-Lint Best iPhone Apps and Tom’s Guide & Tom’s Guide UK Best Apps.
- Sora student reading app was named Tech & Learning Best Tools for Back to School, AASL Best Digital Tools for Teaching & Learning and American Business Awards® Gold Stevie Winner.
To find a public library near you, download the Libby app (iOS, Android) or visit www.overdrive.com.
OverDrive strives to create “a world enlightened by reading.” Serving a growing network of 76,000 libraries and schools in 94 countries, OverDrive offers the industry’s largest digital catalog of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and other content through award-winning apps: The Libby reading app for libraries is one of Popular Mechanics’ 20 Best Apps of the Decade, the Sora student reading app is one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019, and Kanopy is the leading video streaming app for libraries and colleges. Acquired in 2021, TeachingBooks.net offers one of the largest catalogs of supplemental materials that enhance literacy outcomes. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio USA and was named a Certified B Corp in 2017. www.overdrive.com
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