Hoopla Wants To Be A Free Netflix For Library Users

Laura Hazard Owen | GigaOM | July 24, 2013

Summary: Hoopla, a new streaming service for libraries, lets patrons borrow digital movies, TV shows, audiobooks and music. The selection isn’t comparable to Netflix, but it is free if you have a card at participating library.

Hoopla wants to make borrowing material from a library as convenient as streaming content on the web. The company, launching to the public today after several months in beta, offers patrons of participating libraries access to on-demand streaming movies and TV shows, as well as audiobooks and music that can be streamed or downloaded. There’s no waiting, and patrons don’t have to remember to return the digital materials: After a set period of time, they expire. Titles can be streamed on Hoopla’s website or its iOS and Android apps.

The service launches at a time when libraries are increasingly making ebooks available to patrons. Seventy-six percent of U.S. public libraries offered access to ebooks in 2012. But offering access to other types of digital materials is still fairly new. It’s unclear how many users want them, but since Hoopla lets libraries pay per use, it is a good way for libraries to test demand. Notably, the service excludes ebooks; Hoopla says it’s “in the planning stages” to offer them, but that may be easier said than done due to publisher restrictions.