‘Netflix for libraries’ coming to Sno-Isle

Say you want to hear the “Frozen” sound track, the Lorde album, or “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Maybe there’s time to catch up on movies. Did you get around to seeing “The King’s Speech”? Or listen to “12 Years a Slave” on an audiobook.

It’s all free, a wealth of entertainment and information — if you have a smartphone, tablet or computer and a Sno-Isle Libraries card.

On Thursday, Sno-Isle Libraries launched a new partnership with Hoopla Digital, a service that works with libraries to provide online and mobile access to movies, TV shows, music and audiobooks. By signing up with a Sno-Isle library card — a personal identification number is needed — people can borrow, instantly stream and download thousands of titles.

The content is available by downloading Hoopla’s free mobile applications for Android or Apple devices, or online at www.hoopladigital.com.

Unlike regular books or e-books checked out through Sno-Isle Libraries, the collection’s titles are always available.

“If a new Grisham book came out, there might be 10 copies and 150 holds. Our program is simultaneous access. There’s no waiting,” said Jeff Jankowski, founder and owner. “It really empowers the card holder. There is no gatekeeper.”

There are time limits. “Each format is different,” Jankowski said Wednesday. For a film or TV show, users can keep it three days. The limit is seven days for music albums, and 21 days for audiobooks. An automatic return feature means no late fees.

Hoopla Digital, which has been called “Netflix for libraries,” is part of Midwest Tape, LLC, an Ohio-based company that has distributed audio and video products to libraries since 1989. More than 250 libraries already use Hoopla, among them the Boston Public Library, the Los Angeles Public Library, and in our state, the Pierce County Library System, Spokane County Library and others.

Jankowski said Hoopla works with 150 content providers, among them the Warner Music Group, Warner Home Video, MGM, BBC Worldwide and NBCUniversal.

“We don’t charge the library any annual fees or subscription fees. The only time there’s a charge is when somebody borrows an item,” Jankowski said. Those charges — which depend on contractual agreements with content providers — are shared by Hoopla and the libraries using the service.

“People have a universe of things to choose from,” said Jim McCluskey, collection development assistant manager for Sno-Isle Libraries. “If they wish to borrow something, that’s the point the library would pay.”

McCluskey didn’t say the cost to the library per item borrowed. He said it would be covered by the library system’s material budget. “We are trying it this year, and we will see about continued funding,” he said.

Jankowski is proud of Hoopla’s offerings. “It’s changing all the time, and we’re adding new titles every week,” he said.

Already, there’s a lot to enjoy.

“We have an eclectic mix, with 12,000 video titles — ‘The Big Lebowski’ to Deepak Chopra. And 80 percent is not available on Netflix,” said Jankowski, adding that Hoopla has many offerings that aired on PBS. There are 12,000 audio books, not only best-sellers such as “Divergent,” but nonfiction and educational titles.

Music is Hoopla’s largest collection, with 150,000 albums. “We have new music the same days the stores have it,” Jankowski said. “Coldplay is coming out with a new album May 19, and we’ll have it on Hoopla the same day. You can get an entire album to see if you want to buy it.”

Libraries have come a long way since I rode my bike to the Spokane Public Library’s Manito Branch to check out books.

“We want to offer people as many choices as we possibly can, whether it’s a novel they hold in their hand or listen to through their phone,” McCluskey said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

About hoopla

The Hoopla Digital collection of movies, TV shows, music and audio books is available for free through Sno-Isle Libraries. Borrowers may keep a movie or video three days, music for seven days, and an audio book 21 days. Learn more at www.sno-isle.org or www.hoopladigital.com

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