Librarians: What’s the story behind the Hoopla app?
January 15, 2019 10:45 AM   Subscribe

My library subscribes to Hoopla, an app featuring instantly-borrowable audiobooks, albums and movies. Here’s what I can’t figure out: is there a unifying theme around Hoopla’s offerings? How does a book/album/movie get listed on Hoopla?

Browsing the app can seem like perusing a Barnes & Noble bargain bin - hidden gems (the Hamilton soundtrack! Neil Gaiman!) surrounded by filler (the entire Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack… performed solely on the piano! A 32-page biography of Ariana Grande from 2014!).

The collection seems limited and just plain random. Very rarely do I proactively search for a title or an author and find it listed - and my tastes run pretty mainstream. Librarians, what’s the deal? What gets offered on Hoopla and why? Does my library pay when I borrow something from the app? I’ve Googled but only find promotional copy, not deets!
posted by rogerroger to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You could ask Midwest Tape directly on Twitter. Hoopla is its digital arm.

Forbes: "From the library's perspective, Hoopla offers a great deal: It operates on a “lend first” model, giving libraries immediate get access to a catalog of content worth millions of dollars, but only charging them for each book loan requested by that library's patrons."
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:57 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hoopla's contents are determined by Hoopla and their company's contracts with publishers.

When a library subscribes to Hoopla, the entire Hoopla catalog is available for patrons to browse, and the library pays per checkout (usually from $0.99-$3.99 depending on the item) - if no one checks out a title, the library isn't paying for it.

This is the reverse of how some of the other services work, e.g. if your library also offers Overdrive/Libby, library staff have selected the titles that are available there, and paid up front for a license for that particular title. One advantage of the Hoopla model is that whatever they have is always available, while in the Overdrive model, if all of the licensed copies are checked out, you have to go on a waiting list.
posted by songs about trains at 10:58 AM on January 15, 2019 [8 favorites]

My company works with Hoopla, and my experience with Hoopla is only with selling movies, not audiobooks or music. Your library pays a royalty fee to the distributor/label/whatever every time someone borrows something through Hoopla. From my perspective, I think virtually any company could choose to offer their films on Hoopla, but that many opt to work with Kanopy or Overdrive instead (though there's nothing stopping you from working with more than one company). Midwest Tape (which owns Hoopla) is an industry leader in selling DVDs to libraries, but I think they were slow to get into the digital side of things.
posted by cakelite at 10:59 AM on January 15, 2019

Just for completeness' sake. Hoopla titles aren't always available. I've frequently run up against their "daily cumulative checkout" limit.

I guess it's probably my library's daily fee limit.
posted by sevenless at 2:07 PM on January 15, 2019

I guess it's probably my library's daily fee limit.

Yep, because libraries pay per "lend" they can set limits on a per patron basis or a per day basis (or other basises perhaps, those are the two I know about.)
posted by jessamyn at 2:37 PM on January 15, 2019

My library has a 5-item per month limit for Hoopla. Which is really frustrating when every episode of a TV show or miniseries counts as a separate item! It's like Ye Olden Dayse when there was no such thing as binge-watching and you had to wait a whole week before you could watch the next episode of Monk.
posted by basalganglia at 3:21 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Building off what songs about trains said above, the selection really does depend on which publishers are willing to “play ball” with Hoopla. My experience is that several of the big publishers don’t offer their hottest stuff to Hoopla at all, possibly because of their model. This publisher’s weekly article from 2014 specifically says, “I think this is about midlist, backlist, long tail, and greater author coverage,” which says to me that they know they don’t have the blockbuster books but are trying to spin that.

Hoopla is also, by its nature, a less curated collection. If I were buying books for Overdrive, I’m going to try to spend my budget on stuff that will check out, because I’m spending that money whether the title sits on the virtual shelf or not. With Hoopla, the library is offering you access to and letting you see everything that Hoopla has access to, since they only pay if you check it out. So you see all those weird bargain bin things that nobody really cares to buy on other platforms. In other words, there’s no collection development aspect to Hoopla at all; in Overdrive or Cloud Library or whatever, librarians are s still actively acting like gatekeepers (whether you think that’s good or bad is up to you!)
posted by itsamermaid at 4:32 PM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all for these interesting perspectives. itsamermaid, you totally answered my question about the bargain bin aspect of Hoopla - that makes perfect sense.
posted by rogerroger at 9:24 PM on January 15, 2019

Best answer: As a seasoned Hoopla user, I have found the best way to browse it is to search by publisher, not author--a lot of wonderful independent presses, for instance, have most of their offerings on Hoopla (I'm thinking of Haymarket Books and Fantagraphics Books). If you go to Categories under Ebooks, you'll also find curated lists of books to browse.
posted by carrienation at 7:57 AM on January 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

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