Finally! Hoopla Brings Digital Comics to Libraries
There was a bit of a flurry of excitement in the library world last month: DC announced that they were making some of their titles available to library patrons through the streaming service Hoopla. If you haven’t heard about Hoopla you should probably go call or email your public library right now to get see if your institution offers it and get on board. I’ll wait. Did call your friendly neighborhood librarian?
If your library doesn’t offer Hoopla, talk to your librarians about getting the service. Believe it or not, we really do like to hear constructive suggestions from patrons. I say constructive because I don’t mean things like a request to lower the emergency fire door—EMERGENCY FIRE DOOR—because the teen movie is too loud. Sadly, this was an actual patron request from this week, but I digress. We do like hearing about real things that we can do for you, like offering a cool streaming and downloading service like Hoopla. We want to give you cool stuff; just let us know.
Anyway, if you are new to Hoopla, it’s a streaming and downloading service that offers music, TV shows, movies, audiobooks, ebooks, and now comics on your computer and device. The library world is was so excited because the digital comics options for patrons is limited. Of course, there are other options for digital comics like Comixology, but what about patrons who want to use library copies like they do with trade paperbacks? There aren’t a ton of options.
Some titles are available in Overdrive, the ebook platform that many libraries use. Overdrive allows libraries to buy ebooks, eaudiobooks, movies and more that can then be lent out to patrons through various different DRM models. Currently Overdrive doesn’t really have many comics, other than a few titles like Lumberjanes and some elementary and middle grade graphic novels. With the addition of DC Comics, Hoopla is presenting itself as a stronger competitor to Overdrive. If the other big comics publishers decide to get on board, Hoopla would have a head start on providing digital comics to library patrons.
This would be amazing for patrons. Libraries are all about trying to provide patrons with access and often multiples means of access to materials and services. This would be just another way that we can serve the needs of our patrons. There is already a market and demand for ebooks in libraries, and right now Overdrive has a corner on that market. Despite it’s limitations compared to something like Amazon’s Kindle catalog, Overdrive works really well for patrons. Hoopla is priming itself to be as big as Overdrive for comics readers, especially for those who already use the service’s great selection of movie, TV, music, and audiobooks. Of course, you won’t be able to get the latest Squirrel Girl issue from Hoopla, because most libraries wait to buy comics in trades anyway. Most likely, it would carry collected editions and whatever else the publishers to decide what they want to release Hoopla that patrons will be able to borrow.
For librarians, Hoopla has a pay per circulation model that lets us only pay for what our patrons stream and download. We are also able to set limits on what people use: currently we limit our patrons to 10 downloads/streams a month. For the most part it works well—only a few patrons have run up against the limits of 10 per month.
So here’s how the service works: download the app from the app store and make sure you have your library card handy. Your library has to subscribe to Hoopla, so if they don’t you’re of out of luck. It depends on your state, but you probably can’t get a card from a town that is not your own. This is a perfect reason for why you should communicate with your librarians to bring the content you want to your city! Advocate for yourself!
It’s fairly easy to set up: download the app, create an account, and link your library card to your account. You’ll see options for browsing and searching. The three mobile bars in the upper left hand corner bring you to the menu where you can see what you have checked out and the search option in the upper right.
I really like the favorite-heart option that Hoopla has. Sometimes you know that you want to get something eventually, but maybe you’ve run out of downloads or just started another audiobook. Then you can put a little heart by the super trendy Marie Kondo tidying book and be on your way. Here’s another thing that I should mention that’s great about Hoopla: if someone else has downloaded a title, you can still download it! This is a great improvement over Overdrive where most of the titles circulate like a physical book thanks to of everyone’s frenemy DRM. Since Hoopla is pay per circ, lots of people can skip the Marie Kondo wait list and get to tossing the joyless clutter in their lives.
It’s also easy to have Hoopla make recommendations for you, though if you select genres it basically makes everything else invisible. I had listened to some comedy shows and was confused as to why I wasn’t seeing any music in the “browse” section. Turns out it had selected to recommend me comedy only and no music.
Once you’ve found something you want, you just tap “Borrow.” You can stream it if you have wifi or download it to take it with you.
I had to take a peek at the comics interface with a borrowed login from the company since my library doesn’t offer it. Hoopla offers the ability to turn on the different channels, and we currently do not offer comics and ebooks through my library. When I saw that DC was going to be offering some of their comics on Hoopla, I immediately emailed my boss to nudge the library in the direction of offering comics. If DC’s move encourages other publishers to sign on with Hoopla, it’s definitely a good idea for us to provide that channel for patrons.
Looking at the interface for the comics on my laptop made me wish for a tablet, since it’s obviously best suited for a phone or tablet, but reading it in browser wasn’t too bad. The zooming switching between their “Page” and “Action” views was a little dizzying, but I think that I could get used to it. Right now there is a decent selection of titles that I would read, but hopefully the offerings will get better as people use the service and if other publishers sign on.
Overall, Hoopla has a easy to use interface with a pretty good selection of materials and looks poised to do big things for library comics readers. I’m excited to see where the service is headed and fully committed to pestering my library to add the comics component of the service.