Last week Joe, Ransom library director, suggested I try Hoopla, the new E book service they offer. Until now if I wanted to borrow an E book we had a limited selection even though Ransom is part of a regional consortium of smaller libraries. Hoopla adds many, many more books to the reading pile!
Did I mention book selection? Hoopla has tens of thousands of books in all genre, far more than our regional Overdrive selection. I particularly enjoy fantasy and science fiction, which tend to skew towards series (Wheel of Time, Star Wars) which I don’t usually read. Hoopla has these too (of course) but adds many less well-known novels and anthologies.
You can browse by category/genre or search for a specific author or title. Books display with the cover and author and you can click each to read a short blurb. The blurbs are descriptive, a few words about the plot and characters and also telling us what is unique about the book, why we will enjoy reading it. So far the blurbs are helpful and I found several excellent books by authors I’ve never heard of before.
Michigan offers a state-wide library service where you can borrow books from any participating library (including most universities), but if you don’t know the title or author it is difficult to browse by genre, and once you do find a promising read the blurbs are minuscule. I liked Hoopla’s combination of genre browse and blurbs very much.
Hoopla downloads books to your reader. You can download with Overdrive too, but it’s cumbersome. Having the file downloaded is great for taking your reader on vacation.
Text and format are clear. I used to get new books via NetGalley to read on my Nook, but had to stop because the formats often were poor. I’ve not had any problem with my current tablet using any of the readers – Hoopla, Nook, Kindle or Overdrive.
Books automatically return themselves once your due date arrives, so no need to worry about fines. This is similar to Overdrive. (When you download with Overdrive the book deletes itself but leaves a ghost copy that is a pain to remove.)
Books are free for us to borrow because the library pays a fee for each loan. From what Joe told me the library’s cost will likely be less than the books purchased for Overdrive access.
Hoopla Not So Goods
Libraries are like real estate, selection, selection, selection. Hoopla delivers the goods with selection, so realize these negatives are nuisance points.
We can borrow a set number per month, and even if you return books you cannot exceed that monthly limit. Your library sets the limit – ours is 5 – and it makes sense due to the fees they must pay. I hope that they eventually expand the selection and the limit.
I mentioned before that searching is a bit limited. Fantasy genre offers a few sub genres, most of which seem odd to me: Collecdtions and Anthologies, Contemporary, Dark Fantasy, Epic, Historical, Humorous, Paranormal, Romantic and Urban. You can further narrow by age and language. Once you are looking at an individual title you can also search by tags, but the tags may be user-contributed because tags are case sensitive, with duplicates such as Time Travel and time travel.
Hoopla is fairly intuitive although I did have to look up how to navigate back to the menu from within a title. The Hoopla help is lousy but there are many web pages posted by other libraries that are helpful.
My only serious complaint was an inability to keep my place in a book, mostly when I had to turn off my reader to go to bed. It opened back to the same novel but nowhere near the same place in the story. I’m not sure whether this was specific to my tablet or innate to the application.
Installing and Using
It’s easier for me to browse with my laptop with its nice big keyboard than to use my tablet. In fact I set up my account with my laptop, then used Chrome browser on the tablet to downloaded Hoopla, and now I browse the selection and pick out books from the laptop screen.
Ransom has cards with instructions and it’s easy to install. You access the title and read directly from the Hoopla icon on the tablet.
Besides books Hoopla offers comics, audio books, music and movies. The lending limit is across all media.
If your library offers Hoopla I recommend you try it out. It’s an easy way for your library to expand its digital offering and it’s easy to find and read good books. That’s the bottom line, selection, selection, selection!