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Libraries see uptick in e-book usage

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 3:33 p.m.
Penn Area Library Director Dorene Miller shows the app she uses to access eBooks on her phone.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Penn Area Library Director Dorene Miller shows the app she uses to access eBooks on her phone.

Penn Area Library has seen its digital content usage jump "by leaps and bounds" since switching over to a new system for lending electronic books, according to library Director Dorene Miller.

The service is provided by OverDrive, the leading digital distributor of e-books, audiobooks, music and video titles. The company provides secure management, digital rights management and download fulfillment services for publishers, libraries, schools and retailers.

Through 2014, Penn Area Library had lent about 6,200 e-books. At the end of 2017, that number had jumped up to more than 7,700, Miller said,

OverDrive also is used by the Westmoreland Library Network and the Allegheny County Library Association, which includes the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

"Last year on OverDrive, we served more than 1.3 million titles," said Hilary Lewis Lackner, e-resources coordinator for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. "In 2018, we've done about 100,000 circulation a month, and that includes all the public libraries in Allegheny County."

In Westmoreland, library network Director Cesare Muccari said that while the network purchases the platform and makes OverDrive available, not all county libraries use it.

"We had very high numbers for e-books, though, with a 15 percent increase over April 2017," Muccari said. "That's terrific news. We've averaging about 10,000 per month. For the first four months of 2018, we're up 7.5 percent over this time last year."

Lewis Lackner said Allegheny libraries have seen a "slow and steady" increase in e-book usage. She noted, however, that print book usage is not necessarily decreasing in proportion to its digital counterpart.

"For new titles, it's pretty standard where we'll buy a print copy, a large-print copy, an e-book copy and an audiobook copy," she said.

Books on CD are declining.

"CDs just aren't as popular anymore," she said. "Plus, a lot of newer cars don't have CD players."

That has led to a rise in popularity for audiobooks, which are easy to download.

"I download them to my phone and use them when I'm walking," Miller said.

This summer, teens visiting the Penn Area Library can participate in a free audiobook program called SYNC.

Through July 25, SYNC will give away two audiobook downloads each week. They are free and will not "expire" the way a typical e-book does when it is lent by the library.

Participants can sign up for email and text alerts at to be notified when each week's free downloads are available.

The only requirement is downloading OverDrive's free Libby app, which is available at . Users can open the app, find their library and sign in using their library card.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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