Digital book

Public libraries and schools exceed half a billion digital book loans in 2021

CLEVELAND, January 5, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — As the pandemic lingered in 2021, librarians and educators enabled readers around the world to borrow 506 million ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines, a 16% increase from to 2020. By emphasizing equity of access to books for all, libraries have achieved all-time record circulation while reducing the average cost per title borrowed. 2021 has also produced a record year of book sales and revenue for authors and publishers who supply eBooks to libraries. The data was reported by Overdrivethe leading digital reading platform for 76,000 libraries and schools in 94 countries around the world.

“Public and school librarians have delivered extraordinary results for readers and students over the past year through curating specific audiences and data-driven purchasing,” said Karen Estrovich, OverDrive’s senior director for public library content. “The most successful libraries have used concurrency, cost-per-use, and community reading programs to maximize access by increasing the number of books available in their collections. The success of library programs has been facilitated by the Libby Reading Apppersonalized local library guides, a skip-the-line feature for high-demand titles, and strong interest in diverse content including graphic novels and digital magazines,” she added.

Other data for digital library and school usage in 2021 includes:

  • Libby added new users at a record rate in 2021 and now accounts for 60% of how readers enjoyed eBooks, audiobooks and magazines borrowed from public, academic and corporate libraries.
  • School distribution of digital books with the Sora Student Reading App increased by 65%.
  • Public library digital collections allowed students to borrow 4.7 million books for self-selected reading on the Sora app, an increase of 117%.
  • 121 public library systems (+19%) in seven countries reached one million or more digital book loans, while four school systems in two countries reached the milestone.
  • 400 third-party apps, websites, and service providers have benefited from integration with OverDrive, which has answered over 15 billion API calls supporting over 22,000 libraries.

The most popular ebooks borrowed from libraries in 2021:

  1. the four winds through Kristine Hannah (Saint-Martin publishing group, Saint-Martin Hurry)
  2. The Midnight Library through Matt Haig (Penguin Publishing Group, Viking)
  3. The evanescent half through Brit Bennett (Penguin Publishing Group, Riverhead Books)
  4. The guest list through Lucy Foley (HarperCollins, William Morrow Paperbacks)
  5. nomadland through Jessica Bruder (WW Norton & Company)

The most popular audiobooks borrowed from libraries in 2021:

  1. A promised land through barack obama (Penguin Random House Audio)
  2. Where the Crawdads sing through Delia Owens (Penguin Random House Audio)
  3. cold mourning through Brenda Chapman (Dundurn)
  4. the four winds through Kristine Hannah (Mac Millan Audio)
  5. Green light through Matthew McConaughey (Penguin Random House Audio)

Most popular magazines borrowed from libraries in 2021:

  1. We Weekly (A360 Media, LLC)
  2. The Economist (The Economist Limited newspaper)
  3. the new yorker (Conde Nast US)
  4. SALVATION! (Hello! Limited)
  5. HGTV magazine (heart)

Top digital books borrowed from libraries by genre:

Many factors contributed to the record growth in digital usage in 2021.

Responding to Community Needs – DEI

  • OverDrive’s Diversity Audits provide an analysis of the cultural representation of digital collections by comparing the library’s collection to award lists and current popular and historic content, all selected and reviewed by OverDrive’s staff librarians. The partner librarians then received a breakdown of their content by format and circulation as well as recommendations for filling the identified gaps as effectively as possible.

Activation of financial support and donated collections

  • OverDrive supported US librarians’ use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to expand their digital collections and better serve their communities through shopping tools on the OverDrive Marketplace.
  • Libraries around the world have also benefited from new Everyone reads the collections donated by OverDrive, including the Social and Emotional Learning Collection, Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction Set, Children’s and Teens’ Titles, and Spanish Titles for Young Readers.

Increase flexibility with multiple access models

  • Concurrent Use (SU), Lucky Day (also known as Skip-The-Line), and Cost-Per-Circulation (CPC) access models allow libraries to deliver the most valuable titles faster, responding more faster than ever at the request of more customers.

Increased adoption of Libby Reading App

  • More and more public library users around the world are now enjoying digital books and magazines through the award-winning reading app Libby.

Acquisitions and catalog expansion

  • OverDrive has 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 movies.
  • Overdrive expanded its catalog to include providers specializing in educational courses, streaming feature films and concerts, online yoga and music classes, and more. Providers include Universal Class, Craftsy, The Great Courses, ArtistWorks and others.
  • OverDrive has strengthened its curriculum focus to better support its school partners through the acquisition of TeachingBooks Supplemental Learning Materials includes a wide range of book-specific resources.


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

About OverDrive
OverDrive strives to create “a world lit 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 Kanopi is the leading video streaming app for libraries and colleges. Acquired in 2021, offers one of the largest catalogs of supplemental materials that improve literacy outcomes. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio United States and was named Certified B Corp in 2017.

David Burley
Brand & Communication Director
[email protected]

SOURCE Overdrive