Hoopla Digital Comics App Review – DC, Vertigo, Image, & Dark Horse Books!

It might get me a lifetime ban from the Pawnee Parks & Rec department, but I’ve always loved libraries. I remember the first time I realized I could burn The Who’s “Tommy,” Led Zeppelin I-IV, and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” onto my computer with FREE checked-out CDs. (This was before Spotify. We played guitar uphill in the snow, both ways, and we liked it.)

I also remember staring wide-eyed and ecstatic at the collections of Marvel Essentials in my local public library as I was first diving into the Marvel Universe. I don’t want to say that’s totally heaven, but toss in some pizza, beer, and a Cubs World Series (oh, and my wife), and that’s totally my heaven.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to learn about Hoopla Digital, an online-only extension of your local library, that just so happens to feature a pretty excellent comic book collection.

hoopla digital comics reading

Hoopla Digital For Comic Books

While Hoopla offers books, CDs, movies and more, I’ll be focusing exclusively on the comic book offering and reading experience.

In the simplest terms, I’m really happy with my Hoopla experience to date. The selection of comics is great, the reading experience on a tablet is strong, and offline reading is virtually flawless.

Here’s how this works, and the major catch – If your local library falls within Hoopla’s syndicate of participants (Hoopla is live within more than 800 libraries nationwide), all you need is your library card and you’re good to create an account and access the app for free.

Once your account is set up, you can immediately begin checking out comics on a desktop/laptop, or download the app (for iOS and Android) for free (my preferred reading experience).

Comics in Hoopla digital

What Comics Are In Hoopla Digital?

 Essentially, Hoopla offers a “greatest hits” smattering of comics from some of the best and biggest publishers in the industry. You’ll find strong collections from DC Comics, Vertigo, Image, and (as of last week) Dark Horse.

Much like Scribd Unlimited (and unlike Marvel Unlimited), comics are presented in their collected edition format, meaning you download around 6 to 12 issues at a time, as part of one complete story arc (which is often part of a still larger whole).

I won’t list out every issue available, but I will mention that I’ve felt like a kid on Christmas combing this library. My personal saved favorites are as follows:

Abe Sapien

American Vampire

Batman and Son

Batman: R.I.P.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth

B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs

Daytripper

Fables

Hellboy

Invincible

Invincible Universe

John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 1: Original Sins

Miniature Jesus

Planetary

Revival

Saga

Spawn Origins

The Walking Dead

Zero

DC Comics in Hoopla

Is This Secretly Kind Of DC Unlimited?

As mentioned above, Hoopla offers a solid collection of DC Comics, making this the strongest “all-you-can-eat” digital version of DC books that I’ve seen. The appetite for DC Comics is off-the-charts, to the point that I see searchers by the thousands scanning my Scribd Unlimited review just for a whiff of hope that DC Unlimited might exist (sad spoiler from that post: it doesn’t!).

Hoopla is a plausible DC Unlimited alternative, and since it’s free, it’s my personal favorite option. Comixology is great, but you have to pay per issue (like a common contributing member of society!), and torrenting DC comics makes me feel like I just took a bath with Swamp Thing (note to self: stop telling people you took a bath with Swamp Thing).

Quite clearly, the selection of comics currently on Hoopla is far from “unlimited.” You could sit here all day listing pretty great comics that aren’t in the library. Nonetheless, if you’re new to the DC Universe, there’s a pitch perfect mix of essentials (Dark Knight, Killing Joke, etc) and New 52 standouts. And again, it’s free.

How Does Hoopla Compare to Scribd, Marvel Unlimited, and Comixology?

The biggest advantages for reading comics with Hoopla are:

If you have a library card, it’s completely free.

Offline reading for borrowed titles is excellent (this is one of Marvel Unlimited’s major drawbacks).

Hoopla’s library offers a lot of great comics not available in either Scribd or MU.

The biggest problems with Hoopla?

Downloading trades to read takes a lonnnngggg time (upwards of half an hour to an hour on solid WiFi)

No Marvel comics (or for that matter, no Top Shelf comics like Scribd has)

These are borrowed titles, but they will “return” automatically, so no late fees

Check-outs are limited around 4 to 15 per month depending on your local library

The active-view panel by panel reading isn’t as high quality as Comixology, although I would put it on par or superior to Marvel Unlimited’s smart panels.

