November 23, 2017

hoopla Adds Ebooks and Comics, Develops “Action View” Technology for App

Hoopla platform allLast week hoopla digital, the streaming media service for libraries developed by Midwest Tape, announced the addition of ebooks and comics to its platform. The initial selection features thousands of titles from publishers including IDW, RosettaBooks, Chicago Review Press, Dundurn Press, and Tyndale House, which will join hoopla’s catalog of more than 300,000 streaming movies, television shows, music albums, and audiobooks. Jeff Jankowski, co-founder of Midwest Tape, said that hoopla is in negotiations with several other publishers and will be announcing additional ebook and comic content in the coming weeks.

Regardless of format, all content is discoverable and viewable through the hoopla app for Android, Apple iOS, and Kindle Fire tablets and mobile devices.

“It’s one app doing everything,” Jankowski told LJ. “In the retail world, it takes five apps. You’ve got an app that’s a comic book reader, one that’s an ereader, one that’s a music player, one that’s a movie player, and one that’s an audiobook player. What we’re trying to do is give libraries a real competitive advantage” by offering patrons a single app to access multiple digital formats. To enhance the reading experience of the new comics content, the app includes a new “Action View” feature that enables readers to view and navigate comics page-by-page or panel-by-panel.

“We had noticed that other consumer and library experiences on mobile devices—especially in regard to comics and picture books—had been a challenge,” Jankowski said.

Viewing comics on mobile devices with small screens, such as smartphones, can be a difficult experience, he explained. Pages contain detailed layers of art and text, and while hoopla’s pinch and zoom features work well with the full-page view on tablets, the company felt that users of smaller devices would need additional navigation options.

“With this [Action View] feature, you’ll be able to tap, screen by screen, and get each caption and graphic” for each individual panel, he said. “It’s really an immersive experience.”

Other features for the in-app ebook and comic reader include personal bookmarks that persist if a title is borrowed and returned multiple times, and customizable fonts, line spacing, columns, and background tints. Currently, comics and ebooks are grouped in their own browsable content categories, separate from the movies and television shows available on hoopla. Jankowski noted that hoopla’s new recommendation engine, announced two months ago, is still in the early stages of refinement, but may eventually make suggestions for users across formats.

Like all hoopla content, the comics and ebooks are available on a pay-per-circulation basis, and can be viewed simultaneously by an unlimited number of library cardholders. Jankowski said that about 80 percent of the comics are priced under $1.99 per circ, and many are priced between .49 to .99 cents per circ.

With hoopla parent company Midwest Tape long known as a library vendor of DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, and other media, Jankowski said “it’s a really good feeling to finally be in the book business.”

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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