Oh dear, poor Markus Dohle. The former head of Penguin Random House is used to being the butt of Mark Williams’ posts. But this week, Williams’ sideswipe was taken up and amplified by Passive Guy. And the reason for the ridicule? Dohle’s belief that digital lending had plateaued. However, the figures Overdrive have just released show that 2023 was another year of stellar growth for digital lending by libraries. The year Overdrive reports 662 million digital lends through Overdrive’s catalogue to libraries. Added to that was a further 253 million that would have been lent but were on a “wait list.”
There are some really interesting stats in amongst these headline figures. 152 “library systems” (local groups or networks under the same authority) had over a million downloads.
Audiobooks still lag behind ebooks in terms of numbers, at 253 million to 370 million. But that is a lot closer than one might imagine (possibly a reflection of the fact that sound has always been a key part of what libraries offer – I remember as a child borrowing a box of tapes of Sherlock Holmes stories, another of Day of the Jackal). And while ebook borrows rose by 12%, audiobooks rose by 23%. So the gap is narrowing.
There is a real message here though. People really do love libraries. And it’s clear that they want to get not just printed but digital books from them. The good news for us as indies is that it’s really easy to be part of the pool from which this audience chooses its next read. Through the likes of Findaway Voices we can add our audiobooks to the Overdrive catalogue. And our ebooks through Draft2digital and others. As I have said on several occasions, with publishers seemingly intent on waging a price war on libraries, this really does open up a world of possibility to us.