Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster this week became the latest Big Five publishers to offer audiobook titles to libraries via Midwest Tape’s nascent Hoopla digital platform. The Hachette and S&S deals, announced May 26, follow Macmillan’s announcement earlier this month that it was launching an audiobooks pilot with Midwest Tape, a longtime media distributor to libraries, which launched the Hoopla digital platform in 2013.
It should be a busy BEA for Midwest Tape officials—in addition to its latest audiobook deals with three Big Five publishers, the company this month also launched its new comics and e-book service on Hoopla—a “transactional” multiuser model that sets it apart from the one copy/one user model that currently dominates the library e-book market.
Rather than libraries buying digital copies, digital e-books are always instantly available, 24/7, with Hoopla, and every time a book is borrowed the publisher gets paid. With a valid library card, patrons can instantly stream or download content from their local library via Hoopla’s free mobile app (on either Android or iOS devices), or on hoopladigital.com. Hoopla digital has partnerships with more than 786 public library systems across North America, and librarians have praised Hoopla for its design and ease-of-use.
The Hoopla e-book service launched with thousands of titles from indie publishers—including comics. And while none of the Big Five are yet offering e-books through Hoopla, it may only be a matter of time. More and more publishers are experimenting with new retail models to reach readers—including subscription services—and among librarians support for multiuser library e-book access has been gaining momentum.
At a recent PW event, “The Case for Libraries,” New York Public Library president Tony Marx spoke of his interest in a pay-per-lend model. Hoopla is not the first or only player to offer a multiuser e-book lending model (Library Ideas’ Freading, BiblioBoard and Total Boox, for example, all offer various multiuse models), but its launch is timely. While librarians in the past have questioned the budget implications of a transactional model, the inefficiency and complexity of managing current e-book collections has convinced many that multiuse, pay-per-lend models are worth a shot for some collections.
Last year, at a panel at BEA, Hoopla founder Jeff Jankowski brought librarians to a standing ovation with a spirited evaluation of the current one-copy/one user model. Jankowski said it was imperative for libraries and publishers not to be adversarial, but to work together to leverage technology “the way technology is supposed to be leveraged,” instead of putting “artificial restrictions” on the e-lending process. To compete and stay relevant in a world where Amazon has already set consumer expectations high, libraries and publishers need to offer a better experience than the current model, he argued.
“I think that working together with libraries and giving patrons a better user experience is going to help create a hedge against some big retailers,” he added. “Libraries don’t want to squeeze you and leverage you for margins. Librarians are reasonable people, and libraries are willing to pay a decent amount of money for a better experience.”
Jankowski is set to speak on the panel “Public Libraries: The Publishers’ Discovery (and Revenue) Friend in the Digital Age” tomorrow, in Room 1E07, at 1 p.m.