Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A Guide to Digital Media Apps at Your Public Library: Part Two - Hoopla Digital

This is part two of my four-part guide to digital media apps available through public libraries. For an explanation of this series and an index to all four parts that will be published this week, read A Guide to Digital Media Apps at Your Public Library: Introduction. This guide will also be available as a .PDF booklet after the entire series has been published to this blog.

In This Post:

What is Hoopla?

Hoopla Digital is a subsidiary of Midwest Tape, L.L.C., which is a distributor of physical and digital materials for public libraries. Hoopla’s mission is “to partner with libraries in delivering the best content to patrons in the most streamlined manner possible.”

What is Available through Hoopla Digital?

Hoopla makes its full catalog of audiobooks, e-books, comics, movies, music and television shows available to all libraries. Each library then has the option to place limits on what is available to its patrons, and these limits vary greatly from library to library. Some libraries don’t offer audiobooks, for example, while others might not offer movies or television. Hoopla is not like Netflix, where every user has access to the same materials. Rather, what is available to you through Hoopla depends on the limits put in place by the library with which your library card is affiliated.

Libraries do not own any of the materials found on Hoopla; rather, Hoopla contracts directly with publishers, and libraries pay a fee for each use of each item. Your library does not have control over the specific titles that are available through Hoopla. Your local librarians can neither add nor weed (remove) titles from Hoopla’s collection. Libraries can choose whether to opt in or out of offering a specific category (based on format, or price, for example), but they can not opt in or out of providing access to any individual title within the categories they choose to make available.

How to Access Hoopla

Hoopla can be used on the web at hoopladigital.com. It also offers a mobile app which is available for Android devices (operating systems 4.4 and above), iOS (10 and above) and Kindle Fire tablets (5.0.0. and above). Items borrowed from Hoopla can also be viewed on Airplay, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Lightning Digital AV Adapter and Roku. Hoopla recommends accessing its website using the most updated versions of Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari. Hoopla does not support Internet Explorer or Windows mobile devices. It does support Amazon’s Alexa on Amazon Echo, Echo Plus, Dot, Spot, and Show.

To use Hoopla, you will need to register, either at hoopladigital.com or directly in the app for your device. You will be prompted to provide a valid email address and create a password, then to select your local library and to input your library card number. Each email address can be associated with only one library card; if you wish to access more than one library’s Hoopla offerings, you will need to register each library card using a different email address.

Searching and Browsing on Hoopla

Hoopla’s search function is very basic. You can either search the entire catalog, search within a particular format, or search for a specific author (or person), category, publisher, or series. There is no advanced search function, but you can filter your search results by format, language, or publication date.  If you would like to limit the search results to only kid-friendly materials, you can turn on Kids Mode. In the app, simply click “Kids” next to the search box. On the website, you can toggle Kids Mode on and off in Settings.

To browse, you must first select a format; then you can limit the results by clicking on “Recommended,” “Featured”, “Popular” or ”Categories.” (In the app, “Categories” is called “Genres.”) When you click on an item title, you will also see that the names of the author, publisher, audiobook narrator, series, director, cast members, etc. are hyperlinked so that you can click on them to see more items from those same entities.

Borrowing Items from Hoopla

Your local library determines how many items you can borrow from Hoopla per month. Once you have reached this number, you cannot borrow anything else until a new month begins, even if you return items early. You can use all your borrows immediately, or spread them out over the month, but whatever limit your library has set is the maximum, and unused borrows do not carry over. (Note: if you borrow something whose lending period will extend into the next month,  it will not count against the next month’s borrowing limit. No matter what you have checked out at the end of the month, you will be given a new full set of borrows at the start of the month.) There are no renewals; if an item expires before you finish with it, and you want to borrow it again within the same month, this will count as two borrows. You can return an item before the end of its loan period, but there is no particular benefit to doing so.

Since your library pays per use, every item is always available, so there is no need to place holds. When you are out of borrows (or if you just want to remember an item for future use), you can use the Favorites feature to save titles for later. Simply click the heart icon next to the item you wish to remember, and it will be added to your Favorites list.

The loan periods for each item are determined by Hoopla and should therefore be uniform across libraries: 3 days for movies and TV episodes, 7 days for music, and 21 days for audiobooks, comics, and e-books. Hoopla mentions on its website that there may sometimes be exceptions to these rules based on publisher restrictions, but these seem to be rare.

Reading and Viewing on Hoopla

Hoopla items must be used within the Hoopla app or website. The e-reader and audio player are both adequate, but they are not as streamlined or easy to use as some other apps. In the e-reader, you are able to adjust the font size, search for keywords, bookmark pages, and access the table of contents. At the bottom of the screen, the e-reader also shows you your current page and what percentage of the book you have completed. The audio player has fewer features. There is no way to select a specific chapter. You can see how much time has elapsed and how much is left in the entire book, but it does not show you how much time remains in the current chapter.  You can adjust the speed up to 1.5x on the website and 2x in the app, but not up to 3x as you can in some other apps. The audio player also has a sleep timer.

You can download items for use offline only in the mobile app, but even when items are downloaded, they cannot be transferred to other apps or devices.

More Help with Hoopla

For further assistance with Hoopla, visit these links:

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