Ebook and Audiobook Usage Surges During Pandemic In Academic Libraries


The pandemic profoundly impacted all industries and organizations, and academic libraries were no exception. OverDrive Professional, one of the leading providers of digital books to academic libraries, reported on data from their network of 500+ academic library partners worldwide from March 2020 through March 2021. These findings help illustrate the pandemic’s impact and how academic librarians are adopting ebooks and audiobooks at a vastly accelerated rate.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, interest and usage in digital books have skyrocketed:

OverDrive Professional’s network of college and university partners grew 66% YoY.
New academic users accessing digital books through the Libby app or OverDrive app increased 48%.
Usage of ebooks and digital audiobooks in academic libraries grew exponentially (+27%), accelerating a trend that began in the mid-2010s.
Ebooks experienced the greatest increase during this timeframe (+45%).
Audiobook circulation grew 14%, likely lower due to decreased commuting.
Genres with largest growth include politics, sociology and biography & autobiography, ranging from +30-87%.
The social justice genre also experienced substantial growth (+237%) due to increased awareness and interest about race and diversity sparked by May 2020’s race-related events.
Catalog and lending model updates

In August 2020, the OverDrive Professional academic catalog reached 3 million ebook and audiobook titles from 30,000 publishers which includes a variety of genres both fiction and nonfiction. To better support their academic library partners’ needs, OverDrive Professional added the Class Sets lending model for the academic market last fall, giving libraries the ability to assign titles to students to support faculty and class needs. Toward the end of 2020, OverDrive Professional also added Metered Access Concurrent Use (MACU), allowing academic partners to purchase titles for a set number of checkouts that can be used concurrently, providing a cost-effective way to offer campus reading programs.

Research study confirms increased ebook adoption

To better understand ebook collection development in academic libraries both because of the pandemic and in general, OverDrive Professional sponsored a research study in 2020 conducted by Choice which found a heightened reliance on ebooks in academic libraries and best practices for implementation. A few key findings:

Ebooks are an established part of academic library collections.
Academic librarians are motivated to purchase ebooks because of convenient access to the titles.
Librarians are leveraging data acquisition and other trends in purchasing decisions.
During ACRL 2021, OverDrive Professional is presenting “Creative Ways to Promote Digital Resources: How to Drive Engagement to Better Serve Your Students” on April 13 at 3:30pm CT. This presentation can be viewed at https://conference.acrl.org/programs/ until May 13.

For more information and to join the OverDrive Professional network, visit https://company.overdrive.com/overdrive-professional/.