How Does The App Reading Experience Compare?

On a tablet, the Hoopla app is simply solid and dependable. Active-view panel by panel reading can diminish your image clarity, and two-page spreads (horizontal reading) is a challenge with a fair amount of wasted screen space.

Otherwise, vertical singe page reading is simple and enjoyable.

A tip from my reading so far:

You can double tap to engage active-view reading. If you want to go back to full-page reading, hit the back button on your device. Double tapping again (and again, and again) will not restore full page.

Couldn’t I Do All This By Just, Like, Going To The Library?

Well, sure.

The upside I’ve enjoyed from Hoopla is mostly a matter of convenience. For starters, downloading the next volume of Fables is as simple as deciding “I want to read the next volume of Fables” and clicking “borrow” on the app. As opposed to placing this book on hold, and waiting for my local library to obtain a copy (not to mention driving to a building inhabited by humans, and potentially speaking with said humans in order to check out my book *shudders*).

I’ve also found a surprising amount of preference for taking digital reads on my daily commute. It’s just easier to carry around my Nook HD+ (represent!) than a hardcover 12 issue Preacher collection.

Hoopla is Also Kind of a Fun Word To Say

End of the day, if you fall within the library restrictions, I recommend giving Hoopla a look. I have no affiliate with the service (classic Comic Book Herald), but I’ve really enjoyed using it for the past month or so.

What do you think? Have you used Hoopla in the past? What do you think of the selection? Is this the DC Unlimitd we’ve dreamed of since we were young? Do what feels right to you in the comments.

And as always, enjoy the comics!

6 Replies to “Hoopla Digital Comics App Review – DC, Vertigo, Image, & Dark Horse Books!”

    1. In New Jersey, we have the Overdrive app associated with our library. Unfortunately, my library does not have any Overdrive comics available. Very jealous of Hoopla!

  1. I too was disappointed to find that my local library does not offer the Hoopla service, however I found another legitimate way to use it, which has worked well for me. I am not affiliated with Hoopla in any way, just a very happy user of their new comic service.

    The “Free Library of Philadelphia” like some other libraries, offers a library account for $50 a year to anyone residing in the US. They subscribe to Hoopla, including the comics portion, and offer 10 checkouts a month with them.

    Although that’s not as good as free, it comes out to a bit over 4 bucks a month for reading 10 digital trade paperbacks, so about 40 cents per collection. For me anyway that’s a perfectly good value, and around half the cost of scribd and marvel unlimited. The library membership also would give you access to their overdrive service for prose books (that can be sent to a e-ink kindle and not just a tablet) as well as audiobooks.

    I have never tried Marvel Unlimited, but I did try Scribd, and was very unhappy with the Scribd app for a couple of months even after various comics related updates they did. Problems included:

    -Downloaded comics art was very low-res, extremely pixellated and fuzzy looking, which destroys the whole point of enjoying the comics.

    -Your downloaded titles, as well as your wish list page,list of can not display titles alphabetically, so you have to hunt around for the title you are looking for.

    -There is no section of the app showing new arrivals, so you never can easily tell what new titles have been added at any given time.

    For me personally, 10 trade paperbacks per month from Hoopla is more than I have time to read (especially the longer collections that are 200-300 pages, instead of the newer ones that only collect 6 issues of material). So in that sense it’s the same as “unlimited” for me, I never get through all 10 in a month and find myself needing more.

    Hoopla has been adding more and more DC tittles every few days, and since they also added Image and Dark Horse, there really is a lot to choose from by now, for my tastes anyway.

    Here’s a list of titles I have either read, are on my wish list to be read, or are titles that I have long ago read in print, that they offer and I can recommend. As you can see I skew towards the older titles and don’t really follow a lot of the newest stuff.

