OverDrive, the leading digital service provider in the digital library market, has reported another strong year of growth in digital library lending, although the rate of growth slowed from 2020.

In a January 5 release, OverDrive reported some 506 million digital lends (e-book, audiobook, and digital magazine) in 2021, a 16% increase over 2020. The data comes from more than 76,000 libraries and schools in 94 countries worldwide using OverDrive apps and services. The company also reported that 121 public library systems in seven countries surpassed the one million mark for digital book loans, up from the 102 libraries that hit the mark in 2020.

In exceeding half a billion annual lends for the first time, OverDrive's 2021 figures suggest the pandemic has, as librarians have suggested, raised demand for digital content in public libraries. In 2020, in the aftermath of widespread library and school closures due to Covid-19, OverDrive reported 430 million lends, a 33% increase over 2019. And in 2019, the year before the pandemic hit, the company reported 326 million lends, a 20% increase over the previous year.

OverDrive officials said "a focus on equity of access to books for all" also helped boost library lending in 2021, and helped produce "a banner year" for "book sales and earnings to the authors and publishers who supply digital books to libraries." Among other notable data released today:

  • 60% of readers accessed their borrowed digital library through OverDrive's popular Libby app.
  • 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%.
  • 400 third-party apps, websites and service vendors integrated OverDrive services, fulfilling more than 15 billion API calls for some 22,000 libraries.

OverDrive Top Titles for 2021

Most popular e-books 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:

The full release is available here.