E-Book Checkouts From Libraries Up 200% Last Year

As our reading habits become increasingly digital, many book-lovers are wondering how this will impact libraries’ ability to lend materials, particularly since many of the popular e-readers and e-booksellers have rather restrictive loan policies. And some publishers too have expressed their own concerns about e-book sharing, with one going so far as stating that if libraries start lending e-books, it could serve to “undo the entire market for e-book sales.”

These questions and concerns over e-book lending are bringing attention to libraries’ services, a good thing I’d argue, as the role of libraries expands from “repository of printed books” to include other technological services (most importantly, perhaps, community access to Internet).

So here’s some good news today for libraries, right on the heels of good news for publishers from holiday sales: digital distributor OverDrive reports today that e-book checkouts at libraries were up 200% in 2010 from the year before. Audiobook loans were also up, by 52%.

Proof, perhaps, that you can lend e-books and not “undo the entire market for e-book sales.”

The statistics come from the over 13,000 libraries, schools and retailers that use OverDrive’s digital distribution services. And according to these figures, more than one million new users signed on to access e-books and audiobooks via “virtual library branches”. Over 718 million titles were viewed in the company’s Web-based catalog and over 15 million digital titles were checked out.

The most popular fiction title: Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The most popular nonfiction title: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. These were the most popular titles for audiobook downloads as well.

OverDrive says that it makes over 400,000 copyrighted e-books, audiobooks, music, and video titles available to libraries, which patrons are able to download to their phone, PC, or e-readers. OverDrive is one of several options that libraries can pursue in order to make digital content available to their patrons. In November, we reviewed the Bluefire Reader app that uses Adobe Digital Editions in order to facilitate library checkout of e-books.

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