Measuring library zeitgeist in realtime

Have you ever wondered how many library books are checked out every day? What about where these library books are being checked out? In a world where you are constantly being monitored, it's time to turn the tables and give you a little peak into the world of (digital) library check-outs.

  "Well, well, well, how the turntables..."

Rakuten OverDrive is a global distributor of ebooks, audiobooks, and other digital media for a network of over 40,000 libraries and schools in 70 countries. They provide digital rights management and download fulfillment for publishers, libraries, schools, and retailers. Founded by Steve Potash in 1986, OverDrive was initially responsible for converting analog media into the digital formats (that were available at the time). However, as digital books and the capabilities of the internet evolved, so did the company.

Their content distribution service was launched in 2000, and since then, they have worked on building their catalogue of two million of titles in over 100 languages and have about 95% market share with public libraries.

In 2015, OverDrive joined the Rakuten Group and changed their name to Rakuten OverDrive. They now host several reading programs, digital book clubs, and even an app! They have distribution partnerships with over 5,000 publishers who add their ebooks to OverDrive's master catalogue so libraries can then select the titles they would like to include in their library's digital collection – much like how it works with print books.

To learn more about what happens to your ebook (and audiobook) titles once you send them to OverDrive, check out the library panel from ebookcraft 2018 with Rose Donohoo of OverDrive and Maria Cipriano of Toronto Public Library, moderated by Teresa Elsey of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – Oh, the Places Ebooks Go: An ebook's journey from creation to circulation.

With so many partners around the globe, OverDrive was able to build a tool that would allow users to keep track of the number of ebooks and audiobooks being checked out from their library partners around the world in realtime! Like Domino's pizza tracker, but so much better.

OverDrive's library tracker keeps track of ebook and audiobook check-outs on a daily, monthly, yearly, and perpetual basis. At the time of writing this, there have been 1,134,423,000+ library check-outs in the history of OverDrive and 424,269,000+ holds! 

Perhaps even more exciting than numbers (whoever thought we'd say that?) is OverDrive's live checkouts map tool which tells you where these books are being checked out, as well as some of the titles people are interested in. Once you've seen the number of check-outs increase at a rate of more than 25 books per second, it's understandable that the live map doesn't show you every book that's been taken out, but instead shows you the cover of 6-8 titles at a time (for approximately 10 seconds each). This is a great tool if you're looking for something new to read and tend to judge books by the cover.

And last but not least, OverDrive also allows you to see check-outs in realtime within your local library system, so you can get a glimpse at what the people in your city are reading (or listening to) on their electronic devices. For example, this is the Toronto Public Library's digital title circulation dashboard. It shows the same metrics as the overall library check-out tracker, as well as the digital titles Toronto library patrons are requesting (both ebook and audiobook). From here, if a certain title on the dashboard catches your eye, you can then click on it and it will link you to that book's listing in the library catalogue where you can then request it for yourself. It also tells you how many copies remain available. Additionally, if you would like to request this tool for your own library system, contact your Library Account Specialist.

If you work in the world of ebook or audiobook production, the library system, or you're just easily transfixed by steadily increasing numbers, these tools are very reassuring that the work you do is important, and we recommend that you have them running in the background at all times. It's. So. Calming. 

Also, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for BookNet's very own library circulation tool coming soon!