Like checking out movies and audio books from the library but hate the fact you sometimes have to wait a long time to get them? If you’re a card holder at the Riverside and Brookfield public libraries — and you have a computer, smart phone or tablet device — that problem largely has been solved.
Both institutions now offer an online service called Hoopla, which allows library card holders to download tens of thousands of movies, TV shows, music and audiobooks for free any time of day, any day of the week.
“There’s no comparison to anything we’ve offered in the past,” said Frank Murray, head of reference and electronic services at the Brookfield Public Library, which started offering Hoopla to patrons in June.
The only drawback is that while Hoopla does have audiobooks available for download, it doesn’t have e-book downloads at this point.
Hoopla is a digital brand of Midwest Tape, which has distributed media products such as DVDs, CDs and audiobooks to libraries nationwide since 1989. What sets Hoopla apart from most digital products on the market is that it’s not a “one copy, one user” format.
If you set up a Hoopla account using your library card PIN number, you have access to all of Hoopla’s offerings immediately via either a web browser or an app that can be downloaded to both Apple and Android devices.
The digital e-book world is one user, one copy, and we’re totally against that,” said Jeff Jankowski, the founder of Hoopla. “Consumer expectations are set so high. We wanted to give libraries a platform for patrons to use all of the titles we have.”
Hoopla was rolled out in summer 2013 and was introduced to Chicago-area libraries only recently. Riverside Public Library went live with Hoopla on May 12. According to Library Director Janice Foley, about 125 Riverside Library cardholders (out of the 4-5,000 holding library cards there) have registered to use the service.
“We were looking for another e-book product because, with the ones we have, sometimes people wait a long time.” Foley said.
In Riverside, patrons can download two items per month, said Foley, noting that the Riverside Public Library is planning instructional sessions on how to use the service in July.
According to Murray, Brookfield Public Library is limiting Hoopla downloads to five per month.
Patrons are allowed access to their downloads for a specific period of time, after which they are removed from the user’s account. Movies for example, can be accessed for three days, music for a week and audiobooks for two weeks.
While the service is free to library patrons, the libraries are billed monthly by Hoopla for every item downloaded by a patron. According to Jankowski, items range in price from 99 cents to $2.99, with an average price of $1.95.
Because the music is only available for a week and can’t be copied, that choice hasn’t been very popular among patrons since Hoopla launched in May in Riverside, said Foley. But Hoopla has been very popular for audiobooks, she said.
“They are easy to download, much easier than any of the other products we have,” she said.
Compared to the “one copy, one use” model that’s pretty inexpensive. Murray said an e-book from a publishing company can cost the library anywhere from $10 to $80 and an audiobook can run as high as $100 or more, plus some titles are only good for a year and have to be repurchased after they expire.
“There’s more flexibility and formats,” said Murray. “It’s almost a one-stop shop.”