A beta test for hoopla, the new digital content platform from Midwest Tape, was launched on Friday at the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML), and will expand during the next several weeks to include tests at several other libraries (see complete list below).
The service, which Midwest Tape debuted at the 2012 Public Library Association conference in Philadelphia last March, will allow library patrons to borrow from a collection of more than 2,500 movies and television shows, 9,000 audiobooks, and more than 200,000 music albums, including new releases. The company has said that all of these collections will be continuously expanded, and that the album selection will soon grow to over 300,000 titles.
Movies and televisions shows will be streamed, while music and audiobooks can be streamed or downloaded for a specified loan period. The cloud-based platform will allow borrowers to access content across multiple compatible devices, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, as well as any device equipped with a Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Internet Explorer web browser.
Robin Nesbitt, director of technical services for CML, praised the system’s ease-of-use.
“It’s as simple to use as iBooks…It really mimics that consumer experience. I see something, boom, I get it,” she told LJ. CML’s early enthusiasm for hoopla led Midwest to ask them about their interest in participating in the pilot test. Nesbitt described the system as a good fit for CML, noting that the service’s streaming movies could offer patrons an experience comparable to Netflix, while streaming audiobooks could help the library regain ground lost to audible.com. And, Nesbitt noted that hoopla’s music catalog already spans several different record companies, and that the system loans out entire albums, rather than individual songs.
Complete list of libraries participating in hoopla beta:
Midwest Tape is not charging platform or subscription fees for hoopla. Instead, libraries will pay for the service on a per-circulation basis. All titles range from $0.99 to $2.99 per circ, and 93 percent of audiobook and video titles are $1.99 or less, while 99 percent of music albums are $1.49 or less, according to materials supplied by the company.
Per-circ pricing will allow content to be streamed or downloaded simultaneously by multiple users. Libraries may also choose to place a cap on downloads for individuals. For example, in a press announcement, Columbus Metropolitan Library wrote that its patrons will be limited to six downloads per month.
Currently, CML is emphasizing to both patrons and employees that the service is part of a beta test, and is apt to change. But Nesbitt said that Midwest Tape has been responsive to feedback, and she expects that the service will continue to improve as the company prepares for a soft launch this summer.