May 28, 2022

New eBook Survey Findings From OverDrive and ALA: “Library Borrowers Also Buyers”

From OverDrive and ALA’s Office of Information Technology:

The results of a new survey sponsored by OverDrive with the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) reaffirm what librarians already know: libraries play a key role in reader’s book-buying decisions.

Conducted in June and July of this year at thousands of OverDrive-powered public library websites in the United States, the poll found that patrons purchase an average of 3.2 books (both print and e-books) each month, and a majority would consider purchasing books discovered on a library website.

With more than 75,000 respondents, the survey constitutes the largest study of library eBook usage to date. The findings echo those of earlier studies, such as the Pew Internet Project’s “Libraries, Patrons, and E-books,” revealing that a significant percentage of library users regularly purchase books they first discover at the library. In the OverDrive-ALA survey, 57 percent of respondents said that the public library is their primary source of book discovery.

Key Findings

Library e-book borrower:  Highlights

  • Public library is primary source of book discovery (57%)
  • Purchase average of 3.2 books per month (including print and e-books)
  • Would consider purchasing books discovered on library website (53%)
  • Visit both the physical library and download e-books (53%)
  • Digital book purchases have increased in past six months (44%)
  • Purchased book (print or e-book) after borrowing that title (35%)

Library e-book borrower:  Demographics

  • Female (78%)
  • Adults aged 40-64 (55%)
  • Household income $75,000+ (48%)
  • College degree or higher (74%)

The survey also found that dedicated e-book reading devices—including Kindle, Sony Reader and Nook—were the devices most used to read e-books from the library (84 percent). Desktop or laptop PCs (20 percent), smartphones (19 percent) and tablets (18 percent) rounded out the top four types, which reflects the rapidly escalating trend of borrowing on mobile devices recently reported by OverDrive. (In August, mobile devices accounted for 30 percent of checkouts and 34 percent of web traffic at OverDrive-powered library websites. Both statistics are up nearly 100 percent year over year.)

The survey took place between June 13 and July 31, 2012, at thousands of OverDrive-powered public library websites in the United States, with 75,384 respondents completing all or part of the survey. The intent of the survey was to gain insight into the borrowing and buying behaviors of library e-book readers and is not representative of the U.S. population as a whole.

Access the Complete Survey Findings Documents (12 pages; PDF)

See Also: Here’s Our infoDOCKET Analysis of the Findings About Libraries From the Pew Report Mentioned Above

Here are a Few Charts from the Pew Report (June 2012) That Look at eBook Discovery and Ownership/Borrowing
These charts come from Part 2 of the report.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.