There has been progress in library e-book lending over the last two years, but there has been one frustrating constant: library users are often less than thrilled with the services used to service library e-books. But this week Midwest Tape officially announced that it is launching an e-book lending component to its Hoopla platform—and it hopes the product will be a game-changer.
Unlike the dominant “one copy one user” analog era e-book lending model in libraries, Hoopla’s e-book service is based on a “transactional” model.
“We are totally against the one copy/one user platform,” Hoopla founder and Midwest Tape v-p Jeff Jankowski told PW. “That platform, and the whole platform of the physical library business, or the old video rental store, was based on dissatisfaction—you almost never get what you want. If you want the new John Grisham, for example, chances are you’re going to have to wait three or four months.” Jankowski explains.
With Hoopla, e-books will always be instantly available, 24/7, and every time a book is borrowed the publisher gets paid. “That’s the way it should it should be online, and through an app,” Jankowski says. “What we want to do benefits authors, the reading community, everyone that uses libraries. And it solves the distribution problem for publishers.”
Launched last year, Midwest Tape's Hoopla media platform debuted with a collection of movies, music, audiobooks and TV shows. And thus far, librarians—and perhaps more importantly, library users—are giving the service high marks.
“Librarians who are on Hoopla love it,” one librarian, whose library is about to go live with the service, told PW. "It is the most intuitive digital product to have ever entered the library market. And the app is exactly what users have come to expect from consumer sites like Netflix.”
On the library side, Jankowski acknowledges that, as with many new library products based on a transactional model, success can be the scariest prospect. If a product proves popular, it can complicate budgeting. But over the years of development for Hoopla, Midwest Tape leaned on its decades-long library relationships for feedback, Jankowski says, and has developed a suite of tools to help librarians manage the service in real time, and to make corresponding budget decisions.
Librarians that were initially hesitant about the transactional model "now love it” Jankowski says—users get the materials they want, without a long wait time on a holds list, and "libraries only pay for what their patrons are actually using." For libraries, there are no complicated licenses to manage. And there are no platform fees.
Of course, Hoopla is not the first stab at a "transactional" model for library e-book lending. But with a solid, user friendly app, and as a long-trusted library vendor going back 25 years, can Hoopla be the product to break the “one copy/one user” ice in library e-book lending?
Jankowski says the company is in talks with many publishers, including all the majors, and that BEA will be a busy time as they demo the Hoopla app for e-books. “I think the key for publishers is to understand that this is a real long tail story,” Jankowski says. Of the 170,000 unique media titles currently offered on the Hoopla platform, 60,000 unique titles have circulated in the first four months of the year, he explains.
“I think this is about midlist, backlist, long tail, and greater author coverage,” he says. “And changing the model from this dissatisfaction, ‘being put on a hold list’ to a model that really empowers the reader to discover new material is a huge opportunity for the publishing community.”