“More iTunes-y than Netflix or Spotify, Hoopla is a cloud-based digital media platform that enables users to instantly borrow entertainment and educational material off the website or through the Hoopla app on a tablet or smartphone” (Enis).

As far as librarians go, I’m pretty tech-savvy. Even then, I admit, I’m not that tech-savy. So it was only a few weeks ago that I discovered (thanks to my librarian friend) you don’t have to have an e-reader to read e-books or borrow CD’s to stream music and audio through your library! Mind. Blown.

You can access all of this by downloading the free app, Overdrive, and adding your library’s catalog. Overdrive (@OverDriveLibs) recently partnered with HP to bring even more e-books to the 30,000 libraries in more than 40 countries worldwide that subscribe to their services.

If your library is part of a consortium, then you have access to even more materials than just those to which your library has subscribed. Overdrive even offers video streaming, though the selection is limited.

That is where the new app, Hoopla (@HooplaDigital), provides the most competition.

 [vimeo 110819483 w=500 h=281]

From the library perspective:

Hoopla, unlike some of the other streaming services available for libraries to subscribe, has never been put on the commercial market. Instead, it was designed for public library-use by a library vendor.

“With hoopla’s pay-per-circ model, there are no platform or subscription fees. Instead, libraries pay between $0.99 and $2.99 per circ, depending on the movie, show, album, or audiobook. More than 90 percent of audiobook and video titles are $1.99 or less, and almost 100 percent of the albums are $1.49 or less, according to Midwest Tape. Monthly or weekly caps can be set for downloads” (Enis).

Many smaller libraries have chosen to beta test the service, in order to determine the budgetary impact of the pay-per-circulation model. On paper, however, a library can save significantly per circulation by choosing a digital circulation of audiobooks over the physical copy–the average cost by the Maine Library Association to be ~$25 per physical audiobook, though from experience, it can be as much as $45-$60 per title. Though this will in no way replace the CD format of audiobooks in libraries, it is a service to consider in light of the shift towards digital materials.

Hoopla does not yet offer e-books.

From the library member perspective:

Library user experience will vary based on the restrictions set up by each library. Unlike Netflix, you cannot binge watch television and movies on Hoopla. A tragedy for those looking for a free, legal alternative to Netflix. This choice makes sense on the part of the developers and the libraries subscribed to the service. Think of Hoopla like pay-per-view or Amazon video streaming, except your public libraries are treating you. Each library who subscribes to Hoopla has different restrictions, but here is an example from the Indian Trails Library District in Wheeling, IL:

With hoopla, you can stream free movies, television shows, music and audiobooks directly to your computer, Android, or iOS powered device. hoopla also allows you to download items for offline use on an Android or iOS powered device.

Some key information to note before you begin is:

  • Each registered cardholder has access to 12 checkouts per month. These can be used anytime throughout the month.
  • Movies and TV shows are available for 72 hours from the original time of checkout.
  • Music is available for 7 days from the original time of checkout.
  • Audiobooks are available for 3 weeks from the original time of checkout.
  • You must sign up with hoopla before you are able to use it.

The three major flaws I can find with Hoopla is the lack of discoverability, lack of current availability in libraries, and lack of e-books.

Overdrive is subscribed to by 30,000 libraries:

Hoopla has not yet spread to that audience: 


This may be due to demand in libraries, or rather a lack of awareness on the patrons’ end of the app.

Many people who come into the libraries I work at would rather order a book from another library than use the digital version. I can easily see this extending to music CD’s, especially if the material isn’t available for download and is only available for streaming.  Even with no advertisements, Pandora, SoundCloud, and Spotify are already widely used across the music-loving, smart phone-using population and so it may be difficult for Hoopla to get a significant following in this market.

The app was only published in January 2013, and in time it may gain more of a following.

What do you think? Is this a service you would use or would like your library to offer?


Enis, M. (2013, July 12). More Vendors Help Libraries Stream Video. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2013/07/media/more-vendors-help-libraries-stream-video/

Explanation and Values for Library Use Value Calculator. (2014, July 1). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://www.maine.gov/msl/services/calexplantion.htm

Pinshower, J. (2013, November 25). Movies Music TV. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://digitallearn.org/sites/default/files/cop/MoviesMusicTV.pdf

Szeto, M. (2014, February 25). 5 Things to Know About Hoopla, the Free Streaming Service for Videos, Music and Audiobooks. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://mimiszeto.com/2014/02/25/5-things-to-know-about-hoopla-free-streaming-libraries/