662 million digital books were borrowed in 2023, up 19%. Don’t tell Markus Dohle!

From The New Publishing Standard:

With the waiting list at 253 million, OverDrive saw demand for almost one billion downloads in 2022.
OverDrive’s digital library lending numbers for 2023 have been announced, and as usual its bad news for the Markus Dohle fantasy world where ebooks are forever 20% of the market.

With digital checkouts totalling 662 million, a 19% rise on 2022, here’s how the numbers broke down for 2023.

Ebooks: 370 million, up 12%

Audiobooks: 235 million, up 23%

Magazines: 56 million, up 75%

Comics and graphic novels: 37 million, up 14%

And to rub salt into Dohle’s wounds, the ebook and audiobook holds/wait list stood at 253 million (+19%). In other words there would have even a further 253 million downloads, taking the total to 915 million. And to put that yet another way, if the content had been available, OverDrive could have clocked close to one billion digital downloads last year.

Globally, 152 public library systems in seven countries (up 13%) clocked more than one million downloads apiece, and among those 72 clocked more than two million, while the front runners saw downloads hit 11 and 12 million. (Details to be published by OverDrive soon.)

. . . .

Unlike retail and subscription – even all-you-can-eat subscription – there is no price friction when it comes to digital libraries.

Yet still ebook consumption outperforms audiobook consumption by 36.5%, with 135 million more ebooks being borrowed than audiobooks.

Don’t tell Markus!

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Markus Dohle was the Chief Executive Officer of Penguin Random House until he quit in January, 2023.

Markus was dead set against ebook subscription or lending programs for just about anybody, including libraries.

Dohle told the Court during a trial for illegal price-fixing (that snagged most of the big book publishers in the dumbest violation of US Antitrust laws that PG has ever seen or read about) that if subscription got its wicked way there would be no bricks & mortar retail left within three years, and that publishers would be “dependent on a few Silicon Valley or Swedish companies”. That of course is totally unacceptable. Imagine if two German companies dominated the US publishing sector. No, wait…

Here’s a lovely quote from one of Dohle’s side-kicks:

PRH UK CEO Tom Weldon, in full gatekeeper costume, said in 2014, “We have two problems with subscription. We are not convinced it is what readers want. ‘Eat everything you can’ isn’t a reader’s mindset. In music or film you might want 10,000 songs or films, but I don’t think you want 10,000 books.”

The obvious answer is if readers don’t like book subscriptions, they won’t buy/use them. The popularity and success of Kindle Unlimited and your local public library’s ebook borrowing programs just might indicate that the heights (or depths) of traditional publishers are really pretty stupid.

12 thoughts on “662 million digital books were borrowed in 2023, up 19%. Don’t tell Markus Dohle!”

  1. This guy works in publishing? For real? I keep saying that some sectors of society have been taken over by the aliens from “They Live.”

    Anyone have a better explanation? I’ll also accept the pod people from the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and whatever the creatures were in “The Father-Thing” by Philip K. Dick.

  2. “but I don’t think you want 10,000 books.”

    Well, I don’t know about reading 10K books/year (though I do try), but want?

    Ebooks alone (many but not all free) for half my household (me): circa 500/yr. (Ever since ebooks became available). My library on Calibre has 5500 ebooks.

    • You have managed to make me feel rather inadequate… At best, I manage an average of one book a day. The ebook library is only around 1,000 (only slowly growing as I replace dead trees – which really doesn’t increase the library).

        • I haven’t checked Gutenberg or Baen for anything new that I want lately. Will need to correct that at some point.

          (There’s a problem with Baen, though – as was once said, “It’s the first taste of crack for free.” If I start up with a series, I am quite likely to buy the rest of them. While that doesn’t take up new shelf space, it also doesn’t clear any – and that is my main focus for purchases right now.)

  3. Pardon me, Mr Weldon, but do/did you actually know any “readers”? Or just wannabe glitterati who attend London cocktail parties?

    Bluntly, the minimum working set for any litigator — even one who confines himself to federal-court litigation — is, as of this month, 6500 or so books just of federal case reports. Not to mention the US Code (which is “only” another 58 books), Wright & Miller (another 60 or so), US Constitution Annotated (another 4, each of which is equal to about 4 GRRM novels)… and oh, by the way, maybe some relevant state-law material because a lot of state-law disputes end up in federal court. The “required working access” for any federal litigator approaches that 10,000 volumes before considering whether he/she/they reads anything else.

    Oh, I see. If it’s not a “trade book” it’s not a “book.” To use language more appropriate to a UK-based executive, bugger off you pillock. Your cunning description of what readers want from publishing would be rejected by Baldrick as too stupid.

    • To be fair, he was referring to trade books. Also, he said “want,” not “need.” I’m not sure that any litigator (or other professional) really wants to have that many books for their profession – and quite positive that none have read all of their collections from cover to cover.

      I had about 1,000 professional books myself, before I retired. Fortunately, unlike case law, most of them were obsolete and could be disposed of when I no longer needed them.

      • Ah, but if it comes trade book readers, they ansolutely want as many books as they can afford. Which is why free ebook sites like Gutenberg, Feedbooks, Mobilereads, etc, and subscriptions services like KU, Scribd, etc, and Library ebooks all matter.

        He’d actually be correct if he said *need* with respect to trade books; not even members of the 100 book a year club will livevlong enough to need 10,000 books. But they’ll want them nonetheless.

      • And my point is that he wasn’t referring to trade books only; he was, as the management of commercial publishers with trade divisions invariably do, merely referring to trade books as “what readers want” (or need) and as the part that makes commercial publishing such a necessary and critical cultural gatekeeper. Leaving aside, of course, that trade publishing is not just not a majority, but not even close to a plurality, of commercial publishing.

        It’s sort of like someone who speaks for “the food industry” implicitly acting as if only sit-down, table-service-with-tablecloths restaurants ever provide for customers’ gustatory wants (or needs). Which just leads to the end of The Sopranos… More to the point, it’s exactly like The Sporting News purporting to speak for all of sport.

  4. No, I do not want 10,000 books.
    I want 70,000 *free* ebooks.


    And I’m way behind the curve. When I last downloaded the Gutenberh libraries they had 14,000 and the Black Mask Collection DVDs had 30,000. A fair amount of overlap between both, admitedly. Adding my paid books (1200 BAEN and 900 Kindle) I way short of my *want*.
    I need to get cracking. 😀

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