How Digital Lending Service Hoopla Brings Libraries Into The Internet Era
Libraries and their digital offerings are one of the most overlooked segments of the ebook industry. Hoopla, one of the digital lending services allowing libraries to offer ebooks and other digital content, has helped drive the unassuming library ebook to success in over 1,600 public library systems.
Hoopla Digital's goal is to enable instantaneous and simultaneous access to library content: By cutting out the waiting period, digital lending services like Hoopla can offer a library user experience with the addition of a little internet-era instant gratification. As a result, the promise of public service that libraries are built on can become even more relevant to an online generation. And with Hoopla's app, any of the 619,220 titles the service currently provides is just a simple click away.
Hoopla is the digital arm of Midwest Tape, a lending service that has helped stock libraries with physical media like DVDs and audiobooks since its 1989 founding by Jeff Jankowski and John Eldred. Launched in 2013, the service has branched out far beyond just ebooks, handling 296,847 music albums, 20,936 TV titles, 14,501 movies, and 52,944 audiobooks. It added comics as a category in 2015, and already offers a total of 13,164 titles from every major comics publisher. The president of publishing and marketing for Boom Studios, Filip Sablik, told Publishers Weekly last year that the independent comics publisher "hadn’t seen a ton of immediate great returns until we started working with Hoopla," and that "it’s been surprisingly robust over the past year." Given the rapid rate of deterioration that a single-issue periodical comic can undergo thanks to particularly enthusiastic library patrons, the digital version can be considered a step up from the physical one.
Hoopla is currently available in over 1,600 public library systems and over 6,000 individual locations across the U.S. and Canada. The digital real estate that can help libraries get in front of a younger generation's touchscreens can also help them visit the physical location nearest them as well. "Today, happy Hoopla users are happy public library users," Jeff Jankowski said.
Hoopla is approaching its fifth anniversary on July 1. "Hoopla’s growth has been steady and purposeful, and it’s been guided by continuous feedback from libraries, patrons, vendors and publishers – truly growing Hoopla into a ‘book company,’" Jankowski said. "Our original vision for Hoopla was to provide everything for everyone in terms of what we see as viable and valuable content for the digital library of today and tomorrow. Publishers, like libraries, have been reluctant to go beyond their own traditional business models and Hoopla has been instrumental in using our feedback to help publishers understand and embrace the library market in the digital age. The growth of niche content on our platform is evidence of the increased value that publishers are finding in hoopla for greater discovery of their backlist titles, authors and genres."
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. Since the library isn't spending money upfront, it doesn't need to limit itself to a minuscule number of titles that it assumes its audience might like. And book-reading audiences love having the maximum number of options available to them as ebook subscription service Scribd proved when it needed to backtrack on its pivot away from a Netflix-style unlimited service.
Better yet, digital lending services can counter the brain-numbing effects of a constantly churning newsfeed-driven information economy.
"In an age where algorithms present information and entertainment in largely superficial ways, I envision a Hoopla that presents such information and entertainment in ways that empower people to delve, discover and access their interests in a deeper manner," Jankowski explains. "This is always what the library was meant to be, and we’re dedicated to continuing to build the analytics and metadata support functions to allow this to happen at Hoopla Digital."