When the digital book revolution first took off, naysayers argued that ebooks were nothing more than a flash in the pan. Hardline devotees to paper and ink vowed to never let go of their death grip on “real” books, even as publishers scrambled to figure out how to monetize and protect a digital file. Throughout the course of those early days, libraries were almost left behind. A handful of early adopters paved the way for other libraries to follow suit, and even though it has been a huge adjustment for all stakeholders in the lending space, library copies of ebooks seem to have now found their rhythm.
OverDrive has a long history of providing digital media to libraries, including MP3s, ebooks, audiobooks, and videos. The company has announced that 49 separate library systems each reached a record one million ebook checkouts in 2016, but now, sixty different library systems across the US are already on track to reach that number.
According to the OverDrive blog, “The Million Checkout milestone is both a great achievement and a marketing tool for our library partners. Many libraries boost their marketing efforts during the holidays to promote the service and reach that goal. Neighboring libraries have even created friendly competitions to see who can circulate the most eBooks, audiobooks and other digital content. These events often spark inspiration for other libraries to say, ‘Next year that will be us!’ While we love this gumption to plan for next year, there’s still time to reach new heights in 2017.”
Library patrons still seem to be divided into diehard fans of one format or the other. Paper fans often speak of the nostalgia involved in print books, as well as the heft of a book and satisfaction at turning pages. Typically, ebook fans cite the instant download convenience as a top reason for consuming digital, along with the fact that there are no overdue book fines or trips to the library to return titles.