    DC/Vertigo
    All/Most collected volumes of:
    Preacher
    Sandman
    Y The Last Man
    Fables
    Superman Year 1 volumes 1 and 2
    Batman Year 1
    Crisis on Infinite Earths
    Batman The Dark Knight Returns
    Batman Year One
    Batman Black and White Volumes 1-4
    Watchmen
    Before Watchmen (2 volumes so far, I imagine they will add the other ones soon)
    V For Vendetta
    All Star Superman
    Kingdom Come
    Infinite Crisis
    Superman Red Son
    Superman Secret Identity
    Batman: The Killing Joke
    We3
    Earth2
    Daytripper

    Dark Horse
    All volumes of Sin City
    1st 3 volumes of Lone Wolf and Cub
    4 volumes of the European “Blacksad” comic
    Hellboy (lots of collections
    Concrete (one collection fo early stories
    2 Bryan Talbot series (Luther Arkwright, Alice in Sunderland)
    300

    IDW
    Next Men
    Rocketeer
    The Cape
    Parker (1st 2 volumes)

    Boom Studios
    Hellraiser: The Road Below
    Hellraiser: Bestiary
    Nightbreed

    Image Comics
    Fatale (4 volumes)
    Lazarus (2 volumes)
    Saga (4 volumes)
    Velvet (First Volume)

    Caliber
    Vietnam Journal (8 volumes)

    So just so we’re clear, this is not like marvel unlimited where you can dive into tons of single issues of older 60s/70s/80s material, but for any comics fan, there really is a lot of stuff to try here.

    The hoopla app works pretty well, there is still some room for improvement (I have sent suggestions to the CEO which he responded they are implementing many of them) but overall the app is solid:

    Good points:
    1-Artwork is crisp and high resolution, downloaded comics download quickly (for me anyway)

    2-Clear user interface for both downloaded titles and “Wishlist” titles, organized alphabetically and by volume within a title

    3-“Just added” section shows newly added titles at a glance

    4-Comixology style panel view allows easier reading on phone size screen (I read on a 12” android tablet so I dont need that feature but useful for some)

    5-“Tags” on the comics info page lets you quickly see all other titles in a series, by that author or artist, etc. Very easy to find other titles you want and add them to your wish list

    Areas For Improvement
    -Biggest issue is there is no 3 page preview of interior art like comixology. Only way to see if you like the artwork is to borrow a title and if you see you hate the art, thats it, you have used up a checkout

    -You double tap to enter panel view but press your tablet’s back arrow to get out of it, which on some tablets is multiple steps if it’s not a hard button. it should just be a 2nd double tap

    -No clear indication how many borrows left for month, only way to find out is to try borrowing a title and see if it lets you

    -Tapping the page brings up a page navigation bar, but does not display a “page x/x” indicator so you know how far in the title you are

    -For titles I downloaded onto my tablet, when I tried also downloading them onto my phone, I got a message that the publisher restricts the downloads to one device at a time. That’s annoying if you want to read on a tablet at bedtime but continue on with your phone at lunch, in line at the bank, etc. Seems like an arbitrary restriction for the publishers to make.

    -Comics categories shows some publishers but not others. So you can easily click a category for DC, Image, Dark Horse, but not for IDW, Caliber, Titan, etc.

    -Some collections inexplicably missing random volumes. For example we have “A Distant Soil” vol. 2 but not vol. 1, and volumes 5 and 6 only of “The First Kingdom” but not 1-4. This makes no sense to me why they would allow this to happen, 99% of users will want to start at the beginning.

    -No “lockable zoom” function like on some pdf reading apps. On collections of older material there is a large white border on all 4 sides of the art and on tablets, we need to use all the screen real estate we can. The app needs to add a “zoom in” slider that zooms in on the art and preserves it with each page turn, so that on older titles you can crop out all/most of the white borders and use all of your screen space.

    In that same vein, for anyone who does a ton of digital comics reading, I cannot recommend enough the 12” screen tablet that samsung makes, it’s the only one out there bigger than 10” to my knowledge. The extra 2” makes a huge difference and is pretty much the same size as a printed comic (whereas 10” tablets are more “digest size”)

    -Thanks and I hope this post is helpful to some!

  2. I love Hoopla. I haven’t had any of the download speed issues. I can download trades in about 20 seconds usually. Also there are a ton of good Italian Disney comics that have been translated into English. The Mickey and the Sword of Ice series is really good.

    If your local library doesn’t offer the service there are other options. A lot of times neighboring counties will allow people to become members of their library as well. Thats what i ended up doing. I just got a library account with a neighboring library service that supported Hoopla.

    Some other material on the app

    Empowered
    Dark Horse’s Conan
    The Savage Sword of Conan
    Nexus
    Mega Man
    Usagi Yojimbo
    Okko
    Star Trek
    A good chunk of the modern Valiant Universe
    Blade of the Immortal
    Fables
    Elfquest

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