Looking to support the contention that libraries drive book discovery and sales, library digital vendor OverDrive compiled data on patron use from its 18,000 library client sites during the month of March. The study shows that more than 60% of the five million users visiting OverDrive sites in March browsed public library catalogs generating more than 630 million book cover impressions. The survey also found most patrons used either Windows (49%) computers or iOS mobile (28%) devices, and New York, Seattle and Philadelphia were the top three markets generating page views.

Organized by OverDrive as part of a series of presentations on library e-book lending that will begin at the London Book Fair, The Library Media Network eBook Report is the latest effort by the library market to present evidence that making e-books available for library lending helps publishers and retailers sell more books. The study looks at both e-books and audiobooks and was developed in compliance with library privacy policies. According to the study more than 337,000 users a day from about 219 countries (86% from the U.S.) visited OverDrive’s 18,000 library sites during March generating a variety of data.

On the surface the data suggests that millions of users are browsing library digital catalogs looking for books (predominately fiction, it seems) during the course of an average month. OverDrive defines browsing as “exploring a digital library catalog without a targeted search term,” and found during March more than 4 million visits by online library patrons generated more than 40.3 million page views of library book catalogs.

The report provides a long list of the most popular titles viewed by online browsers topped by by Janet Evanovich’s Explosive Eighteen (1.19 million impressions), Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (1.16 million), John Grisham’s The Litigators (1.04 million) and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (1.02 million). According to the report the top 30 titles generated more than 21 million page views.

Indeed the report also focuses on the ability of library patrons to turn a debut author into a kind of library “bestseller.” The report highlights The Anatomists Apprentice, a first novel by author Tessa Harris, published by Kensington in December 2011, that generated more than 500,000 pages views on OverDrive library sites during March 2012. Out of the more than 700,000 books in the OverDrive catalog, The Anatomists Apprentice rose to No. 131 on OverDrive’s most-circulated library e-books list. According to OverDrive, the book is now “one of the most-viewed and most-held titles in digital library catalogs around the world.”

The report also identifies the top 10 genre searches (Romance, All Fiction, Mystery & Suspense, Historical Fiction were the top four) and top 10 book series searches (Song of Ice and Fire; Fifty Shades Triology, In Death). Most users spent just under 10 minutes browsing and on average generated about 11 page views per visit.

The top library markets following behind New York, Seattle and Philadelphia were Chicago, L.A. and Washington DC. While New York City alone generated about 9 million page views during March, Washington D.C. generated just under 4 million page views. Most users (49%) visited OverDrive’s online library sites using Windows laptops and desktops, but mobile was significant and is only going to grow. Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices (76%) dominated all mobile device visits and Android (15%) devices were the next most popular operating system.

Alexis Wiles, OverDrive manager of publisher relations, said the report “confirms the benefits that books and authors in library channels enjoy in terms of exposure and discovery to a highly desirable audience. We’ve seen the popularity of both frontlist and midlist titles soar in the library, building a loyal following not only through the volume of impressions, but also in conjunction with targeted publisher campaigns and the various social and readers’ advisory features included in the library websites.”