Hoopla, an online content borrowing and streaming service, gives library card holders access to more than 300,000 titles — movies and TV episodes, as well as ebooks, audiobooks and music albums.
You can peruse the virtual stacks on your computer via Web browser, smartphone or tablet, and on Android, iOS and Kindle Fire HDX devices. If you want to check something out, you can stream videos or download your content.
And the best part? It’s free, just like checking out something at the library.
Since the content is digital, you don’t have to wait for someone to return that popular movie or book to borrow it. And there’s no pesky — or costly — late fees because the service’s automatic return feature snatches back the content.
Downloaded movies typically come back from your device in two days, music in a week, and books, three weeks.
Browsing through Hoopla’s all-in-one app on a tablet reveals lots of intriguing offerings. You won’t find Game of Thrones or The Blacklist on the service, but I found plenty of worthwhile selections. Among the movies: Oscar-winning films such as The King’s Speech, Gosford Park and The Pianist as well as the original Swedish versions of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy that begins with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Also: the Kevin Costner baseball flick For Love of the Game and a personal favorite, A Night in Old Mexico, a 2013 independent film starring Robert Duvall.
Earlier this month, Hoopla added the new Kristen Wiig movie Welcome to Me on the same date it hit theaters.
The available TV episodes include series such as The Adventures of Paddington Bear, The Pink Panther Show, Caillou and more Duvall, with the Lonesome Dove miniseries.
Other videos include documentaries such as Rise of the Drones, a PBS Nova hour-long program, and multiple yoga videos, including ones starring current Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton and former NFL running back Eddie George.
Hoopla’s music selection includes recent releases from Mumford & Sons and Emmylou Harris with Rodney Crowell. The robust comic collection doesn’t include DC or Marvel comics but there’s Clockwork Angels, which is based on the album by Canadian rockers Rush.
The service, which grew out of Midwest Tape’s 25-year history of supporting libraries, has been in operation about two years and just added ebooks and comic books. “Libraries wanted an easy-to-use, intuitive, fun app that was mobile-centric that allowed them to meet the diverse needs of their communities,” said Hoopla Digital founder Jeff Jankowski.
Beyond mobile, you can also stream to your TV using AirPlay and Apple TV (set mirroring to “On,” shut down the app and restart it).
However, all of Hoopla’s video is standard definition, so the quality will suffer on large TVs. The company is working on HD video.
Libraries link your card to a Hoopla Digital account; some require you to set up a PIN. Currently about 800 public library systems and more than 3,500 locations — of 10,000 systems and 19,000 locations — partner with the service.
About 50 to 60 additional library systems are added each month. You can see if your library system participates on Hoopla Digital’s map.
I used to go to the library all the time, but haven’t been in a decade. If my library system joins up with Hoopla, I’ll likely check in again.