January 24, 2022

OverDrive: “Public Libraries and Schools Surpass Half a Billion Digital Book Loans in 2021”

From OverDrive:

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 OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for 76,000 libraries and schools in 94 countries worldwide.


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:

  1. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Publishing Group, St. Martin’s Press)
  2. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Penguin Publishing Group, Viking)
  3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Penguin Publishing Group, Riverhead Books)
  4. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (HarperCollins, William Morrow Paperbacks)
  5. Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (W. W. Norton & Company)

Most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2021:

  1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
  2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Random House Audio)
  3. Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman (Dundurn)
  4. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (Macmillan Audio)
  5. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (Penguin Random House Audio)

Most popular magazines borrowed from libraries in 2021:

  1. Us Weekly (A360 Media, LLC)
  2. The Economist (The Economist Newspaper Limited)
  3. The New Yorker (Conde Nast US)
  4. HELLO! (Hello! Limited)
  5. HGTV Magazine (Hearst)

Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:

  1. Adult fiction: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin’s Publishing Group, St. Martin’s Press)
  2. Adult nonfiction: A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
  3. Young adult fiction: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards (Sourcebooks)
  4. Children’s fiction: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling (Pottermore)

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.