Midwest Tape is preparing to launch a digital platform, called Hoopla, later this year which will offer a full array of digital movies, television shows, music, and audiobooks. The company, based in Holland, OH, was previewing the platform at the Public Library Association conference held March 13-17 in Philadelphia.
The platform is the well-known company’s first foray into the digital space.
“Customers have been asking us to get in digital business for years,” said Jeff Jankowski, Midwest Tape’s vice president. “We wanted to but we wanted to make sure we could deliver a state of the art user experience,” he said.
Hoopla aspires to give a consumer-oriented experience with a very simple, intuitive interface like Netflix to all approved library cardholders, Jankowski said, adding that it was designed from the ground up specifically for libraries.
The platform, which has been three years in the making, will launch with two lending models: a one-user, one-copy option and also a per-circulation-fee model with simultaneous multiple users.
“We have this whole dissatisfaction model now. Nothing good is ever on the shelf unless you reserve it,” Jankowski said. “A per circulation fee will allow you to have the whole [Midwest] library without any money out front, without any set up fees, and then you just throttle your usage,” he said.
Jankowski said the emphasis right now is to show the user experience the platform will provide, which he said will be simple and “mobile-centric.”
“Saw it and loved it! Can’t wait for it to release,” Robin Nesbitt, the technical services director of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio, tweeted at PLA.
“We think it’s pretty nice. It’s less friction. We don’t want more friction. Companies that like friction are not going to like this platform,” Jankowski said.
The company is in active negotiations with all the content providers, with whom it already has well-established ties, and has signed deals with over 15 studios, Jankowski said.
The patron will find a link to the Midwest platform on the library’s home page. From the Midwest platform (which has a branded library page), they find an item and they click a borrow button which adds the item to a bookshelf of borrowed items (photo). Then they click the item again and it begins to play. Bookmarks are in the cloud so items will synch across devices.
“Looks amazing. I’m hoping that it is released this year,” tweeted Lindsey Levinsohn, a youth services librarian at Sandusky Library in Ohio.
Midwest will provide MARC records but the user experience will happen at the Midwest platform, although Jankowski said the platform will avoid the need to download multiple programs, setup multiple accounts, and authenticate more than once.
The company will offer APIs to ILS vendors to facilitate any potential integration.
The platform will use DRM as required by content providers, but it will be invisible to patrons, Jankowski said. For example, a patron could borrow an entire album (rather than a single song track), and after two weeks the loan simply expires.
Music and audiobooks can be downloaded or streamed, movies and television shows will only be streamed.
“Downloading movies takes so long so most users want to stream it, so initially we’ll support all four major browsers – IE, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. We will never put the content onto the PC,” Jankowski said. “For closed-end devices, like IOS devices or Android devices, we will support the newest operating system that doesn’t detract from the user experience,” he said.